What Was Dierks Bentley Thinkin’?

Fifteen Years Later, First Song Is Still a Template

Even Dierks Bentley didn’t believe it.

After his ACM Awards rehearsal last weekend, when I caught up with him backstage, I congratulated him on the 15-year anniversary of his debut.

“Seriously,” he asked in disbelief. I assured him that, yes, his first single “What Was I Thinkin’” had come out in mid-April of 2003.

In some ways, he seemed shocked that it had been that long ago. And in other ways, he told me he still thinks of that song as one of his best, and one he listens to for inspiration when he needs it.

“That song was so good,” Bentley said of the song he wrote with Brett Beavers and Deric Ruttan. “But my music has always evolved, and every record’s been a movement towards where I am, or where I’m going. Every album I’ve made ties into my personal life. I feel like in some ways it’s moved forward. But in a lot of ways, I go back.”

Then he started reminiscing more about “What Was I Thinkin’.”

“The dobro on that song, the acoustic guitar, and just the instrumentation on that whole record was so strong. I still go back to that song as a template in some ways.

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“If I had to pick one song that sums up who I am, it would probably still be that first one. It has an acoustic sensibility, great songwriting, plus the energy of my live show. It incorporates a lot of the positive elements of my career. When I think back to making that album — and every one after that — I’m always all-in: writing, recording, mixing. I was way into that on every album. All-in,” he said again.

As for any kind of sonic evolution, Bentley said, he does like to keep growing and experimenting. Which is one of the reasons he left Nashville to make his latest album The Mountain, due out on June 8. Bentley and his songwriting squad went to Telluride, Co. to write and then later to record all the new music.

“That’s the one constant, I guess. That I’m always changing,” he said. “Because you may find something, but you’ll still keep looking.”

An all-new CMT Hot 20 Countdown, airing Saturday and Sunday (April 21-22) at 9 a.m. ET, will have more on all the action from the ACMs in Las Vegas.

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