The Nashville star, 36, already has two smash singles from his new album, ''Home,'' released Feb. 7 -- but he wasn't always a country-music fan. Over beers (for him) and whiskey (for us), Bentley talks Whitesnake, Waylon Jennings, hernias, and heartbreak
Round 1: Guinness (Bentley), whiskey and soda (EW)
You grew up in Arizona. I heard that your first exposure to country music was The Dukes of Hazzard. Is it true that you once had a T-shirt that said ”The Dierks of Hazzard”?
Yeah. And I still have the 45 of Waylon Jennings’ theme song — it’s white from being overplayed. That and Hank Williams Jr. is what got me into country music. I was listening to rock music, like Whitesnake, White Lion, Iron Maiden, and these country guys were way more rock & roll than them. So when I was 17, I took all my hair-band records to Record Exchange, and I swear to God, they didn’t take a single CD from me. Not one! That’s how bad my s— was.
Lady Antebellum told us that you got kicked out of Kings of Leon’s after-party at last year’s Grammys.
[Laughs] I stood up on this table and I saw, like, 30 glasses break, but I couldn’t hear them because it was so loud in there. I thought, ”If I couldn’t hear it, did it actually happen?” The Followill brothers had to keep me from being tossed out — literally. I did it again on New Year’s Eve. I was at [Black Keys drummer] Patrick Carney’s house and was like, ”Someone’s gotta do the countdown!” Much to the dismay of my wife [Cassidy Bentley, his high school sweetheart], I jumped up on top of the bar. I realized later on that I have a thing with getting up on tables when I’m drunk. Maybe because standing on a table makes me feel like I’m on stage?
Round 2: Guinness (Bentley), whiskey and soda (EW)
Your song ”Diamonds Make Babies” warns guys that proposals always lead to having kids. Is it true that you proposed to another woman before your wife, and she turned you down?
Yeah, a lot of the songs on my first record are about her. I asked this girl to marry me, and luckily she’s smart and she said no. I was a mess, going to strip clubs and showing up to writing sessions completely hammered. My hair was coming out in the shower. I lost a bunch of weight. In the course of trying to get over her, this buddy of mine was like, ”You need to go to the gym,” so I started going and lifting massive weights and I got a hernia. [Laughs] But I wouldn’t have found my wife if it wasn’t for those circumstances. It’s like Garth Brooks said, ”Thank God for unanswered prayers.”
Round 3: IPA (Bentley), another whiskey and soda (EW)
So now you’re happily married with two kids. How did your 3-year-old end up singing on ”Thinking of You”?
I’d been on the road, and this opportunity came up to play at the White House — a couple of years ago, President Obama had quoted me saying that country music’s the best shrink that 15 dollars can buy — and I was missing being home. Plus, it was my birthday. So I was sitting in my hotel room alone, and my wife sent me this video of Evie singing ”Thinking of You” back to me. It was really great. And Luke, my producer, ended up putting that onto the track. So now I’m the guy who’s putting his kid on his record.
Just you and Jay-Z, huh?
[Laughs] That’s right. Jay? Call me.