Dierks Bentley Retraces Songwriting Roots

Dierks Bentley used a tried-and-true technique for honing his way with words when he first moved to Nashville. He wrote down the lyrics to the songs he loved so he could get a feel for how it felt to be “writing” a hit.

“Every little word mattered to me. I have books and books at my house, notepads, front and back. The front was country; the back would be bluegrass, and I’d just fill both sides of these yellow legal pads. I was trying to learn the craft of writing songs,” Bentley told American Songwriter in the July/August issue . “Songs are everything. If you ain’t got the song, you ain’t got anything.”

Obviously, Bentley’s system worked. He’s had 19 Top 20 hits since he released his self-titled major label debut album 11 years ago. Even the unreleased songs he wrote on all of his seven studio albums — the deep cuts, as they’re called — showcase his songwriting craft.

When Bentley’s not writing songs, he’s playing them. And man, does he love to play.

“I’m still the same kid that’s eaten up with it. The chance to play it for any sort of living, it’s unbelievable. For me, back in the day, just playing for free beer, that was the coolest thing ever, like ‘I’m gettin’ free beer to play music at this gig. Wow. I’ve made it!’ And here I am now, 10 years in, and it’s still growing; I get to do this for a living,” Bentley said. “There’s no other gig like it.”

Alison makes her living loving country music. She's based in Chicago, but she's always leaving her heart in Nashville.