Dierks Bentley on his 2019 'Burning Man' Tour, His Opening Acts and Why He's Grateful to Kenny Chesney: Exclusive

Dierks Bentley
Jim Wright

Dierks Bentley

Though he’s been off tour for less than two weeks, Dierks Bentley is ready to hit the road again.    

In January, Bentley’s 2019 Burning Man outing will take the three-time CMA nominee on a 24-date arena swing through Canada, the midwest and the south, including a hometown date at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena.     

The tour, which kicks off Jan. 17 in Hamilton, Ontario, comes three months after the completion of Bentley’s Mountain High circuit, which ended Oct. 13 with his first sold-out show at Los Angeles’ Hollywood Bowl.

Jon Pardi and Tenille Townes will fill the opening slots on the Live Nation-promoted tour. The Hot Country Knights, Bentley’s ‘90s country cover band, will warm up the crowd every night. Ticket sales begin Nov. 2. 

In an exclusive interview, Bentley told Billboard what fans can expect on the tour, which is named after his current single featuring the Brothers Osborne. 

Billboard: This past tour included so many highlights, including selling out Madison Square Garden and the Hollywood Bowl for the first time, as well as mounting your own festival. How will you top it? 

Dierks Bentley: It’s kind of hard to comprehend because so many big things happened, in particular ending the show at the Hollywood Bowl, selling it out and then having Dwight Yoakam on stage with me. His was really the first country show I saw, so closing out the Hollywood Bowl together was really a surreal experience. I’m still on a high. I’m always saying I’m one who sips tequila instead of shoots it, it’s a nice drawn out buzz. I don’t know how we top that. But I think the goal is don’t hold anything back, every year put all you have into production, all you have into ideas, don’t save anything. You put everything you have in every year and it forces us to find a way to top it the next year.

You’re still touring behind your current album, The Mountain. How do you make the Burning Man outing different since there’s not a new album to promote?

What’s special about this tour is who’s going out with us. Jon Pardi is back out on the road with us and Tenille Townes. I don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater; there are some really great parts of the show that I hate to change up. For those fans, it’s a chance to see a tour that’s extremely, on our end at least, super dialed in. This thing is so fun. We’ve been nuancing the set and playing these huge places. It’s a great show, I hate to tweak it too much. There are some subtle things we’re going to do for all those fans that come a long distance and travel to show after show, but for the most part, the guts remain from last year. What makes it fun for us is changing up who’s on the road with us. I always put the pressure on myself to sell all the tickets, but it’s a group. I’m on the road with Jon Pardi and Tenille Townes, they’re just as important as anybody out there as far as making sure the vibe is right and that the experience is unique for the fans.

Why Jon and Tenille? 

This will be [Jon and my]  third and final time to tour together. It’s his first time being in the middle slot that has the longer set. He’s going to blast off and do his own thing in 2019, but we’ll get him through the first half. He just brings so much energy and joy backstage, off stage, and that’s so important to me to be out there with people that fans can genuinely tell I enjoy being with. With Tenille, I wanted to go a different route and try something new and find some fresh energy. There’s so many people headlining and there are a lot of people— it’s kind of the same group— the only way to break out and expand the group of people on the road is to grab someone new and throw them out there on our stage and watch them do what they do. I’ve listened to her music and love her voice and think she’s super talented and I was a big fan of her singles.  

With females having such a tough time at country radio, how important was it for you to give a female a slot?

The fact that she’s a new female artist, personally for me, really excites me. We need some more women in our format and if I can play a small role in shining a light on one of those folks, it makes me feel very lucky to be able to do that. Regardless of all that, she’s super talented and I’m excited to have that energy out there on the road with me and Jon, we could use that. It will be a very different feel for us backstage, but I pride myself on showing new artists how headliners should act and behave and hopefully spoil them so that when they go out after me, they always say they had the best experience with us.

You’re really mentoring these young artists, just like acts before you did for you.

For me, Kenny [Chesney] was the one and is the one. There are other acts who don’t give their opening acts time to sound check, which for me is just a given. Kenny was the one that really set the bar for the industry. He really showed you what the road should feel like and made everybody feel important. We make yearbooks every year and I stole that straight from Kenny. Not everyone’s like that—I’ve been on tours that have been kind of miserable— but Kenny’s the one I learned from and tried to emulate. 

Who made you miserable? 

I’m not [saying.] George Strait is awesome, just being around him is incredible. Kenny’s the one that really actively made sure you had a great experience on the road. That’s what I want for these guys. I want them to have the best time they’ve ever had on the road. More importantly, for the fans, I want these guys and girls to have all the tools at their disposal, whether it’s lights, production, sound, and time to sound check so they can go on stage and put on the best show possible for our fans. Positive vibes all around. 

How will you do “Burning Man” since the Brothers Osborne will no longer be out with you as they were this summer?  

I know. That’s one of the first questions that comes up and one of the bigger bummers too. How can we be creative with it now? I have Jon Pardi, I have Tenille Townes. Maybe I don’t do it with anybody and it’s just me. That’s the way I originally cut it. I don’t know, we’ve got to figure it out. 

This will be an arena tour. Do you have a preference between amphitheaters and arenas? 

Variety is what makes it great. You do enough amphitheaters, you go, “Man, it would be fun to do arenas.” You do enough arenas and you’re like, “Man, it would be great to get back outdoors again.” I’m in the mood for arenas. After playing Madison Square Garden and seeing how the show feels inside, it’s exciting. The energy is just so different because everybody’s contained and focused. People always ask, “what’s your favorite place to play” or “your best memory from the road" and it’s always what the last show is. My favorite place to play is where I’m playing. 

2019 Burning Man Tour Dates:

Jan. 17 --  Hamilton, ON, FirstOntario Centre

Jan. 18 -- Ottawa, ON, Richcraft Live at the Canadian Tire Centre

Jan. 19 -- Oshawa, ON, Tribute Communities Centre

Jan. 22 -- Winnipeg, MB, Bell MTS Place

Jan. 23 -- Saskatoon, SK, SaskTel Centre

Jan. 24 -- Edmonton, AB, Rogers Place

Jan. 26 -- Calgary, AB, Scotiabank Saddledome

Jan. 28 -- Kelowna, BC, Prospera Place

Jan. 29 -- Vancouver, BC, Pepsi Live at Rogers Arena

Feb. 14 -- Ontario, CA, Citizens Business Bank Arena

Feb. 15 -- Fresno, CA, Save Mart Center

Feb. 16 -- Reno, NV,  Reno Events Center

Feb. 21 -- Lexington, KY, Rupp Arena

Feb. 22 -- Nashville, TN, Bridgestone Arena

Feb. 23 -- Columbia, MO, Mizzou Arena

Feb. 28 -- Sioux Falls, SD, Denny Sanford PREMIER Center

March 1 -- Wichita, KS, INTRUST Bank Arena

March 2 -- Omaha, NE, CHI Health Center Omaha

March 7 -- Moline, IL, TaxSlayer Center

March 8 -- Duluth, MN, AMSOIL Arena

March 9 -- Grand Forks, ND, Alerus Center

March 28 -- Toledo, OH, Huntington Center

March 29 -- Columbus, OH, Nationwide Arena

March 30 -- Grand Rapids, MI, Van Andel Arena