It was September 27, 2003. Dierks Bentley was at a club in the Dallas area, getting ready for a show that night when his phone rang. His debut Capitol single, “What Was I Thinkin,” had just ascended to the top of the country singles chart. It was a day he won’t forget.
“It’s a big lesson that you learn when it comes to how your song moves up the charts,” Bentley tells Billboard. “It was an eye-opening experience to see how much hard work goes into promoting the song from the Capitol Records promotion department. I learned a lot with that first single. It was really special.”
Since then, the singer has topped the charts on nine other occasions, with the latest coming this past week with “5-1-5-0” becoming his tenth record to occupy the top spot.
“It’s something that I never dreamed of — having that many number one songs,” he said in an exclusive interview with Billboard. “It all feels like a blur. It feels like yesterday that I was writing ‘What Was I Thinkin’ in the Sony Tree Publishing firehouse — we used to write songs in this old converted firehouse. To even put out ten songs — let alone ten go to number one seems like a lot to fathom.”
Bentley is proud of the fact that he has been able to mix it up musically since his first single, with his past two records being of great contrast to each other. “I’ve really been able to spread it around and do a lot of different kinds of music in my career, which has been a real blessing. I totally credit that to the fans for giving me that freedom – as well as country radio. ‘Home’ was a lot different than ‘5-1-5-0,’ but for me, it’s all about songs that take you on a journey. Certainly, I’m always thinking about the live show in the back of my head. I want to have material that encompasses a lot of ground – from partying and blowing off some steam and forgetting about our worries for a little while to a song like ‘Home’ that talks about the founding of this country and all our triumphs. So, there is a lot of stuff in there.”
Bentley continues to stretch artistically, as he does with the August 21st release of Country and Cold Beer, which he says is quite different from what he has released in the past. “Just like with “Up On The Ridge,” this is a project that I have wanted to do that is a little different from the stuff I have out there, but I think the fans will love it. We went in and did about four songs, turned them into the label, and they flipped out over them, and wanted to do this EP thing. It all ties in to the end of summer, and kicking it with your friends. It’s about country music, beer, and having a good time. I think a lot of our college age fans will really dig it.”
Bentley will support the disc with a small tour of some college campuses in the south. “I’m looking forward to this little tour we’re doing to support it, at some schools in the SEC. We’re going to Georgia, Mississippi, and South Carolina, so it should be a fun tour.”
The next single from Home will be “Tip It On Back,” which represents a first for Bentley. “This is the first song we’ve released as a single that I didn’t write,” he says, as the track was penned by Tully Kennedy, Ross Copperman, and Jon Nite. “I’ve been trying to find some good outside songs. That’s a fun process – trying to find a song that fits who you are and what you’re trying to say. It would make my day to present a number one hit to them on their very first cut. That would be very special to me.”