Dierks Bentley Leaves the Door Open to Spontaneity

The country singer/songwriter likes to go “off script” on stage. “That’s what makes the show fun.”
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Photograph by Robby Klein

It’s the summer of logistics for Dierks Bentley. “How many different places can I be at one time?” he asks in an interview from his home in Nashville. “We’re just all over the place.”

It’s a personal and professional predicament for the multi-platinum country singer/songwriter, who finds himself not only spending the summer headlining the “Gravel & Gold Tour” but also trying his best to keep things straight at home. “My kids are at camps and playing hockey tournaments in the summer, so we’re all just kind of scattered in the summer,” says the father of three. “That’s why I do most of my touring in the summer, because everyone’s lives are crazy.”

Granted, Bentley is sure of where he’ll be on June 15, when he’s scheduled to take the stage at Riverbend Music Center after opening acts Chase Rice and Lee Brice. He’s bringing along a setlist filled with songs from across his two-decade career of hits. “I’m just kind of carrying over this tour from last year,” says Bentley, who released his 10th studio album, Gravel & Gold, in 2023. “There are some changes in the show and whatnot, but I really liked the way that the set felt last year. I love the stage and what we did there, and we’re not really playing any of the same cities, so a lot of the same big pieces from last year are involved physically as well as in the music.”

Personally, Bentley says having the chance to get back to Cincinnati is always special, as it’s been one of those markets where something crazy and unexpected always happens. “One year we had to cancel the show because of weather and power,” he says. “Cincinnati was also the very first time (Bentley’s 1990s country cover band) Hot Country Knights ever took the stage. I remember walking out there as lead singer Douglas ‘Doug’ Douglason thinking, Oh my gosh, I might be totally destroying my career. (Laughs.) Cincinnati will always hold a very special spot in my heart because of that particular show.”

But make no mistake: Bentley is never looking to put on just another “show.” “I’m here to create an experience for you and for me and for everyone involved,” he says, adding that the night is sure to include his current single, the reimagination of Tom Petty’s classic “American Girl.” “I like to leave the door open to spontaneity at any moment. I like to get off script and really read the room. That’s what makes the show fun. It always goes somewhere unexpected.”

It’s this spontaneity that looks to continue to drive Bentley as he gets older in a genre that seems filled with artists pushing to take his place. “I feel like your thirties is just a complete shit show and your forties is when you finally get some wisdom beaten into you,” he says with a chuckle. “Right now, I’m probably in the best physical shape that I’ve ever been. I’m loving where I am in my life, and I wouldn’t trade anything for anybody. We still grind just as hard when it’s time. But I also have a lot of other stuff going on with my personal life. And so I’m glad there are some new kids out there to keep pushing it forward.”

One of those kids is ACM Entertainer of the Year Lainey Wilson. “Lainey and I are pals,” says Bentley. “What she’s accomplished in a year? It’s just been incredible to watch. I mean, now she’s got her own bar. (Laughs.) It’s good to see the music always moving forward, and I’m really thankful the spot that we’ve carved out for ourselves. We love doing what we do.”

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