Dierks Bentley, Co-Writer Brett James Celebrate Chart-Topping “I Hold On”

Singer Declares Song Means More To Him Than Any Other He's Written

Spirits were running high and plentifully Tuesday afternoon (April 29) as ASCAP, the performance rights leviathan, and Capitol Records commandeered Nashville’s Pour House bar to salute the architects of Dierks Bentley’s recent No. 1 single, “I Hold On.”

Bentley wrote the hit with Brett James. Ross Copperman and Arturo Buenahora produced it.

Speaking for ASCAP, LeAnn Phelan praised Bentley as “an artist who’s staying true to his music and his integrity.”

She quoted approvingly a review from the Washington Times newspaper that proclaimed, “Dierks Bentley is here to save country music.”

“I Hold On,” Phelan continued, has been certified gold in both the U.S. and Canada and is Bentley’s 11th No. 1 single as a songwriter and artist.

The song is James’ 16th No. 1, two of which were pop hits, Phelan noted. (Brantley Gilbert’s “Bottoms Up,” which tops Billboard’s country airplay chart this week, makes James’ 17th singles victory.)

“I Hold On” is Copperman’s first hit as a producer, although he was co-writer of Bentley’s Top 5 single, “Tip It on Back.”

Very much in a team-player mode, James complimented Capitol’s promotion team for hoisting the song up the charts.

“I’ve been an artist twice,” he said, “and I know that without you guys in the trenches fighting for an add (to the radio playlist in every market), nothing happens.”

Of Bentley, he said, “I’ve never gotten to write with Dierks before. I’ve been a fan from afar.”

He maintained that his contribution to writing “I Hold On” was miniscule.

“Dierks, all I did was ride your train that day,” he said. “This song really is this guy. He’s quality through and through.”

“Brett’s obviously not only a better writer than me,” Bentley said when he moved center stage, “he’s also a better speaker.”

But Bentley spoke well and passionately as he handed out plaque after plaque to those involved in the success of the single.

“I just love country music,” he said. “I love it now more than ever.”

Bentley scored his first No. 1, “What Was I Thinkin’,” in 2003, after having made a name for himself playing live in several of Nashville’s less alluring venues.

“It still blows my mind that I can book a gig at the Station Inn (Nashville’s top bluegrass club) and people will show up,” he said.

He recalled playing at a dive where the pay was in beer, then moving up to a slightly classier joint that actually paid him a small fee — but charged him for beer, thereby putting him in a financial hole at the end of the evening.

In one place, he said, he attempted to reduce his bar tab by slipping in Grey Goose vodka in his mic case. This ploy worked until the bottle broke.

He said “I Hold On” — a paean to clinging to things that are tried and true — “means more to me than any other song I’ve ever written.”

And he had a different memory about what James added to the song.

“You just blew it open with the chorus,” he said.

Handing James his plaque, Bentley cracked, “I expect you to put this on your wall and take Brantley Gilbert’s picture down.”

View photos from the No. 1 party.
Edward Morris is a veteran of country music journalism. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and is a frequent contributor to CMT.com.