Country singer Dierks Bentley is a man known for hitting the road hard, so it’s appropriate that when PopWatch met him Wednesday night in New York City, where he’s been promoting his new album, Feel That Fire, he had just returned from a day trip to Philadelphia. After signing 700 autographs in three hours at a Pennsylvania Dave & Buster’s, he needed alcohol. So first, he captured our toast for the Flip videos he shoots and edits for his website. “The best location I’ve ever had an interview in: Irish Pub,” he said, holding a Guinness he was forced to drink. (Mindful of his deal with Bud Light, he quickly added, “This is a Bud Light. This is Bud Light.”) Then, he submitted to an EW Pop Culture Personality Test, which eventually spread to the next table…
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: The best concert you’ve ever seen?
Dierks Bentley: It would definitely be U2. Would it be their final show, Dec. 9, 2006 in Hawaii, or would it be here in New York on Nov. 22, 2005, or would it be May 9, 2005 in Chicago, where they actually shot their Vertigo DVD? I would probably say here. My wife and I came up for my 30th birthday, we had a great dinner, we were in the circle at the Garden, we went to some club afterward and Usher was there, so I got a picture with Usher. That was a momentous trip.
The band you’ve seen most often in concert?
The Sidemen. They play at a little bar called The Station Inn in Nashville. When I was growing up — musically growing up, I moved to Nashville when I was 19 — I’d go watch this bluegrass band play every Tuesday night and just absorb banjo, mandolin, upright bass, acoustic guitar, harmony singing. The cover charge was $5. It was definitely the best music lessons I ever got, and I ended up getting extremely hammered. I probably saw them play 50 times a year for about five years.
Your position on karaoke?
I love it. I carry a Jeep behind the tour bus, because it’s fun to go out in the festival campgrounds at 1 a.m., and hang out for as long as we can before it gets crazy. One time, we pulled up and these guys had a karaoke machine set up in the back of their truck bed. And I’d had just enough drinks where I thought it’d be funny if I got up there and sang “What Was I Thinkin’”, one of my own songs that I’d just got done singing in front of 30-40,000 people, and now I’m singing my hit for a gathering of 20 to 30 from the back of a truck bed. But it was fun at the time. I wish I’d had my camera. That would’ve been good footage to capture.
That is a story those guys will be telling for the rest of their lives.
And no one will believe. “Dude, he was singin’.” “Yeah, yeah, yeah. Let me guess, he was singing ‘What Was I Thinkin’”. “Yeah, he was!”
Do you have a fallback karaoke song that’s not your own?
It would probably be a poor rendition of “My Way,” “I’ve Got the World on a String,” “I’m Walking Behind You,” “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning,” “South of the Border,” “Learnin’ the Blues.” I always go for Frank. Have the drink in one hand, the mic in the other…. The last time I karaoked was in a private room in Japan. I did Billy Idol’s “White Wedding.” I’m a huge fan of Billy Idol. I spiked my hair every day like him in 7th and 8th grade. My autograph, to this day, is based off of his. I signed Billy Idol’s name so much, my autograph has the same sharp edges that he did.
Your pop culture blind spot?
I’ve very intrigued by the Jonas Brothers. I’ve gone online and had a listen and watched some stuff. What am I missing here?
And what did you think?
It’s good music. I actually downloaded a tune… [Looks at tape recorder] I hate to have that on tape.
The line that stuck out was something about “you can take this, you can take that, you can take this awesome scarf my grandma made for me.” Do you know what song I’m talking about? ["Girl of My Dreams"] I loved it. They’re singing it all punk. [Scrunches up his face and sings] “You can take this awesome scarf my grandma made for me.” It’s lyrics for a younger audience, but they really perform with a lot of bravado and they have a lot of great moves. When I was 13, I was just figuring out how to play “Eruption,” poorly, by Eddie Van Halen.
What song do you wish you’d written?
“Don’t Close Your Eyes” by Keith Whitley. [Sings] You ever heard that?
Maybe. Keep singing.
[Laughs] She’s got her eyes closed because she’s thinkin’ of someone else. That’s a good country song. I’m a huge Keith Whitley fan. He would’ve been the greatest country singer of all time, but he drank himself to death at 33.
You have a great song on your new album called “I Wanna Make You Close Your Eyes.”
So yeah, I flipped it around. I wanna make you close your eyes. I thought about it. And I thought about calling it “Close Your Eyes.” It’s a little different sentiment, a little happier song than Keith’s.
And then you had that hit “Come A Little Closer.” You’re like Conway Twitty, always trying to find creative ways to say, “I want to have sex with you.”
Yes. Yes. I think “I Wanna Make You Close Your Eyes” is a little more blatant. Some of those lines in the second verse: “If you need a little bit of help from me/Babe, there’s not a button that I can’t reach.” I think the parents will pick up on that one; hopefully the kids won’t. We have fun with that. Seeing how far you can take it.
Has your label ever had to rein you in on a song?
I’ve never taken it too far on anything I’ve turned in to the label. I wrote a song for my 4-month-old daughter: “I love boobs, boobs, boobs. Boobs. Boobs. Boobs.” ‘Cause she does, she loves boobs. I thought I was a big fan of boobs, but she really likes boobs. But that’s never gonna be released on an album.
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