Back in mid-2018, Dierks Bentley delivered a career-defining collection of songs in the form of his ninth studio album, The Mountain. Producing hit singles “Woman, Amen,” “Living” and “Burning Man” (a collaboration with Brothers Osborne), the record was massively inspired by place. Bentley wrote and recorded much of it in the mountains of Colorado, an adopted hometown of sorts for the singer, which he first fell in love with during a writer’s retreat after he performed at Telluride Bluegrass Festival.
Three years later, Bentley knows it’s time to follow up that record with something new. But he admits he was reluctant to move on from the album cycle of The Mountain: After all, he only fell more in love with Colorado throughout the past two years, and he spent the bulk of 2020 living in the state with his family.
“I think one of the things I struggled with was trying to get off The Mountain. Because I’m kinda, in a lot of ways, still on it,” Bentley reflected during a recent press event, when asked about plans for his next studio album. “A lot of my life is still out there in Colorado, and my heart. But I didn’t wanna repeat that album. So it took a while to come down off it.”
He began that process in February 2020, he goes on to say, booking studio time and going in to record some songs. “It felt good, but it didn’t feel great, so I just decided to keep writing,” he explains.
Bentley was putting some extra pressure on himself because he knew his next album would be his tenth — a milestone number for any artist, and one that he wanted to be special. “I want it to be great, you know?” he adds. “I just want the sound to draw, like any album you’re making, to draw [from] what you’re interested in.”
Slowly, he began to get excited about the songs he was making. He put out a couple of tracks: “Gone” in late 2022, and “Beers on Me,” a collaboration with HARDY and BRELAND, in July 2021. Both were successful singles, and “Beers on Me” marked a bit of a turning point for Bentley, bringing him down off the mountain enough for a headlining tour that borrowed its name from that song. By the end of 2021, he went back into the studio to record his album again — and this time, he says, it felt different.
“It just feels really good, and I’m really excited. I feel the way you should feel when you’re making an album, and I hadn’t felt that way in previous attempts,” he says. “It’s just a great band and great songs and I’m really feeling good about the direction.”
Part of that turning point, he explains, also had to do with being inspired by a place — this time around, it was his rejuvenated relationship with Music City.
“This year’s been such a rekindling of love of Nashville for me,” he details.
“I’ve fallen back in love with Nashville and Tennessee, and this album reflects more of what drew me to Nashville. Which is music, great country music,” Bentley points out. “I wrote a lot of songs out in Colorado, had friends out there to write. But then I came back here and kept collecting songs, and did a bunch of in-person writing here in town, which I didn’t realize how much I missed. The Zoom [co-writing] stuff’s pretty efficient, but just being in the same room with somebody is hard to replicate.”
Though he cautions fans that it will be “a while” before the full project’s done and ready to release, Bentley does offer a few hints about what to expect from the album — and what not to expect. For one thing, he says, the body of work as a whole will sound “pretty different” than “Gone” and “Beers on Me,” but will be more inspired by Bentley’s classic country, bluegrass-tinged roots.
“It definitely has Tennessee vibes. That’s all I can really say about it at this point,” the singer says. “…Lotta great country songs, lotta great instrumentation. [I’ve] still got a lot of work left to do as far as overdubbing some more fiddle and steel, and collaborations, and whatnot. But [I’m] just knee deep in it.”
Bentley recently debuted a few new tracks at recently shows in Las Vegas. Check out “At My Funeral” and “Heartbreak Drinking Tour” below.