“It’s a leap of faith,” he says of the ambitious LP, “but that’s where the magic resides.”
Dierks Bentley was always going to make an album about the West. An Arizona native who decamped to Colorado with his family for holidays growing up, the 42-year-old country star knew he wanted to honor those rocky vistas eventually. Cue his expansive ninth LP, The Mountain, which EW can exclusively reveal will drop June 8.
“I had this idea for a while to do a record that ties back into where I’m from,” he tells EW, “but I didn’t really know how you do that. Is it a lyrical thing or a sonic thing?” A visit to Wyoming last year helped him take the first step. Sitting beneath the Teton Range with his producer Ross Copperman and their wives, they came up with the title for the upcoming collection. A summer set at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival solidified the direction. “There’s an intangible magic to that location,” Bentley explains. “I thought, ‘Man, I wish I could capture this feeling.’”
After, it was more about surrendering than planning, Bentley reveals. “The album pulled me through the paces,” he says. “[It] had its own dharma; it knew what it wanted to be. It was my job to just facilitate that process and stay out of the way.”
Written and recorded in Telluride, Colorado, the 13 tracks see the singer reflecting on the newfound perspective he’s had in his 40s, like on the stellar, Brandi Carlile-featuring “Travelin’ Light.” “I’m sure I’ll say the same thing in my 50s, but the wisdom that’s come in my 40s has been insane,” he says, while considering that cut along with the contemplative tracks “Stranger to Myself” and lead single, “Woman, Amen.”
“I look back on myself and I have a lot of compassion for that guy,” he says of the pre-fame Bentley. “He’s trying to make it and he’s going through the machine of Nashville and just the hair and the alcohol…it’s such a tough business. One thing that never suffered was the work. I’ve always been afraid to not put the work in. I was too nervous that things wouldn’t work out.”
Elsewhere, he considers the importance of family and love (“My Religion”) as well as a life spent on the road (“How I’m Going Out”). On the opening track, “Burning Man,” he relishes in his contradictions — “I’m a little bit steady/but still a little bit rolling stone,” he sings, “I’m a little bit heaven/but still a little bit flesh and bone.”
Longtime fans of Bentley’s might expect The Mountain to echo the sounds of Up on the Ridge, the songwriter’s 2010 bluegrass collection. It doesn’t. The mandolin, banjo, and fiddle each get their due, but they’re blended with glistening guitars, programmed loops, and glossy, Top 40 production. It’s a compelling mix, one that feels both earthen and majestic — just like the surroundings he’s desperate to capture.
The Mountain is due for release June 8. It will be available for pre-order tomorrow, April 13. A full track list is below.
Bentley will also launch his tour of the same name May 18 in Columbia, Maryland. Dates stretch across 40 cities and five months, wrapping in October.
- “Burning Man” ft. Brothers Osborne
- “The Mountain”
- “Woman, Amen”
- “You Can’t Bring Me Down” ft. Sam Bush
- “Nothing on But the Stars”
- “Goodbye in Telluride” ft. Sam Bush
- “My Religion” ft. Jerry Douglas, Tim O’Brien
- “One Way”
- “Son of the Sun”
- “Stranger to Myself”
- “Travelin’ Light” ft. Sam Bush, Brandi Carlile, Jerry Douglas, Tim O’Brien
- “How I’m Going Out”