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Dierks Bentley is a 'Riser'

Country singer @DierksBentley keeps rising.

It was 2004, during the Dave Wannstedt coaching era of the Miami Dolphins, and at 10 a.m. on a game day, a shaggy-haired country singer in a white T-shirt entered the entertainment tent outside Sun Life Stadium, beer in hand.

"I remember that," Dierks Bentley says. "It was about a billion degrees in there."

He capped his 30-minute set by asking the crowd, "Any white tank tops out there?" and launching into "What Was I Thinkin'," a song about the escapades that resulted from courting a country girl.

"I had one line and one song," Bentley says of his 2003 hit.

Much has changed since that 2004 South Florida show in Miami Gardens. The Dolphins have since hired and fired four head coaches, Bentley got an adult haircut and you can no longer see him perform for free.

In fact, he has become a headliner, and will perform Friday, July 3, in West Palm Beach as part of a 40-city tour that began June 5. His most recent album, last year's "Riser," has yielded three hits, with a possible fourth, the title song, released June 15.

"It's been a really winding, twisty road," he says. "So this summer almost feels like a victory lap."

Bentley, who has a classic country voice with a hint of gravel to it, played a four-song set Friday, June 26, in Central Park on ABC's "Good Morning America," and was a headliner at the three-day FarmBorough Festival in New York. He'll perform on NBC during the network's July Fourth broadcast.

"Every show is big, and I'm really having a good time," he says. "It feels like everything is clicking."

Bentley says critics counted him out after he released a bluegrass album in 2010 titled "Up on the Ridge."

"A lot of people have come up and went right around me," he says. "One day, they were opening before me, and the next day they're playing Madison Square Garden."

Bentley says in order to headline, he has "completely revamped the show, and made it bigger and better." He has added more video, but doesn't overdo it.

"I want people looking at me," he says. "I want them looking at me with a beer in one hand and a fist in the other."

One exception is "Drunk on a Plane," which won the CMA Video of the Year in April. "It has to be on the wall for people," he says. "I understand that."

Bentley says his concerts are feeling more like celebrations, and he's pleased that, "I have the songs to take fans on that roller coaster." Thirteen of his songs have reached No. 1 on the country charts. He wrote "Riser," the new single, after his father died in 2012.

"Everything we've done for this album has been building to the release of 'Riser' as a single," he says."It's the cornerstone of this record, and the lyrics speak to the kind of guy I want to be. It's a song about resilience and perseverance, and overcoming obstacles not because you want to but because people are counting on you."

He says he heard from a man in Arizona who was touched by the song because he lost both his parents in a car crash. "I just feel like I'm a voice with the song," Bentley says. "I want people to see that song and make it their own story. I want it to be universal."

Along with "Drunk on a Plane," and "I Hold On," "Riser" could replace "What Was I Thinkin,'" which has inspired many women to wear white tank tops to his concerts, as Bentley's show-closing number. "I've been trying to beat that song for 10 years," he says.

Bentley says his show is especially appropriate as July 4 approaches. Warning: It may get loud.

"When I was growing up, I was obsessed with fire and lighting things up, like M-80s," he says. "So I'm OK with getting some noise involved."

Dierks Bentley will perform 7 p.m. Friday, July 3, at the Coral Sky Amphitheatre, 601-7 Sansburys Way, in West Palm Beach. Maddie & Tae, Kip Moore and Canaan Smith will also perform. Tickets cost $43-$72.25. Call 800-745-3000 or go to LiveNation.com.

NSortal@SouthFlorida.com

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