20 Questions With Dierks Bentley

Arizona Native Talks About Boating, Hockey, Beer-Drinking and His Other Pastimes

CMT Got Me In With the Band: Dierks Bentley debuts Saturday (June 5) at 9:30 p.m. ET/PT.

Following the success of his first hit, “What Was I Thinkin’,” Dierks Bentley promptly scored opening tour slots for George Strait and Kenny Chesney, and the Academy of Country Music gave him a trophy for top new artist just last month. But despite a busy schedule, he still found time to take these questions from fans. Now getting ready to hit the fair and festival circuit this summer, the Arizona native talks about injuring his knee at a Kenny Chesney concert, the hazards of wearing the same shirt on tour and why Days of Thunder still makes him sentimental.

1. If you had to choose one of the following, which one would it be: to be richer, to be taller or to be wiser?

(laughs) Uh, I guess I’d choose to be wiser. I think, like everybody else, I’ve made plenty of mistakes.

2. Were you ever really harassed by bullies in high school?

Like the song? ["My Last Name"] I never really was harassed by bullies. I mean, there was a time when this one guy was making fun of my name and saying it wrong. (laughs) But, you know, there’s nothing that can’t be fixed, particularly out on the playground.

3. Dierks is a very original first name. What is the story behind it?

Dierks is a last name on my mom’s side of the family. It was given to me as a first name. My family’s big into the whole family name stuff, I think. My brother’s named Fife, and that’s a family name. So we just kind of pass things down. But I can promise you this: There won’t be a Dierks Jr., because my name … it’s too difficult. I’m going to name my kid, like, Ed. It’s got to be something easier than Dierks, dude.

4. On your CD, you wrote a few songs about heartbreak and love gone wrong that you attributed to a breakup. What kind of songs are you writing these days?

Oh man, I’ve still got enough material from past relationships to write plenty of songs. But, actually I’m out here on the road with my buddy Brett [Beavers]. We wrote a bunch of songs on the last album, and we’re still writing sad stuff. (laughs) If you leave me alone in a room, that’s what I’ll gravitate towards — trying to write a sad song. But I’m still writing the same stuff. I’m working on a record. I’m gonna go back in [the studio] in September and cut stuff. It’ll be more of the same, you know, just sad songs you can drink beer to and happy songs you can also drink beer to (laughs). … I like to think my records go down really well with light domestic beer. So that’s what we try to work on.

5. Being from Arizona and not originally from the South, what is your favorite thing about the South that you don’t have in Arizona?

I love the history. For example, Nashville has such a history. It speaks loudly, but also, you know, the music and the fact that it’s built on something. Out there in Phoenix, great weather, great climate. I love being out there, but it just doesn’t feel like there’s a … tie that seams the town. I just love the history out here.

6. What’s your least favorite thing about the South?

Probably the humidity. Just growing up in Arizona, I like it to be nice and dry. It gets pretty humid in the South during the summer, but I guess I’ll take hot weather any day of the week over cold weather. I can’t stand being cold, so … I take the humidity with no problem, but I’d rather not have it.

7. What kind of dog is Jake?

I got him from the pound, so he’s got some mixed things going on, but he’s mainly Spitz, which I had never heard of ’til I got him.

8. What kinds of things do you and Jake enjoy doing when you’re not on tour?

(laughs) If we’re not on the road, which is rare, I have a boat out on Percy Priest Lake, and he loves being out there, too. So we’ll grab some beer, grab a cooler, grab some ice, grab some koozies, grab a few friends, and we’ll head out to the lake. He likes it just as much as I do. … He’s the designated dog. He doesn’t do any of the drinking. He leaves that up to the professionals.

9. What does Jake like to eat?

He doesn’t. He only eats his dog food. He doesn’t eat any table scraps or anything like that. He’s the most finicky dog. He just doesn’t really care for food. I mean, if you’re eating a big steak in front of him, he just kind of looks up at you like, “Can I help you?” But he’s a great dog.

10. Who is your favorite artist of all time?

My favorite singer of all time is George Jones, I guess probably like everybody else. He’s just the best singer. When I moved to Nashville, I spent a long time listening to him at the bars and the clubs, and I really got into bluegrass music. And somehow bluegrass music really led me back to country music [from] the ’50s and ’60s, and I really, really got back into George Jones. Far and away, he’s just one of the great things about country music and one of the greatest singers ever. I love people that sing about broken hearts, whether it’s Frank Sinatra or George Jones or Keith Whitley or Merle Haggard or anybody who’s had their heart broken and sing from that spot. Those are my favorite singers.

11. What is your all-time favorite movie?

All-time favorite movie, bar none, is the great drama known as Days of Thunder. If you don’t cry when Cole asks Rowdy to drive his car in Daytona, there’s something wrong with your sentimental side. You just need to get in touch with it, because it’s one of the greatest movies of all time. Now if you’re looking for a great comedy, obviously Tommy Boy is the only place you can go. But Days of Thunder is one of the great dramas of all time, and if you don’t get it, then you just don’t get it.

