When Dierks Bentley pulled the trigger on his “Locked & Loaded Tour” back in 2006, the country music star had a trailblazing newcomer from Texas warming up the crowds for him.
Her name was Miranda Lambert. She was touring in support of her debut album “Kerosene,” and she wasn't yet known as country's “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.”
“I respect her music so much, and we both do love country music,” Bentley said in a recent phone interview from Nashville, Tenn., where he makes his home. “You know, we love the old stuff a lot. We definitely like doing different things with our sounds and go for different things. I love her show. I think she's just really cutting her own path out there, and it's tough to do that for anybody in this business, definitely for girls. But she is, and I love watching her do that every night.”
These days, Lambert, now a multiplatinum-selling, Grammy-winning Tishomingo resident, and Bentley are reunited on their “Locked & Reloaded Tour.” Although it's a co-headlining trek, Lambert is closing out the shows this time.
And her tour mate is just fine with that.
“It's kind of a flip-flop and a full circle deal certainly for her and for us, too. Just to be back on the road with her is great. I love my slot. It's great,” Bentley said. “Love the show, love the after-show, love hanging out.”
The tour is pulling into Oklahoma City's Chesapeake Energy Arena on Friday and will return to Lambert's adopted home state for an April 13 show at Tulsa's BOK Center.
For the trek, Bentley is bringing along the biggest set and most high-tech production of his touring career.
“We've kind of put everything into this tour. These fans have been coming out for a lot of years and some may have already been to the first tour, the first ‘Locked & Loaded' back in 2006, so we wanted to make this real special for 'em. So we really put a lot of time and money into the video content and the set piece itself. ... For the guys in the band, it's fun to get there every night and be on the stage and have the kind of show we've always dreamed of having,” he said, sniffling en route to a pharmacy to pick up some allergy medicine.
“The show just really feels like it's a new level for us. So that's exciting, and you kind of take that into the recording studio — that excitement, that momentum — and I think it helps when you're making a record to have a live platform to kind of take it from.”
‘Home' and beyond
The Arizona native is hard at work on his seventh studio album, the successor to last year's “Home,” a solid assemblage of country party songs, ballads and anthems that followed his 2010 progressive bluegrass collection, “Up on the Ridge.”
“It's definitely going somewhere new. I like changing it up. The smart way to do things is probably just to hone in on the one sound and kind of drive that into the ground. But I really like kind of experimenting — go for different sounds, try different things — and just kind of testing the different boundaries of country music and seeing what works,” he said.
Bentley, 37, predicted his new project would be ready for release sometime in the fall, but the multiplatinum-selling Grammy nominee can afford to be patient. After all, he recently scored his 10th career No. 1 hit as a songwriter and artist; in fact, three of the four singles from “Home,” including the patriotic title track, topped the country songs chart.
Last month, Bentley and Lambert performed a medley of “Home” and her heartbreaking ballad “Over You” on the music industry's biggest stage: The Grammy Awards.
“It's a career highlight to not only play the Grammys but to get to do it with Miranda, who's an old pal of mine. To have that experience together while we're on tour together, I mean, yeah, it makes the rest of the year just that much more fun that we all had that kind of bonding experience,” he said.
The bonding continues on the road: He recently teamed with his tour mate, her Pistol Annies band mate Ashley Monroe and songsmith Jessi Alexander to co-write a song he hopes they can finish at some point during the trek. Plus, he joins Lambert every night during her closing set for some extra fun.
“We try to find a way to get out there and have some cool interplay with the music and just do something that fans might not expect,” he said. “This tour is just the most fun I've had on the road ... and I think our fans are feeling that as well.”
Miranda Lambert and Dierks Bentley's ‘Locked & Reloaded Tour'