Dierks Bentley Talks ‘The Mountain’ Album: ‘It Was an Awakening’
When Dierks Bentley set out to record The Mountain, his upcoming ninth studio album, he was "just following a vibe," he says. That vibe led him all the way to Telluride, Colo., with a team of writers, to craft the songs on the album, and then again to record it. The Mountain meditates on themes of exploration, both spiritual and literal, and a kind of excavation of the soul.
At a recent press conference with the opening acts for his upcoming tour (Brothers Osborne and Lanco), Bentley told The Boot and other reporters about the process of assembling the songs on The Mountain, and what brought him to Telluride in the first place. The singer played the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in the summer of 2017, sharing the stage with artists such as Jerry Douglas and Chris Thile; the show even featured a surprise appearance by Del McCoury.
"It was an epic day," Bentley recalls. "Well, it started off with my son breaking his arm in two spots, so there were definitely a lot of emotions that day. I spent 45 minutes with the doctor trying to twist it back into place.
"He was on ketamine, which is like, Special K," Bentley adds, joking, "I mean, I figured at some point my son would go to Colorado and trip, but I didn't think it would be when he was three."
Despite the shaky start to the singer's relationship with Telluride, he quickly fell in love with the atmosphere and decided it was the right place to record his new album. Aside from the obvious connection the music has to mountains, Bentley drew inspiration from metaphors surrounding the process of climbing a mountain.
"[On tour] you meet so many fans backstage, and they tell you these great stories," he explains. "So many of these stories of people struggling and using live music as a way to continue on their journey became a metaphorical thing for The Mountain."
It was the first time Bentley had traveled so far to record an album. The recording trip started as a pipe dream, when the singer and a team of writers were in Telluride writing the songs for the album.
"We'd grab a coffee, take the gondola up, watch the sun rise at 7, and come back down and start writing songs at 8:30," he describes. "Someone said, 'We should come back out here to record; it would be so dope.'"
The house where the group was writing songs was more or less bare -- boxes held up speakers, and a trash can served as a computer stand -- so it didn't seem logistically possible. But then, Bentley did some research into the idea.
"Turns out, there was a studio 30 minutes out of town," he says. "It ran off solar power. There was this crazy guy that ran it. We just made it happen, three months later."
In addition to the metaphorical aspects of the location, Bentley also stresses the importance of getting out of town to make a record in order to focus on it without distractions.
"Especially once you have kids -- 2:30 rolls around, and I wanna go get my kids from school. So it's hard for me when a song's not going that well and I know that I could be hanging out with [my son] Knox," he says. "So being out there forces you to commit all the way, and just live and breathe it. I'd recommend everybody make a record like that at some point."
Bentley describes The Mountain as a kind of awakening: "I think every album is a chance to check in with yourself and hopefully see that you've come a little farther in your evolution as a person," he says. Gratitude, compassion and self-improvement are all prevalent themes in The Mountain.
"You're either growing or dying," Bentley adds, "and I want to be actively involved in adjusting my game and evolving. It's the only way to do it."
The Mountain is due out sometime in 2018.
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