Dierks Bentley had recently lost his father when he first heard “Riser,” the power ballad that would eventually become the title track of his latest album. Written by Travis Meadows and Steven Moakler, the song left a permanent mark on the country singer, who saw his own life reflected in the lyrics.
“It really hit me hard,” Bentley told Rolling Stone Country last year. “Not only did we know we were going to record it, but we thought it’d be the cornerstone of the record.”
Cornerstone or not, it still took some work to get “Riser” released as a single. Lighter fare like “Drunk on a Plane” hit the radio first, adding to Bentley’s list of chart-toppers and cementing his reputation as one of country music’s feel-good, beer-shotgunning bros. Two other upbeat singles also climbed to Number One, giving Bentley and his label the flexibility — as well as the confidence — to release the slow-building title track. The song hit the airwaves this summer, accompanied by a new video released last week.
Inspired by a 60 Minutes episode about cash-strapped families forced to live out of their cars, the “Riser” clip tells the real-life story of Amy Thomas. The actual Thomas can be seen in the video’s final shot, although most of the clip follows an actor as she packs up her two children, leaves their foreclosed home and hits the road, attempting to give her daughters some semblance of a normal life while showering in gas station bathrooms and sleeping in car seats. Bentley pops up throughout the clip, singing the song’s key lyrics — “Hey, I’m a fighter/When darkness comes to town, I’m a lighter” — in stark black and white.
The video’s director, Wes Edwards, met Thomas through a Nashville-based housing program called Safe Haven. A similar program plays a role in the video, and Bentley hopes “Riser” can draw some attention to organizations that help families in need.