Chris Hollo Dierks Bentley
Dierks Bentley has never considered himself much of a know-it-all.
"I always tell my kids that I follow the religion of 'I don't know,'" the country star, 47, admits with a laugh during a recent interview with PEOPLE. "And that's OK."
Indeed, the multi-platinum singer/songwriter has made a career out of taking his hands off his creative steering wheel, just to see where the music will take him.
"I don't know what the sound of a particular album is ever going to be," Bentley explains emphatically. "I don't feel like I need to try to put it in words. I just live in that uncomfortable knife's edge of uncertainty, which is not a fun place to be, but that's really where anything good comes from."
Courtesy Capitol Records Nashville Dierks Bentley's Gravel & Gold
The Arizona native was mired in this uncertainty back in 2020, when Bentley not only found his touring career at a standstill due to the pandemic but himself at a personal and professional apex of sorts as well.
"I was living in Colorado and all I knew for sure is that I just wanted to stay there," admits Bentley about going into the studio for the first time to ultimately record his new album Gravel & Gold. "I remember the song 'Gone' got pitched to me and my wife [Cassidy] heard it, and she really loved it. So I cut it, but I still was at this point that I wasn't really thinking about music at all."
What he was thinking about was staying in Colorado a little longer.
"My wife and some of my kids wanted to come back and, unfortunately we live in a democracy in my house," laughs Bentley, who landed his first publishing deal in 2001 and released his debut album in 2003. "And what I discovered when I came back was that I had really missed Nashville."
In fact, Bentley says that the move not only allowed him to rediscover the city that made him a country superstar thanks to chart-toppers such as "Somewhere on a Beach" and "5-1-5-0," but also allowed him to rediscover the stories he ultimately wanted to tell through his music.
One of those stories is now told through the lyrics of "Gold."
"'Gold' is really a song about how your frame of mind can change your perspective on something," remarks Bentley of his current hit single that he wrote alongside Luke Dick, Ashley Gorley and Ross Copperman. "Gravel can be gold if you look at it from the right perspective. That's really where my headspace was."
This headspace also had Bentley moving in some familiar directions on Gravel & Gold, from the bluegrass undertones on tracks such as "High Note" to the traditional country backbone of songs such as "Old Pickup."
"Everyone sings about them, but they all have brand new trucks," says Bentley, taking a light swipe at some of his Nashville brethren. "I do have a pickup truck with a bench seat. I have my Rand McNally map in the back that my dad and I used when we drove across the country the first time."
He lets out a laugh.
"But really, the entirety of the album all ties back to the song 'Same Ol' Me,'" Bentley says of the honest track he wrote alongside Dick and Jon Randall. "The further you go, sometimes there you are. This album is a lot like my first record. It feels like a full circle moment in a way."
And this not only goes for his music, but for Bentley's life in general.
"I moved about 10 minutes closer to town than I was before, but yeah, I live somewhere now with sidewalks," Bentley says with a laugh of his new Nashville home — no longer situated behind any sort of gates. "It's a regular neighborhood. We've got kids coming in and out of the house and you can just park on the street. It's just been great for my kids, great for our family, and great for my mental health."
Heck, Bentley can even ride his bike to gigs.
"Coming back to Nashville, it was like I had to either lean in or move out," says Bentley. "So now, I just lean into it. The city's crazy. It's growing out of control, and I could sit here and complain about it, or I can just lean into it and embrace some of the cool things that are happening."
The same goes for his music.
"I've tried to change and grow and get better at what I'm doing, but at the end of the day, I'm still the same guy I've always been, making music that feels good to me," he concludes. "I've got nothing to lose."