Dierks Bentley on Opening for the Opener

So Far, He's Never Had a Bad Day

Technically, Jon Pardi is Dierks Bentley’s tour opener. But before Pardi comes on, Bentley takes the stage. So is he the headliner or the opener? Yes.

Bentley and his band have created this alter-ego bluegrass group — they don’t decide on a name until about 10 minutes before they walk onstage — because, as he told AZ Central.com, they are always jamming backstage anyway.

“And we tend to lean toward that music. I’ve always loved acoustic bluegrass music and I have great players in my band,” Bentley said of the guys who play mandolin and banjo in this other band.

“I’m trying to think of where the very first time we did this was. But I was very nervous walking out there onstage, because the majority of fans have no idea what’s going on. They think Jon Pardi is getting ready to walk onstage. They get excited when they see a band on stage,” he explained.

“Then, they see it’s us, and they’re like, ‘Ooh, what is this? I don’t know if I really like this yet.’ But we go out there and we have a great time. There’s some jokes that go along with it. We think it’s pretty funny.”

Also pretty funny? Bentley’s wardrobe. He throws on a fake beard and mullet and a pearl-snap shirt with only a few snaps snapped. And best of all, a bolo tie from his late father’s collection.

“I have these great bolo ties that my dad used to have, these thunderbird bolo ties. So it’s actually kind of a perfect opportunity to finally wear one. I don’t think this would be the configuration he would expect me to wear them in. But nonetheless, they’re getting some use,” he said.

Pardi doesn’t seem to mind, because Bentley says they don’t take up any of his stage time. The bluegrass players go on at 6:45 p.m. and Pardi at 7:00 p.m.

“It’s kind of a nice thing for him. I wish when I was the first of the openers on a tour, the headliner went out and opened for me. That would’ve been wonderful. So I don’t think he minds at all,” he said.

And whether Bentley’s playing bluegrass in the evening or country after the sun goes down, he’s grateful for every minute he spends on the music.

“I don’t think I’ve ever had a bad day. From the second my foot hits that stage, I just get this sense of unbelievable joy to be there doing it,” he said.

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