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With a name like "Dierks", he’d better look good. And does he ever.

With a head of dark blonde curls, a sweet, slight pout and laid-back, self-deprecating attitude, Dierks (pronounced "Durks") Bentley is a hot country newcomer who backed up his good looks during his music career rookie year with a Number One smash, "What Was I Thinking" from his self-titled debut album.

The song is about a slightly naughty romp, where a guy just can’t stop himself from running off with a girl in a little white tank top, despite the trouble (in the form of an angry, gun-toting dad) he might find. The video, which co-stars his dog, is just SO Dierks; it’s toe-tapping, fast-moving and tons of fun.

Dierks doesn’t have the typical country singer (deep south, rural, grew up singing in church) background. He grew up in Phoenix, and his dad listened to Hank Williams and George Strait records. But young Dierks mostly listened to rock music until a friend gave him a Hank Williams, Jr. CD. Then, he caught the country bug. At age 13, he picked up an electric guitar and mastered Hank, Jr.’s "Man to Man."

When he turned 19, he moved to Nashville and immersed himself in the live music scene. Despite his frustration – how could he fit into this starched jeans and cowboy-hatted crowd – he hung in there finding his place in funky, rough and tumble clubs like the famed Bluegrass mecca, The Station Inn.

"The regulars there were so great and they just loved to play," says Dierks. "To them, it wasn’t about being famous. It was about playing. I loved that."

So Dierks kept playing, often barely squeaking out enough money to pay his band. It was the best and worst of times: he asked his girlfriend of two years to marry him (she said no) but then he got a really cool day job at TNN (The Nashville Network). "I started off working in the tape library researching old music footage for a country music documentary," Dierks says. "I couldn’t believe I was being paid to do it!"

Dierks made an independent record, which led to a songwriting contract. "That was what I wanted," Dierks says. "To be able to wake up every day, write songs and get paid for it."

A year later, Dierks was a Capitol Records artist with a gold album who became Billboard Magazine’s Top New Country Artist of 2003. He toured with George Strait and Kenny Chesney and recently took home the Academy of Country Music’s Top New Male Vocalist Award, which he’s proudly displaying in his new houseboat home.

Currently Dierks is getting ready to head back out on the road, and that’s fine with him.

"Somebody asked me recently how many days I had off," he says. "I said, ˜We don’t need days off! When you play music for a living every day’s a day off." / Issue 44 - September 0603
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