Dierks Bentley's Grimy 'Beach' Is Just Another 'Plane' Ol' Hit

Dierks Bentley
John Shearer/WireImage

Dierks Bentley performs onstage during the 2015 CMA Festival on June 11, 2015 in Nashville, Tennessee. 

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Dierks Bentley didn’t originally think of “Somewhere on a Beach” as a sequel to “Drunk on a Plane,” but the similarities between the two songs were pretty obvious to many around him.

Both center on the main character traveling by air to a sandy resort as he grapples with a broken heart. Cementing the ties between the two, the “Somewhere on a Beach” video, which launched Feb. 26, was shot in Puerto Morelos, Mexico — a village near Cancun, the destination in “Drunk on a Plane” — and it features a Seth Rogen-like character who played a secondary role in the “Drunk” vid.

Bentley almost axed “Drunk on a Plane” from the Riser album during production in 2013, and he had reservations about making “Beach” a lead single as he put together his forthcoming project, Black.

“When I go into album mode, I get very serious, and I’m trying to really write about stuff that’s happening in my life,” he says. “I have great people around me that don’t direct me. They might nudge me here and there and be like, ‘Man, don’t take yourself too seriously. It’s OK to put something out that’s fun. You are known for that.’ And then I’m like, ‘I am?’ They’re like, ‘Yeah.’ ”

Fun is at the heart of “Somewhere on a Beach.” The chorus shout-out — “She’s got a body/And she’s naughty” — is a provocative phrase that has never been uttered in a country single before, and it’s all surrounded by a buzzing, grimy guitar initiated by Jedd Hughes, the same guy who played the woozy lick in “Drunk on a Plane.”

“I thought that this could be the ‘Drunk on a Plane’ moment on this record,” producer Ross Copperman (Brett Eldredge, Eli Young Band) says. “And I thought it was an essential piece.”

“Somewhere on a Beach” originated from two different pieces that were started during the summer of 2015. The title came out of a Gulf Coast excursion by songwriters Jaron Boyer (“Hell of a Night”); Josh Mirenda, a developing artist Boyer is producing; and Michael Tyler, whom Reviver recently signed as an artist.

“We came up with the idea when we were in Destin,” says Boyer. “We had a few lyrics, but we didn’t really finish it.”

Meanwhile, Los Angeles-based songwriter-producer Dave Kuncio, who’s had writing credits on tracks by Selena Gomez and Prince Royce, built an elaborate track in June 2015 around a spacious, two-bar guitar lick.

“I was just jamming one day and kind of stumbled into the riff and thought it was cool,” recalls Kuncio (pronounced “COON-see-oh”). “It was kind of a happy little accident.”

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It had the tone and the pacing of Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Under the Bridge,” though he had a different direction in mind for the end product.

“It originally started as kind of a hip-hop idea,” says Kuncio. “I’ve been kind of immersed in that world in the past year-and-a-half, so when I came up with the riff, I wasn’t originally thinking a country song. I thought it could be more of a soulful, Justin Timberlake-type thing.”

Kuncio had no words for it, but he created an instrumental bed for an entire song, including a bridge section, and stored it.

The following month, Kuncio met pop/hip-hop producer Fuego (Chris Brown, Jason Derulo) — aka Alex Palmer — during a writing retreat. Fuego subsequently came over to Kuncio’s house for a songwriting session, and when they finished another song, Kuncio brought the other track out of storage for some feedback. Fuego liked it and did further work on the track.

Fuego introduced it during a writing date on Music Row with Boyer and Mirenda, who assumed Fuego had created the entire track. “We didn’t even know Dave was on the song,” says Boyer.

As they fiddled with it, Tyler popped into the writing room unexpectedly. Boyer invited him to sit in on the session, and once Tyler heard the track, he announced it was time to finish the “Somewhere on a Beach” song they had started in Destin. “Then we took off with it,” says Boyer. “M.T. lucked into a freaking big ol’ hit that day.”

As is often the case when a group project gets going, the origin of the “body”/“naughty” rhyme is sketchy. So is the “gettin’ sun/gettin’ some” couplet that comes later in the chorus. Either way, the guy gets his revenge on the ex as he boasts about a new, insatiable relationship, which may — or may not — be real.

“Sometimes guys can lie,” cautions Boyer. “Like if a girl asks how we’re doing, we’ll be like, ‘Oh, yeah, I’m doing great. I got a new girlfriend.’ This was just conversation, like this guy could be lying to her. You never know.”

They made a demo with Tyler singing high notes over the guitar riff, plus a series of synthetic drum sounds and sonic effects. It generated instant interest on Music Row. Florida Georgia Line put it on hold for a bit, and producer Michael Knox (Jason Aldean, Thomas Rhett) made it part of his pitch as he shopped Tyler for a recording deal.

When Bentley’s executive producer, Arturo Buenahora Jr. (Eric Church), heard it, he recommended it to Bentley, who eventually won the battle.

The tracking session was a bit of a party. Guitarist Danny Rader provided the spare chord chunking, and Hughes found a nasty lead tone that gave “Beach” a little more of a grinding edge.

“Jedd Hughes was sitting down with a bottle of Wild Turkey, just playing that solo over and over and over and over again,” says Bentley. “We already had it, [but he was] just like, ‘No, let me play it again,’ because it felt so good.”

The track as a whole, however, wasn’t quite right.

“We did not nail it in the moment,” admits Copperman. “It was the wrong tempo, and — kind of like with ‘Drunk on a Plane’ — I ended up taking that track home and totally, totally reconstructing it.”

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Rader helped reimagine a lot of the guitar work during overdubs at Copperman’s house, and Bentley repeatedly popped in during odd hours when his kids — and Copperman’s — were sleeping to take another shot at the vocals.

“In its demo form, it’s almost like an urban delivery of the lyric,” says Bentley. “We’re different people. [At first], I was too much like him. [Later], I’m singing too much like myself. I just kept going back and forth to get it locked in.”

Copperman had inserted some programmed percussion effects, similar to the demo, and as Bentley started circulating the song among trusted allies, that element felt uncomfortable. So that got reworked, too.

“The last time through it, we were like, ‘Strip all that stuff out. Let’s make this track just sound like vinyl,’ ” says Bentley.

Like “Drunk on a Plane,” “Beach” has superceded Bentley’s expectations. Capitol Nashville released it to radio via Play MPE on Jan. 19, and it has soared to No. 18 on Hot Country Songs in just six weeks, making it the fastest-rising single in his 13-year career. It was one of four contenders as the lead single from Black, and Bentley is understandably confident they made the right choice.

“Anyone that hears this song can obviously tell this is a different project than the one before, and it’s going to be great for the summer, so everything feels like it’s coming together,” says Bentley. “Everything is just kind of stacked up, really setting up the possibility of really having one of our biggest years yet.”

This article first appeared in Billboard's Country Update -- sign up here.


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