Despite his megastardom, Dierks Bentley radiates regular-guy-ness. Take his songs, which fall somewhere between the bros-gone-wild jams and sensitive mom-pop tunes that dominate the country music scene. Or the way this husband and dad of three young kids is still trying to figure out the work-life balance thing. Or how he seems to live his whole life in jeans and a T-shirt. Even after eight studio albums, 15 No. 1 singles on Billboard’s Country Airplay chart, 16 CMA nominations (and three wins) and 13 Grammy nominations (no wins yet), he just gets us. “We recognize [that in] the audience, a lot of people are out there to blow off steam,” says Bentley, who’ll perform at Merriweather Post Pavilion on Friday before coming back on June 9 for round two at Jiffy Lube Live. And he promises he’ll make it worth your hard-earned cash. “You can’t escape the fact that you’ve been there before — you know what it’s like to go to a show and how much it costs. You always have that in the back of your mind.”
Your latest album, “Black,” and the song of the same name are explorations of a relationship, partly inspired by you and your wife. Was sharing details about your marriage a big undertaking for you?
It was. Every record, I’m trying to find some sort of thread to make it feel like an album and not just a collection of songs that I like. With this record, I had no idea at all what to write about. I wrote the song “Black” and it’s amazing that one song can really tie everything together.
My wife’s maiden name is Black, I love the color black, it means so much to me. There’s so much color in the color black to me. It’s the nighttime, it’s all the fun stuff that happens after dark. It became the cornerstone of the album — making something autobiographical and taking the creative freedom to go down different paths. Some of the darker parts — deception, jealousy, sabotaging a relationship on purpose — are all there in this record. I really feel like I made a complete album. But if you got any ideas for the next one, let me know.
How have you approached coming up with themes in the past?
I write nonstop, and just write my way into some sort of idea. You can talk all you want, but unless you’re writing, you’re not actually working on your craft.
Tell me about your vision for this tour.
[Country music] is definitely the most celebratory of many genres. It’s tricky — at least it is for me. It can’t be all [about] that. It has to be like a roller coaster. There has to be a creative way to make that ride happen, and that’s where special songs factor into the show — songs like, in my show, “Riser,” about people that put one foot in front of the other. Although it is a really high-energy show. I’m running around stage like I’ve had a thousand Red Bulls. You have 10,000 people in the room and you want to give them something that’s going to hit them hard and then back it up with something that’s going to get them rocking again.
Do you ever take your family out on the road with you?
In the summer months, I’ll get an extra bus and it’s a huge luxury. I’ll get them to come out and it’s just craziness on the road. It’s so fun. I fly — I’m a pilot — so I can cut the corners off of some traveling. But without aviation, it really limits how much I’m able to do this because I’m determined to be as good of a dad as I feel like I’ve been as an entertainer. And that’s a main thing.
You’ve been nominated for several awards throughout your career. What was it like at one of those award shows the first time you saw your idols in the same room? Were you starstruck?
Oh, man, growing up and seeing Garth Brooks wearing a tuxedo with tails — it’s crazy! The first show I went to I was working at the Country Music Association as an intern, and I was helping Shania Twain go from one spot to another. Or I was seeing Alan Jackson’s rehearsal and was the only person in the room.
These days, there’s a lot of conversation about what awards mean and don’t mean. What do they mean to you?
They mean everything if you win. If you lose one, they don’t mean anything. It’s like, you lose something like that, you go, “Oh, it’s an award show. These things are all biased and political and a bunch of crap.” But if you win one, you’re like, “This validates my whole reason for living!” I think I’ve learned to find a middle ground.
I don’t want to ruin it for the fans out there, but there’s all sorts of stuff that goes on at awards shows, right? You don’t want to see how a steak is made. It’s better to have it come to your table and eat it. For fans, I just say relax and enjoy the entertainment. All your favorite singers are in one room. They’re dressed up, they’re playing their best song, they’re doing collaborations and it’s just so fun watching that.