LOS ANGELES—On his seventh studio album, "Riser," out today, 11-time Grammy nominee Dierks Bentley finds himself examining the circle of life as he deals with the death of his father followed by the joy of the birth of his third child and first son. Though the album has plenty of upbeat tracks, it's the deeper cuts, like current Top 10 single, "I Hold On," the dark "Bourbon In Kentucky," and "Here on Earth" that stick to your ribs. A 40-minute documentary, "Dierks Bentley: Riser" follows the country star's journey as he makes the album. Bentley screened the doc here Feb. 20 and HitFix spent some time with him afterward. CMT produced a 30-minute special that features much of the documentary's footage, while a deal for the full documentary to bring it to a TV outlet, such as Netflix or Hulu is being worked on.
Bentley filmed an episode of CMT's "Crossroads" with OneRepublic, which will debut in mid-March.
What do you want fans to learn about you from watching this film?
It’s not necessarily about the fans learning about me. I hope they watch this and feel a sense of connection to their life. I hope it just moves them. When you’re honest with the music and you’re honest with a documentary like this and you let people come in and see behind the scenes, you open yourself up to great conversations. The older I get all I want to do is have real conversations and I don’t want to talk about fluff.
I want to be like, “Let’s dig in and let’s get up to our elbows in some dirty life messiness.” And though I’ve been living off of singing songs about good times and parties and all that stuff, this time in my life feels so rich with good stuff and the bad stuff. It’s just so real. I feel like my job on the record and on the documentary was just to find a way to get it down on tape and onto videotape. I guess what I want my fans to get out of it is the relatability to me.
It’s about connecting with them.
Having that connection with them and not just being off spinning into outer space of wealth and tour buses. This is where I am right now. My dad’s passed away. I have kids. I’m really comfortable in the skin I’m in and singing about those particular things and talking about those things, more so than I have been in the past. Because going from being a crazy single guy…it’s an adjustment. But I’ve realized that you can still be all that and still I get a chance to go out there and be the kid who was 17 years old and was consumed with putting a lift kit on my pickup truck. I can still relate to that.
You really capture the conflict between parenthood and career on “Damn These Dreams.” It’s very touching, where as it could have come off as,“Who wants to feel sorry for this dude?”
Totally. Totally…It scared the crap out of me…I almost didn’t put the song on the record and I gave my band members a couple songs and that was on there and they all went back and said, “This song is so you.” And my biggest concern was it’s about me [but] I find the more personal I write, the more universal it’s sometimes understood. So that’s the way that song is.
How concerned were you when the album’s first single, “Bourbon In Kentucky,” didn’t do well?