On the business side of the music business, it’s all about building a brand – a recognizable look, sound and feel that’s easily attachable to the emotional and motivational parts of the brain.
Dierks Bentley has one of country music’s most enviable brands, equal parts affability and authenticity. And as he announced his largest tour yet on Monday – this year’s The Mountain High Tour with Grammy Award-nominated duo Brothers Osborne and rising group LANCO – in support of The Mountain, his forthcoming ninth album, he admitted he’s built his burgeoning brand by not really thinking about his burgeoning brand.
“It’s the same way you had that freedom when you first start making records, that reckless abandon just to be you,” Bentley said. “You have nothing else to go for. When you have a little bit of success, I find that you can go back to that because you have nothing to lose as well.”
Bentley speaks from experience. He made a decision to change everything once in his career when he released his bluegrass-tinged “Up on the Ridge” in 2010, an anti-pop move if ever there was one that nonetheless imbued Bentley with an authenticity that’s made him one of the format’s most respected artists, as well as one of its best-selling. The Mountain will be one of country music’s most anticipated releases of the year.
“When you start trying to headline, sometimes you can write music that helps you headline, and you start putting those two (artistic and commercial) worlds together,” Bentley said from a stage on the second floor of his new bar and restaurant, Dierks Bentley’s Whiskey Row, in the Lower Broadway entertainment district of downtown Nashville.
“I found out it just didn’t work that way. I hit kind of this ceiling where it wasn’t going to go anywhere. I decided to opt out. The reboot was kind of like a restart where you didn’t know whether the computer would turn back on or not. I felt like I didn’t have any other choice. I was ready to walk away if I didn’t.”
Instead, the 42-year-old Bentley is starting yet another chapter in a recording career that’s sneaking up on two decades with the most ambitious year of his professional life. The Mountain High Tour will include more than 40 cities beginning in May with a handful of arena stops when tickets go on sale Friday. It follows on the heels of 2017’s What the Hell Tour, which sold 750,000 tickets.
“This feels like a second career almost, a second chance,” Bentley said, adding: “It’s not about making money, it’s about my life. I want to have a great summer, have a lot of fun, make great memories.”
Which is the main reason why Brothers Osborne signed on amidst a number of offers for the breakthrough duo. They also want to watch the way he balances creativity and commerce, something they strive for in their career as well.
“It feels like, man, this is really what we came to town to do, which is have fun,” T.J. Osborne said. “I didn’t start playing music to be rich and famous, I did it because it was an outlet for me, an escape.”