With guests wearing complimentary pilot hats, aviators and fake mustaches, Dierks Bentley celebrated his latest Number One single “Drunk on a Plane” yesterday during a party at hipster cowboy bar the Sutler in Nashville.
But Bentley says he was initially resistant to the idea of putting the mile-high drinking club anthem on his most somber album yet, Riser. There was a fear, he acknowledges, of “Drunk on a Plane” being perceived as a novelty.
“I did have concerns as to how it’d fit into the album. But that’s just taking yourself too seriously. You have to think about your fans, and they want to come to a show and have a good time, or it’s Monday and they’re driving to work, and they want to hear something that makes them laugh. You have to think about that,” Bentley tells Rolling Stone Country. “There are a lot of heavier songs on the album, songs of substance, but I feel this song works because it has this underlying lonesomeness in the melody and in the story. This guy is pretty lonesome, to get stood up at the altar, and he’s a sad drunk. There is tension in the song. The only way a song that has a lighter overall vibe can really work and have staying power is if it has some sort of tension to it.”
Bentley, himself a pilot — he recently logged 6,000 miles in 15 days flying to and from gigs, and flew this morning to a show in Cincinnati — says “Drunk on a Plane” has been a hit with pilots and especially flight attendants, who regularly slip him drink tickets by the handful. But he attests the song’s lyrics are more fictional than what fans might perceive Bentley’s country star life to be. “If I tweet a photo of us flying on Southwest or something, everyone assumes we’re just totally hammered and buying drinks for everybody,” he laughs, “but in reality I’m probably over in the corner asleep.”
Or plotting the next step in a career that, after a few starts and stops, has finally established the 38-year-old as a headlining act and a competitive artist during awards season. Bentley is nominated in five categories at this November’s CMA Awards, including Album of the Year and Male Vocalist of the Year.
With “Drunk on a Plane” having run its course — and landing Bentley a nomination in the Single of the Year category — the singer is moving on to Riser‘s fourth single, “Say You Do.”
“Sonically, I think it’s one of the best sounding songs on the record. It showcases what Ross Copperman, who produced Riser, can do as a producer,” Bentley says of the track, a tortured love song about the end of a breakup.
“I’ve been in that place before, where my hair is literally falling out in the shower because I’m so eaten up over this girl, that she’s over me. I went to church hoping I’d find something there that would help me get over this heartache, but I couldn’t even sit still in the pew. I had to get out and find air,” he says.
While a fifth single off Riser is possible — for his part, Bentley would love to release the Travis Meadows-penned title track to radio — the hard-touring artist is eyeing January to begin writing for his next album. Until then, he’s just happy to be on the road. The next leg of his tour begins October 2nd in Stockton, California, with Randy Houser and Eric Paslay opening up.
“If I had to use any word to sum up this whole year, it’s been ‘fun,'” he says, knowingly going for the obvious. “I’ve been pretty present, concentrating on having good shows and being in the moment. And it feels good.”
Bentley hosts his annual Miles and Music motorcycle ride and concert this weekend in Nashville. The event, which benefits the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital, features performances by Bentley, Houser, Chris Young, Kip Moore and Jon Pardi.