Dierks Bentley has just released his seventh studio album, 'Riser,' and the project sees him exploring new ground, both musically and personally.

The album is darker in places than his past work, informed by an unusual turn of events in his own life over the period in which he wrote and recorded it.

"I think every record I've made has always been a Polaroid snapshot of where I was at that place in time when I made it," he says. "But this particular album just has a lot of scenery in the picture. There's a lot that's gone on the last two years -- more so than any other time in my life. I mean, you look at some of the bookends of making this record . . . my dad passing away at the start of the process, and then my son, Knox, being born at the end of the process. So it was unexpected."

Through the turmoil and ups and downs of that time, the singer-songwriter wasn't initially sure what direction he wanted to take with his new work. "All I wanted to do, when I made this record, I just wanted to have the best songs. I wasn't sure what they were going to be about, but I wanted them to be the best," he states. "I wanted to write my best songs, I wanted to write a lot of songs. I wanted to listen to a lot of outside songs and find the best songs that I could for whatever I was going to write about, but I wasn't sure what it was going to be. And then life came along and decided for me."

The result is an album that reaches for new themes, musically and lyrically, while still offering fans the inimitable hallmarks of a Dierks Bentley album.

"I think with all of my records, I'm always searching for new," he admits. "But I don't want to lose all the work and time I've gone into developing a sound or a style. So there are songs on the record that kinda correlate back to themes I've had in the past -- certainly the lonesome stuff is on there. I'd say 'Bourbon in Kentucky' is an example of that."

Still, his intent with the new project was to move forward, even while maintaining the integrity of his sound. "Just trying to do that better, or differently, or find a new way of doing some of that lonesome-sounding stuff."

There are still plenty of good-time songs on the album, including 'Sounds of Summer,' 'Drunk on a Plane' and 'Pretty Girls.'

"I feel like that song is taking a new approach to get to the same destination," Bentley says of the latter. "We're all having a good time, partying and having fun, but just the vibe of that is so different from anything I've ever recorded. So there's that element of it, and then there's kind of a third layer to the album, which would be songs like 'I Hold On,' 'Riser,' 'Here on Earth,' that really kind of show where I am in my life as a dude, as a man, as a husband, father . . . just kinda looking at the world around me, and making observations on that."

Bentley worked with producer Ross Copperman and executive producer Arturo Buenahora, Jr. for the new project, which marries old-school live recording techniques with newer digital technology for a sound that is both fresh, and classic Bentley. Nowhere is that more in evidence than on 'I Hold On,' which is one of the most personal songs Bentley has ever released.

"That's definitely a new theme, and I feel like it kinda needed to have a new sound to go along with the album. So I worked with a different producer, new engineer, new players . . . just going for stuff, and not being afraid to fail," he shares.

'Riser' is available at Amazon and iTunes.

Bentley will embark on the Riser Tour in May.

Dierks Bentley, ‘Riser’ Track Listing

1. ‘Bourbon in Kentucky’
2. ‘Say You Do’
3. ‘I Hold On’
4. ‘Pretty Girls’
5. ‘Here on Earth’
6. ‘Drunk on a Plane’
7. ‘Five’
8. ‘Riser’
9. ‘Sounds of Summer’
10. ‘Damn These Dreams’
11. ‘Back Porch’
12. ‘Hurt Somebody’

Watch a Behind-the-Scenes Video on the Making of 'Riser'