Dierks Bentley on Planning His Tour: ‘It Really Starts … In My Kitchen’
Country fans are going to have a blast at Dierks Bentley's 2015 Sounds of Summer Tour. There will be hit songs like "Drunk on a Plane," plenty of fireworks to keep the energy up and a brand-new stage, including a mechanical lift. So, how did Bentley go about figuring all of that out? The singer explains how exactly he plans a tour, from choosing the setlist to rehearsing in basements, to making sure he connects with his fans throughout the entire show.
At a recent media event, Bentley told The Boot and other reporters, "It really starts with me and Dan, my fiddle player. He and I sit down in my kitchen, [with] a couple guitars [and] last year’s setlist, and just start breaking it down."
Although it sounds like it begins simply, the process is anything but cut and dry. After all, Bentley says, "There’s a lot of things we love. I love last year’s show. That’s the hardest part of all of it, is letting go of one tour, one setlist, and picking up a new show. We go ... 'That really works great, but we’ve been doing it too long,' and start kind of coming up with a rough idea that we then take to the band."
Bentley recalls that once they nailed down the setlist for this year's tour, "We rehearsed in my bass player’s basement over in East Nashville for a little bit, old-school style.
"There’s kids' stuff everywhere, cables all over the place," he adds with a laugh.
After that, Bentley and his band moved over to another venue's small room, then into a bigger room, where they brought in more of the special elements, and finally, they ended up at a space in Bridgestone Arena.
While there's definitely lots of flashy effects to the show -- pyro, a lift, a huge screen and a B stage -- Bentley adds, "We really try to make it about the music first and foremost. We need to do something that makes it exciting for us to play some of these songs every year ... It’s a process, but it starts really small and ends with this."
One of Bentley's greatest qualities is his connection with his audience while he's playing, and he feels it, too.
"I feel really loose up there," he says. "I feel really at home."
But even with his charismatic presence, the "What Was I Thinkin'" hitmaker is careful to always keep his audience engaged, making sure to not get caught up in his own mind and emotions.
"It's their show, it’s my show," Bentley explains. "We’ve all got to get something out of it."
Bentley likens his mindset about planning a tour setlist to attending a party: There's big moments "where you're crazy, and everyone's having a great time; you're bouncing off the walls," he says. "Then you find yourself in a corner talking to someone about something serious for a second; then you go back to drinking more beers.
"I feel like our show has that kind of flow like a long house party," Bentley adds.
At the end of each night, Bentley says that he and his band hang out on the tour bus and recap the evening for 20-30 minutes. Their bunks are all across from each other, so we're imagining the scene as some non-girly pillow talk involving guitar solos, crazy-fun onstage moments and the wild crowd reaction.
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