When Dierks Bentley recorded the soaring anthem “Riser,” he knew he always wanted to release it to radio as a single. But he was also aware that such a move would be a gamble. After all, serious mid-tempo songs don’t often get much airtime on country radio, and the first single off his Grammy-nominated album Riser, the sobering “Bourbon in Kentucky,” quickly died at radio.
“We put ‘Bourbon in Kentucky’ out in the middle of the summer and it was just too heavy,” Bentley told Rolling Stone Country then. “It wasn’t working, and we knew it’d be a tough sell, but we were gutsy to try. And my fans still love it. I play it at every show.”
“Riser” too has become a fan favorite — so much so that Bentley is pushing ahead with releasing the Travis Meadows and Steve Moakler-written song as the album’s fifth single.
“When I first heard that song, wow. It is such a special song. It really hit me hard. Not only did we know we were going to record it, but we thought it’d be the cornerstone of the record,” said Bentley, who performed the title track this past weekend on the LP Field main stage at CMA Music Festival. (Watch the video above.)
With its message of determination, perseverance and, ultimately, survival, “Riser” is worlds apart from the here’s-to-the-good-times tracks that make up radio playlists. Instead, it’s all about the bad times — and how one overcomes them.
“I don’t see how ‘Riser’ would be a scary song. It’s empowering and I think it’s necessary,” Meadows, a celebrated Nashville songwriter who conquered his own addictions to make the cult record Killing Uncle Buzzy, told Rolling Stone Country. “I got tired of fighting and laid down and quit. That was the darkest period of my life, dealing with depression, the crisis of faith, of life and a mid-life crisis.”
“You hear a song like that and you have to meet the guy behind it,” Bentley said. “Travis has been through a lot — he’s lived and breathed and died with that song. I feel honored to have it. . . I have a lot of respect for those guys who let me record their songs. I want the whole world to hear it and do the song justice, and give that song as big a platform as possible. Especially a song like ‘Riser.’ It has been and really could be so impactful on people’s lives.”
The title track has already inspired tattoos of the album’s artwork — the “Riser Bird” — among Bentley’s fans. At a recent performance in Nashville, Meadows debuted a new leather guitar strap with the logo. With a groundswell of support for the anthem, Bentley may be on the cusp of a movement, a defining brand with which he and his audience can identify. And, most importantly, “Riser” may also do what “Bourbon in Kentucky” could not — rise at country radio.