Dierks Bentley, dubbed the "hardest working man in country music" for the number of live shows he performs each year, stopped in Birmingham, Alabama, this past weekend as part of his "Throttle Wide Open" tour. Before the show, I got a chance to spend a little time with the man himself.
In a nondescript backstage room, a small group of (mostly girl) fans cluster under the fluorescent lights and wait for Dierks to arrive. You can sense the nervous anticipation. But when he strides into the room, he immediately puts everyone at ease, as he laughs and says "Hey, why don’t you come a little closer?"—a joking reference to one of his biggest hits.
Watching him in action, it’s easy to see why he’s got such a strong fan following (good looks aside). He takes the time to talk to each person individually, take pictures, sign autographs. But most impressive–he remembers names. This wasn’t the first time many of these fans had gotten a chance to meet him. I’ve even met him a handful of times myself (not only is he hard-working, he’s amazingly accessible). He calls people by name, remembers where he last saw them, and even inquires about things they had previously told him about their lives.
Once all the photos and autographs are out of the way, he pulls the group together to chat about any and everything they throw at him. Like, explaining the scratches on his arms that he got from chasing his dog, George, through the brush at his house outside Nashville. Or recalling when he played the Neshoba County Fair in Philadelphia, Mississippi, where people clamor to get seats for the concert by running across a dirt racetrack to set up lawn chairs in front of the stage. "Dude, that chair race is really something."
With such an affable nature, it’s easy to walk away from meeting him thinking you’ve got a new friend. He’s a dude’s dude. The kind of guy you want to just hang out with at a backyard cookout or take on your next trip to the lake. And he’s so gracious, you get the feeling that if he wasn’t on the road so much, he might actually take you up on the invitation.