Come August, Chicago's Lollapalooza will host a lineup of more than 100 artists, from Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails to Rage Against the Machine and Kanye West. Also hitting one of the nine stages at Grant Park will be Dierks Bentley.
The 32-year-old Phoenix native with a definite twang pumps out hit country singles like "What Was I Thinkin'" and "Every Mile a Memory." Willie Nelson, George Strait and Johnny Cash top his list of musical influences.
So what's he doing at Lollapalooza?
"We're always trying to push the boundaries a little bit," Bentley says, calling from the road. "Last year we played Bonnaroo, which was a blast. This year we get a chance to play Lollapalooza. ... Country music done the right way like I feel ours is it really is open to anybody. I think anyone can get into it."
It helps that his list of influences doesn't end with the country oldies-but-goodies. Bentley also draws inspiration from contemporary rock bands like Foo Fighters, U2 and Coldplay.
"Our live show is kind of a country show with more of a modern rock feel to it," he says.
Even in his sixth year of touring, Bentley comes off as personable and upbeat. When reached by phone, his bus has just rolled in to Pullman, Wash., after 30 hours of travel, and a small mishap.
"The bus got stuck in the middle of a pass outside Spokane and I found myself at 4 o' clock in the morning helping the bus driver dig out the tires and get back on the road," Bentley says. "But we're doing all right. All the glamour's onstage. Other than that, there's some moments that aren't glamorous, but that's the way it goes out here."
Not surprisingly, considering his "just one of the guys" persona, Bentley's a serious sports fan,. He guest blogged this winter for the NHL's Nashville Predators, posting his two cents about the team's run in the Stanley Cup playoffs. It's a responsibility he took seriously. Photos of Bentley attending the 2008 Country Music Awards on April 14 show him all dolled up in a suit coat layered over a T-shirt and a hoodie, with jeans.
"That's kind of my red-carpet casual, hockey-game attire," Bentley says. Seems the Predators were playing that night and Bentley, because he's "sort of between awards shows right now" (with a greatest hits album coming in May and another planned for year's end), made it a priority to check out both events.
The Predators' early exit from the playoffs and, for that matter, Lollapalooza in Chicago seem far from his mind, though, as Bentley roams the Western states for the next two weeks as part of his Throttle Wide Open tour.
"I love the nomadic life of being on the bus, being able to sit in the front seat and look out the windshield," he says. "Especially when we're out West ... Just being out West, seeing the mountains, the open landscape.
"It's good for the soul."