Dierks Bentley is more than a decade into his recording career now, having first hit the scene with "What Was I Thinkin'" in 2003. That being said, his new album "Riser," which hits stores tomorrow, took him to a bit of uncharted ground on both a musical and sonic level.
For starters, the disc, co-produced by Ross Copperman and Arturo Buenahora, Jr, allowed him to experiment with some new musical sounds -- and also allowed him to record his vocals in some different places than he has been accustomed to -- such as his tour bus.
"I've found on this record that I hate singing in a vocal booth," he confesses to Billboard. "I didn't start out singing in studios, I started in bars, and I'm more of an emotional based singer than I am a technical singer. I don't have the nuances, vibratos, and octaves, so I don't need a sterile cockpit. I work better when there's someone in the room – if it's just one person, the producer next to me, or being in with a band, or on the bus. I don't need to be in a closed area. Working with Ross was really fun. We sang in a lot of different locations. On a song like 'Here On Earth,' that first vocal was what is on the record. I was just really feeling it. That was something new I have never done before. It felt more like a live show to me."
"Riser" also allowed the singer to dig in as deep from an emotional perspective than he ever had before. Some of the lyrics on the album deal with Bentley's emotions following such life events as the June 2012 passing of his father, as well as the birth of son Knox this past October. You can hear his anguish at having to leave his family behind on the telling "Damn These Dreams," which the Capitol Nashville recording artist feels many listeners can identify with. "It's a song for everyone," he says. "When you do country music right, hopefully it's a deeply personal song that you wrote from experience that anyone can relate to. That song is based on me and my love of music, my family, and being torn away from them. But, let's be honest. I'm a traveling salesman. Everyone out there who does what I do, they might get caught up thinking they are something other than that, but that's what we're doing, selling music."
The singer admits that while his profession might be a little bit different than others, he's not the only one who is gone from home a lot. "I'm not trying to belittle what I do in any way, but there's a lot of people who do what I do – they leave the house, go to work, and go away for periods of time. It's tough – no matter what you are doing," he says.
Bentley allowed that he's not the only musician that is looking for that balance. "When I hang out with other singers, that's what we're talking about. It's not sex, drugs, and rock & roll backstage. It's usually 'Hey, how do you do it? You have two kids. How do you balance it? When I talk to Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic, we compare different ways to balance our home lives with our careers. It's a fascinating subject," he says. "You get in music originally because you just want to meet girls, get some free beers, and play country music. Then, the next thing you know – if you're one of the lucky ones and it's working out, you're on the road and you have family, it's a crazy profession to be a dad in," but he says he's grateful. "It's that tension that is a good thing. It's tough, but it wouldn't be worth it to be out on the road and not have my family – there would be no one to share it with, but it's tough being away from them," he admits.
That being said, "Riser" is not all sadness and darkness. One of the breakout cuts from the set is the lighthearted kiss-off song from 40,000 feet, "Drunk On A Plane," which he says makes for a little bit of needed balance on the album.
"It's a fun song, and would make a killer video. My band would have to be dressed up as stewardesses," he says with a laugh. "Wes Edwards, who has done a lot of my videos, is going to have his work cut out for him on this one. I have put out 'Home,' 'Tip It On Back,' and 'Bourbon In Kentucky" recently, but it's important to have some lighter moments out there," he says. "I could see that being a single."