Like a lot of people, Dierks Bentley likes to throw parties to see all his friends. But unlike the rest of us, he suits up and plays hockey afterwards. After accepting numerous awards and gifts to celebrate his fifth No. 1 single, “Free and Easy (Down the Road I Go),” on Tuesday evening (Dec. 4), he took to the ice with his friends.
Bentley, who has been playing hockey since he first moved to Nashville in 2000, managed to score two goals for the Centennial Ice Holes during their game against the Southern Ace Rogue Rats. The rest of the industry crowd sat comfortably in the Sommet Center after being encouraged to slip on a black souvenir foam finger and cheer for Bentley and his team.
Now that Bentley owns his song publishing, he paid for the No. 1 party himself, which, needless to say, was not free and easy. Instead of hosting the party at a smaller venue, the singer-songwriter rented out the downtown arena that accommodates Nashville’s pro hockey team, the Predators. Rather than bloody fights on the ice, the jumbo screens on the scoreboard repeatedly played the song’s clever music video.
“I might need another No. 1 hit to pay for this thing,” Bentley said, joking about splitting the bill with engineer Luke Wooten, who was partially responsible for the idea of holding it at the arena in the first place.
Along with the song’s success, Bentley insisted numerous times that it was just as important to celebrate the relationships he’s built in the industry in the last five years, and he spent a long time before and after the presentations mingling in the crowd, chatting with friends and posing for photos.
Maybe it’s because Christmas is approaching, but Bentley racked up an impressive armload of goodies at his party. ASCAP presented him with a Harley-Davidson cooler and five bottles of wine, and each bottle was emblazoned with one of his No. 1 song titles. The CMA conferred a bottle of Cristal champagne (oh, and some certificates). The Predators gave him an autographed jersey and presented his co-writers — Robbie Harrington, Rod Janzen and producer Brett Beavers — with hockey sticks. His label, Capitol Records, offered an engraved crystal trophy to commemorate the No. 1 achievement. Bentley will likely send that last item to his parents’ home in Phoenix because he says he doesn’t like to keep plaques and awards at his place.
Bentley’s other No. 1 hits include “What Was I Thinkin’,” “Come a Little Closer,” “Settle for a Slowdown” and “Every Mile a Memory.” Prior to the party, he told reporters he’s been writing and working on a new album and that he’s releasing another single from Long Trip Alone, “Trying to Stop Your Leaving,” in January. Following three concert dates this weekend with Jack Ingram, Bentley will resume touring in early 2008 with opening acts Luke Bryan and Bucky Covington.