Every now and then, an artist gets the itch to shake things up a little bit on a creative level. As Dierks Bentley embarks on the second decade of his recording career, the Capitol Nashville act definitely falls in that description. The singer has put the final touches on "Riser," his upcoming seventh studio album, and needless to say, it's very much a different project than you might be expecting.
"I didn't want to cover any ground that I had covered before," Bentley said at a private listening party on Nashville's Music Row last week.
"I wanted to make it a little more moody, I guess. I know my dad passed away, but it wasn't really that," he said of his creative direction. "Maybe subconsciously it influenced it, but it kind of opened a new portal in my life to sing a new reality. A lot of stuff has gone on in culture in general – school shootings and stuff like that. It opened up bigger things to write about, and on songs like 'Riser' and 'Here On Earth,' it kind of comprises the core of that, but there are tracks like 'Pretty Girls' that don't really fit in the 'Riser' theme, but there's a similar sound that makes it work together. A song like that or 'Drunk On A Plane' can fit as a pressure relief valve to get away from it, then bring it back. I wanted the album to be heavier and a little darker. I think a good country album should have a little bit of it all."
"Riser" -- due this fall -- also represents a change in producers for the singer, who works with Ross Copperman and Arthur Buenhora on the disc. Bentley says he enjoyed the new direction. "We just wanted to do some different things, to keep it fresh for me. I wanted to do something new, and think we have something really cool."
The album's first single is the moody and relatively stark "Bourbon Kentucky," which features harmonies from Kacey Musgraves.
Other highlights included on the disc include the lyrically potent "Here On Earth," which the singer co-wrote with Ryan Tyndell and Copperman, and the love song "Hurt Somebody." Though Bentley did write four of the eight cuts spotlighted at the party, he was quick to say that he was more open to outside material than ever before.
"I think in the past, I thought I was listening for outside songs, but I realize after going through this project that I haven't. I wrote with a lot of people, I wrote with Shane McAnally a bunch, but I never wrote anything that beat what he pitched to me. I think it all kind of gelled together."
All in all, the singer feels refreshed by the making of "Riser" -- and he can't wait to share the experience with listeners. "I'm really excited about the album. It kind of goes against the grain of what's working out there right now. I'm just trying to make what's inside of me come out, and if it works or not, I can't control that."