12. At what point in your life did you decide you wanted to pursue this career?

When I was about 17, I was listening to some other music at the time. I was playing guitar. I was doing music … just kind of really finding out what I wanted to do. A friend sat me down, gave me a beer and put on a Hank Jr. song called “Man to Man,” and it just changed everything. Just everything clicked, and I knew what I wanted to do. I started to [listen] to other people’s music around that time, and then I started trying to work out my own stuff. I put away the electric guitar and got an acoustic.

13. What are your favorite sports to play or watch, and who are your favorite teams?

I got really into hockey about four years ago when the Nashville Predators moved to town. A friend of mine who I played bluegrass with — who’s from Canada — gave me all his old gear. I just jumped in a men’s league in Nashville, not knowing anything. I used to play a lot more … because I’ve been gone for most of this year, but it’s still my favorite sport to play, bar none. Also, my favorite sport to watch is football. Love the Titans. Everyone in this band loves watching football. Mostly pro football, but we watch a little college football, too.

14. Did you already know how to ice skate before you started to play hockey?

Uh, a little bit. Not really. I’d done it as a kid a couple of times. My mom, back in Phoenix, believe it or not, she used to take me to go ice-skating, but I really was kind of starting over. I mean, I just had to go out there, and I found out the reason you wear all that gear is not to protect you from the puck or other people, it’s to protect you from yourself. Because I’d wind up to take a shot, and I’d fall right back on my helmet. It’s just kind of the way I am when I get into something. I get really into it, and I go after it all the way, you know. I got an itching to learn how to fly one time and spent three years getting my pilot’s license. Once I got it, I was like, “Ah, all right.” Too much money, too much time for that, but I went ahead and did it anyway.

15. Did you like school when you were growing up?

No, not particularly. I was always wanting to get out so I could go out and do something, as opposed to just sit there and try to learn something. But I’m having the time of my life right now, that’s for sure.

16. Is that brown and white and cream-colored checkered long-sleeved button-down shirt your favorite shirt? I believe it’s the same one you have on in the “What Was I Thinkin’” video. You came to Oklahoma City twice this year, once with George Strait and once with Kenny Chesney, and you had that same shirt on.

Uh yeah, is that a hint I’m wearing it too often? … I probably need to put the checkered brown shirt into the second rotation or move it down the shelf a little bit. That’s funny you said that because we played on Tuesday and Friday last week in California, and I wore that shirt twice — at two venues that were like 800 miles apart. And some girl had traveled all the way to see us play in northern California and brought me a picture of me wearing that shirt like three nights earlier. … She was pissed ’cause she wanted to take a picture, but she didn’t want it to look like it was the same night, you know? I obliged, and took it off and wore like a T-shirt in the picture.

17. I know you’re a big Del McCoury fan. What other bluegrass artists do you like?

I’m a huge Ricky Skaggs fan. I always have been. Even when he was doing his country stuff, he’d always include a bluegrass song or two on his record. I almost think seeing Ricky Skaggs play live is probably the best way to turn immediately into a bluegrass fan. Because his musicians are so good, and their music’s so loud and powerful and upfront, it just hits you right in the face.

18. If you could travel anywhere in the world where would you go?

I mean, I’m doing it right now. A reporter asked me, “If you get any time off for the summer what would you do?” And to me, being on the road is vacation. If I go back to Nashville, I have to work. Being out here, I’ve got my band with me, I’ve got Jake, I’ve got a motorcycle in the back of the trailer of the bus. I get to travel all over the greatest country in the world. … If I could go anywhere in the world for three days, it’d be Nashville to get out on the lake. (laughs) I’ve got a 17-foot ski boat, and if I have any time off, I just love to go out there and again drink beer, listen to some music, hang out. That’s the best. … Wakeboard, water ski … I’m really better at sitting on the back deck and drinking beer. That’s probably my best skill, but I’ve been known to put the water skis on every now and then and make an idiot of myself.

19. Has your knee healed yet?

I can walk around on it without crutches. I can’t run yet or anything. I’m still doing physical therapy, unfortunately, every chance I get. About two hours, three times a week, which sucks, but that’s the only way to make it better.

20. Were you embarrassed when you injured your knee in front of so many people?

Hell no. No, no, no, no, no. … I thought it was great. I took one for the team, taking one for the comedy right there. If I ever get a big enough gig where I can have an opening montage of footage, like Kenny does, it’ll start out with that footage. And then I’ve got footage of the actual surgery with the scope when they’re going in there and cutting out the old ACL with these pliers and yanking out the old piece. See, my goal is to take music to a place it’s never been before. You know, Garth made fans cry and laugh at the same time. I want them to cry, laugh and throw up all at once.