Dierks Bentley hasn’t been putting too much pressure on himself this year.
He’s still doing a bit of songwriting, and has kept his band and crew on the payroll — once the novel coronavirus pandemic subsides, he’ll still be a country star, after all — but as the country largely shut down to work to stop the spread of COVID-19, Bentley and his family defected to the Colorado mountains. These days, you’re more likely to find him enjoying life outdoors than worrying about his social media presence.
By his own admission, Bentley is “too anxious” to be seriously working on an album right now, but on Thursday (Oct. 22), he dropped a brand-new single, “Gone.” Written by Nicolle Galyon, Ben Johnson and Niko Moon, and produced by David Garcia, the song finds Bentley in a sweet spot between his roots as a bluegrass fan, his past radio hits and the new sounds he gravitates toward as a country music listener.
“I gravitated toward it because I loved the title; I love a good, classic country wordplay … I just love the groove; I love the way it feels,” Bentley shared with media members during a recent virtual roundtable. “It’s fun to listen to, and I just wanted to put something out that … you enjoy listening to.”
After a rough breakup, the protagonist of “Gone” is just that in a metaphorical sense — a bit of wordplay that Bentley enjoys, and also connects to how he’s feeling in 2020.
“I feel like I’ve been gone; I feel like we’ve all been gone,” Bentley reflects. “So it touches on a little bit of the idea of what’s been going on here with COVID, but it does in a metaphorical way, through a relationship. I don’t think anybody wants to hear anything written too directly about what’s happening right now; it’d be too depressing.”
Bentley describes his favorite of his songs as “mixing the bluegrass with the kickass — you know, trying to get those acoustic instruments with the big drums and the big guitars, finding that place where they meet.” While working on “Gone,” he leaned on his collaborators to make the dobro line prominent and loud, but he also picked sounds from the song’s demo.
“I love the sounds of the old-school stuff, the acoustic stuff, but I listen to country radio and I hear these kids putting stuff out — I’m like, ‘I like those sounds too … Those loops sound fun, and that sounds cool, and that lyric’s really catchy …,'” Bentley shares. “I’ve gone backwards — I’ve done bluegrass [2010’s Up on the Ridge] and I’ve done ’90s country [with the Hot Country Knights] — and the idea of maybe mixing some more modern sounds with the sounds I know better, that seems like, in a way, new territory for me.”
Working with Garcia as his producer, too, helped Bentley in this endeavor. The two only met this year — and over Zoom, at that — while writing songs with Hardy.
“If you’re trying to be inspired, if you want to bring that element of fear and failure back into the studio, and anxiety and not know what you’re doing … working with David definitely did,” Bentley says.
“Is it a hit? I don’t know,” he adds, “but I like the song.”