Country music star Dierks Bentley is living the best of both worlds.
His seventh chart-topping album, “The Mountain,” has three No. 1 hits so far and earned him the highest debut sales of his career. He’s playing fan-engaging shows — three per night, in fact — during his “2019 Burning Man Tour” throughout the country.
But he still prioritizes mountain climbing and fly fishing and, most importantly, spending time with his family (yes, that includes hockey practices and dance classes).
“My kids have definitely been the biggest influence on me,” Bentley said in a phone interview. “The way I approach the road, approach the stage, the sacrifice of being away from family. How that affects your live show and makes you put more into it than you ever thought possible.”
On Friday, Aug. 23, the singer-songwriter is bringing his high-energy performance to the Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre in Tinley Park. The Chicago area holds a special place in Bentley’s heart, he says, pointing to memories of playing a major show with Kenny Chesney early in his career, and becoming one of the first country artists to perform at Lollapalooza, and cheering on his wife while she ran the marathon.
“I’m so excited to come back,” he said.
Q: You co-wrote 10 out of 13 tracks on “The Mountain,” which was released last summer. How do you stay motivated and get inspired to come up with new material?
A: I really try to make a complete album and not just a collection of singles. … I go into every album with just a blank slate and an open mind and hope the inspiration will strike at some point. For this album, just looking for that theme, it started feeling like it was going to be something about the west, which is where I’m from (Arizona). The idea of a mountain — the mountains that I love to be on and hiking, but also the peaks and valleys that are country music and a career doing this, the highs and lows — kind of all resonated with me.
Q: Do you have a song that was the most challenging to write, or one you feel was the most personal?
A: “Woman, Amen” came about pretty easily, but I feel like that song’s really personal because I feel like for me, everything starts with gratitude at home and the gratitude I have for my wife. … The song “The Mountain” was a great title track. It just really sums up my life as a musician and really anybody that’s chasing a dream. The metaphor there is pretty awesome, I thought. … We open our show with “Burning Man,” and the song is so representative of being in two places at one time. I get a chance to be a dad and a husband, and then when I’m on the road, I still feel like I’m 17 years old. It’s a pretty good feeling.
Q: What are you enjoying most about the “Burning Man Tour”?
A: I don’t feel like anyone has more fun on the road than I do. … I’m the only person I know that plays three shows a night. I do a bluegrass show at 6:15 p.m. for our VIP fans who want to come early and get a little more. … Then I go on stage at 7 p.m. dressed in a mullet wig and old school Oakleys and high-waisted Wranglers and a leopard print cutoff sleeveless shirt and do a ’90s country cover band. Our band’s called the Hot Country Knights. We’re actually on the ticket; it says we’re part of the deal. We’re the first of four (performances) — us, then Tenille (Townes), Jon (Pardi), then us again. We actually go out there dressed completely in disguise. Half the people know what’s going on, half don’t. It’s absolutely one of the most fun things I’ve ever done in my entire life. … So I do that at 7, and come back and recuperate because that’s a lot of work. And then I get to play my real show at 9:30 p.m. I mean, it’s just ridiculous that I get to do all this.
Q: What do you typically do in your down time?
A: I have little adventures I do here and there. I climbed a 14,000-foot mountain about (two weeks) ago in Wyoming. And I went fishing — I love fly fishing — so I did that last week. But mostly, just catching up with my kids (Knox, Jordan and Evelyn). They’re my favorite people to be around. … The best way for me to recharge is just being out in nature in some way, so if I can do that with my kids, then it’s a double whammy.
Q: We saw that you recently adopted a puppy while you were on the “Today” show. Is the dog on tour with you?
A: Goose! Yeah, he’s been on the road with us a little bit. The kids love him here at the house, so it’s hard to steal him for too long. … I made that decision after climbing the Grand Teton in Wyoming, and I think I was still lacking oxygen in my brain when I made that decision to get a third dog. I don’t know what I was thinking. … He may be in Chicago, we’ll see. I love having him on the road, the crew loves having him on the road, and I’m always like, “We should bring him out on stage.” You can’t go wrong bringing a puppy on stage.
Q: What’s your favorite song to perform live?
A: Without sounding too guru-y, whatever song I’m singing. … Whether it’s “I Hold On” and just the way that song connects with my audience. Or if it’s “Burning Man” when that song kicks off the show. Even singing “What Was I Thinkin'” or “Sideways” at the end of the night, still feeling the crowd’s energy. … It’s always fun playing the current single, “Living,” and just seeing how that’s growing in audience participation as it gets more air play on the charts. That’s always exciting.
Q: How do you feel you’ve evolved as an artist over the years?
A: I feel like I’m always a student of songwriting, a student of recording, and hopefully I’m able to continue to be a better songwriter. I feel like with my live shows, every night, I learn something new about the stage and what I do up there and how to engage the audience more and how to dive deeper into the show. … And just balancing the road with family and how to make that work, that’s a never-ending challenge that I feel like I’m getting better at, but it’s always a learning process for sure.
Q: What do you like most about playing in the Chicago area?
A: Playing Chicago’s always a big deal. Friends from Colorado are coming out to this one, friends from Nashville are coming in, friends are driving down from the city. … We’ll have food trucks come in and just throw a big backstage party there because we have a lot of people coming out. I’ve seen a lot of cities over the years, and cities like New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, some of these iconic U.S. cities, are just special. They all have their own personality, and I love being there. … There’s nothing like having Chicago toward the end (of the tour). It’s pretty awesome.
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Dierks Bentley “Burning Man Tour”
with special guests Jon Pardi, Tenille Townes and Hot Country Knights
When: 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 23
Location: Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre, 19100 Ridgeland Ave., Tinley Park, (708) 614-1616, tinleyparkamphitheater.com