Dierks Bentley has introduced Elle King to country and the rock-minded "Ex's & Oh's" singer says she may never leave. The pair performed their new single "Different for Girls" last night at the kick-off of CMA Music Festival.
Speaking with reporters in the CMA Fest press room Thursday night — right before Bentley surprised the massive stadium audience by bringing King onstage — King says she feels right at home with her new country friend.
"Well, I actually am a hillbilly so I’m comfortable," says the quick-witted 26-year-old from Southern Ohio and California. "I don't ever want to go back to pop or rock, and I think country is way more rock & roll than the rock world anyway. I can barely keep up [drinking] with everyone, and that is really saying something. I've had a lot of fun and such a warm welcome — I think maybe because everyone is drunker than me."
King says at first she was unsure about singing "Different for Girls," mostly because of a little crush she has on Bentley.
"I was super nervous because you're so dreamy and nice and you make great music," she says, addressing Bentley. "But it's always good to take yourself out of your comfort zone, because that's the only way you'll grow and change."
"Different for Girls," the second single off Bentley's new album Black, was recorded in Texas while King was on tour, and according to Bentley she seriously undersold her abilities. She nailed her part right away, he says, and what began as an experiment became something bigger.
"I didn't really hear it as a single [at first]," Bentley admits. "I thought maybe it would be part of the album, but when she got on it, it was like something changed on the song."
Both were nervous about putting the song out as Bentley's new single, especially since it's not a typical, upbeat summer song. The "Somewhere on a Beach" singer even went through a spell of sleepless nights.
"We kept saying, 'It's a good thing to be nervous, but I was freaking out," says Bentley.
His fears have been put to rest by country fans, however, who have been drawn in by the sensitive storyline and smoky vocal combination.
"People are reacting to it," King says. "There's something really special about it, not just because we're so cool. It's a really good message."
CMA Music Festival continues today in Nashville, with performances by Carrie Underwood, Hank Williams Jr., Chris Stapleton and Eric Church.