A nominee, performer and first-time co-host alongside Luke Bryan, Dierks Bentley will be a triple threat at the 51st Academy of Country Music Awards, airing on CBS on April 3 live from Las Vegas’ MGM Grand Garden Arena. The “Somewhere on a Beach” singer, 40, shares his thoughts on taking over the show.
What is your biggest fear about hosting?
My nightmare is I’m standing at the podium and everyone’s laughing at me — then I look down and I’m naked. That’s how I wake up every morning!
Bryan co-hosted with Blake Shelton for three years — did you get any advice from him?
I haven’t heard from Blake. I think he’s pretty busy out in L.A. He’s got his hands full, literally and figuratively, with work and his girlfriend [Gwen Stefani]. Luke’s naturally really funny — I feel like he’s going to cover me pretty good.
What’s your best Luke Bryan story?
There’s so many that fortunately have been blacked out over the years. I just don’t remember them. We used to hit it pretty hard back in the day. We still party, but we party smarter. We don’t drink as much as we did back then. He used to have these after-parties backstage, crank some music up, and he’d come up with these crazy dances and just crack everybody up. Now he’s taken that onstage. And people love it. He’s still the same guy, the guy hasn’t changed at all. Obviously he feels really free to be who he is, and people obviously love him for that.
Who are you rooting for to win at the ACMs?
Me! (Laughs.) I’m nominated in the same category as Chris Stapleton. If I won male vocalist of the year, I would probably go and hand him the trophy, because he is one of the greatest in any genre.
The awards are in Vegas. What’s your game?
I love blackjack and craps. And I love watching guys like [Jason] Aldean and Luke — they have big cojones at the tables. I like to start out at a $5 table; if I get adventurous, I wind up at a $25 table. Those boys take it to another level.
Your current single is called “Somewhere on a Beach,” so what’s your favorite beach?
The closest one. Wherever the closest beach is, that’s where I want to go. Right now we live in Nashville, and the closest beach is Panama City Beach [in Florida]. That’s the easiest beach to get to, that’s where I would choose to go.
The song almost feels like it’s a sequel to “Drunk on a Plane.” When was the last time that you were drunk on a plane?
The last time I was flying Southwest [Airlines]. Man, those free drink coupons, they pile up over the years. I’ve had some good flights. The last really fun flight I had, I was flying with Thomas Rhett and Jaren Johnston, lead singer of the Cadillac Three. We were flying from Phoenix, and we ran by a bar, and the next thing you know we’re slamming beers and we’re listening to each other’s songs. It was one of the more fun Southwest flights I’ve had, ever.
How’s your upcoming album Black going?
It’s in the home stretch. It’s a relationship-based album; the title is my wife’s maiden name. It isn’t afraid to explore the twists and turns that go with being in a long-term relationship — the dark, shadowy edges of the heart.
A version of this story originally appeared in the March 25 issue of Billboard.