Dierks Bentley has been deep in rehearsal mode over the past week at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena, preparing for his upcoming Sounds of Summer tour, which kicks off Friday night in Raleigh, North Carolina. On Monday, the Capitol Nashville recording artist treated members of the media to a sneak peek at the upcoming show.
One thing is for certain: Fans who come out to see Bentley this year are in for a few surprises. There’s plenty of fireworks — musically and literally. “We just kind of went there on this tour. I’ve tried to use video production sparingly and always focus on the music and the band. But it’s called the Sounds of Summer tour, and fireworks were always a big part of my summers growing up. So we thought fireworks and pyro would be a cool thing for this tour. I’m not sure what next year will look like, but this year, we decided to just go all out with the screen, the smoke and the fire. It’s the first time I’ve ever had this many toys to play with,” he said with childlike enthusiasm.
The Grand Ole Opry star is also pumped to share the stage with some of the genre’s hottest rising talent: Maddie & Tae, Kip Moore and Canaan Smith. He says he hopes it’s an experience all three acts will remember. “They are so excited about the tour, and for me to set the bar about how you’re supposed to treat opening acts is really important. I wanted to make it hard for whoever takes them out next to top the way they were treated on this tour. It should be fun. You want to have people that are fun to hang out with offstage. It’s gonna be fun.”
Planning the tour is something Bentley says he and his crew spend a lot of time on throughout the year. “I live on the bus with the band, and we spend a lot of time talking about the show. Dan, our fiddle player, and I will sit in the kitchen with our guitars and break the set list down from last year. There’s a lot of things about last year that we loved. That’s the hardest thing — letting go of last year,” he admitted.
With more than a decade of chart-topping success, one problem Bentley doesn’t mind having is to leave out a few of his hits. “It’s a process we go through,” he tells Billboard, admitting that there are a few omissions this year that fans might find a little bit glaring. “‘Every Mile a Memory’ is a No. 1 song, and we’re not doing that. ‘Long Trip Alone’ is one of my favorite songs, and we’re not doing that. I love ‘Settle for a Slowdown.’ I can’t believe we haven’t done that one two years in a row. Tempo is real important with it being summertime. You’ve got three bands going on before you, so you want to keep the show rockin’. I like to move around more, so I can only do so much of the slower stuff. It’s a good problem to have where you just try to write yourself a new set list and surprise your fans with a few. I can’t imagine how [Kenny] Chesney chooses his set list,” he says with amazement.
The final day of rehearsals was one of reflection for Bentley, as it marked the third anniversary of the death of his father, Leon. When asked about advice his father gave him, he didn’t hesitate. “He always said, ‘Look sharp. Be sharp.’ He loved George Strait. Once, there was a picture of me in Country Weekly, and George was wearing a starched shirt and jeans, and I was wearing a Randy Rogers T-shirt, with my hair all crazy and scruffy. He did not like that. He was always telling me to tuck my shirt in, and I’d say, ‘Dad, you don’t understand.’ He was an ‘actions is louder than words’ kind of person. He loved going to the awards shows. If I could meet anybody in time, it would be him at the same age I am now. I could talk to him about what it’s like to have two or three kids. Your list of questions go up as your number of children do,” he admitted with a chuckle.