Dierks Bentley Says the Nashville Songwriting Community Is ‘Like Boot Camp’
Dierks Bentley, like most country artists, strives to make music that is honest, genuine and relatable. In the three-chords-and-the-truth genre, authenticity is key, but the busy schedule that accompanies celebrity status often means that artists have to budget their time. Between life on the road, releasing his new album The Mountain and opening Whiskey Row, his own bar and music venue, on Lower Broadway in Nashville, Tenn., Bentley has had to leave some of his songwriting to the professionals who write every day -- and he's more than okay with that.
"The thing to keep in mind is, you're either a touring guy or a songwriting guy. Don't try to be both," Bentley explained during the interview portion of a Country Radio Seminar event in February, during which the singer won 2018's CRS Artist Humanitarian Award. "The songwriters are so talented. Their principles are so high, and I have the utmost respect for them."
Being immersed in Nashville's robust community of writers is humbling for any musician, and recording artists often say that, no matter who wrote it, the best song should win -- meaning, at the end of the day, they'll select a song to record or include on an album based on its merit or how well it fits within a collection of songs, not based on whether or not they wrote it. According to Bentley, having outside perspectives from a team of songwriters can even help make an album better.
"You get so inside your albums, inside your own head, that you're way overthinking it," Bentley explains. The singer knows this from experience: He hesitated to include the single "Drunk on a Plane" on his 2014 album, Riser, because he thought the song, though catchy, was a little too goofy for an otherwise serious and personal album: "I was like, 'This album's about my dad passing away, and how does "Drunk on a Plane" fit in with that?'
"We took the first hook off to try to make the song cooler, then we put the hook back on," Bentley remembers. "You really need someone outside of the box you're in to come over and say, 'Hey, this is a good song, just put it out. Don't overthink it.'"
Bentley adds that the songwriting community in Music City inspires him to be a better songwriter himself: "That's the thing about this community: It's boot camp," he says. "You think you're a songwriter, and then you write with Luke Dick. It inspires you to always keep working on it, just to try to catch up. There's always something to get better at."
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