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Dierks Bentley & Miranda Lambert: Together Again

Originally published in our Feb. 4, 2013 issue featuring Dierks and Miranda on the cover! We’ve updated the tour schedule and added a photo shared on Twitter by Dierks as well as a video of Dierks and Miranda backstage at one of their Pennsylvania shows. 

If you’re excited by the idea of seeing Miranda Lambert and Dierks Bentley hitting the road together this spring and summer on the Locked & Reloaded Tour, you have a country legend to thank: Merle Haggard.

It was the Hag—or, more specifically, one of his songs—that first brought Miranda and Dierks together. While appearing at the same festival early in both of their careers, Dierks overheard Miranda’s set and was surprised by her choice of a cover song in particular.

“She was singing Haggard’s ‘The Bottle Let Me Down.’ I could not believe she was doing that song, because you don’t hear shuffles much anymore in Nashville,” recalls Dierks, checking in from rehearsals prior to the tour’s Jan. 17 kickoff. (See sidebar for a list of confirmed dates thus far.)

“He heard me doing it and he said, ‘I never heard a girl doing a shuffle. I want her on my tour,’” says Miranda, taking a break from a visit with her folks in Texas to preview the tour for Country Weekly. “So they called and asked us to do it and we became friends right off the bat. We have a really good relationship, like cousins.”

“I was huge fan of her music and I wanted her to be out on tour with us,” confirms Dierks.

That tour was Dierks’ 2006 Locked & Loaded trek, which both artists agree pulled off the rare feat of being both creatively and personally rewarding. It was so fulfilling, in fact, that Dierks thought it was impossible to repeat. “It was one of those tours that, when it ended,” he remembers, “it was like, that’ll never happen again.”

Until now. 

While plotting her tour for this year, Miranda decided it was time to reteam with her old friend. 

“This time around, we were thinking about what to do in 2013, and who we wanted to take on the road, and of course Dierks came up. We have a great chemistry and kind of have the same crowd and the same feel, and we want to make it a party,” Miranda says. “It seems like a no-brainer.”

Dierks was immediately onboard, eager for the opportunity to duplicate something special from his past. “It feels like a chance to go back and relive high school again,” he says. “I’ve never been more excited about a tour, whether I’m headlining mine or opening for Miranda. I’m knocking on my old guitar with a hole in it right now for good luck, but it feels like it’s going to be the best year we’ve ever had musically.”

While Miranda will indeed close out each performance, the grounded star is unwilling to label Dierks anything but a fellow headliner. “It’s a co-headlining tour,” she says directly. “I mean, I have to follow that every night, and I’m not super-excited about that! He’s a really great entertainer.” The opening slots will be filled by an assortment of on-the-rise acts, all with a connection to either Dierks or Miranda. (See sidebar for more.)

Where Locked & Reloaded really hits the bull’s-eye, however, is in the collaborations between the headliners. Miranda reveals that Dierks will join her halfway through her set for a stripped-down segment—and just might turn up again afterward.

“I want to be onstage together as much as possible,” says Miranda, who has been texting duet ideas back and forth with Dierks. Her idea to reprise “Bad Angel,” a highlight from Dierks’ acclaimed bluegrass album Up on the Ridge that found Dierks and Ran harmonizing with Jamey Johnson, really caught her tourmate’s attention. 

“I’m a little biased when it comes to stuff that Miranda sang, but I still think [‘Bad Angel’] is the best vocal she’s ever done, on anything. She just crushed it,” he raves. “When she said she wanted to do that song, I couldn’t be more excited.” Miranda says the plan is for that show’s opening act to handle Jamey’s part.

As for their individual sets, fans can expect all the hits from both stars, including Dierks’ current single, “Tip It On Back,” and Miranda’s latest, “Mama’s Broken Heart,” along with some unexpected departures.

“We’re both definitely country as country can be, but he leans toward the bluegrass side when he reaches outside of regular straight country and I always go to classic rock,” says Miranda, “so it’ll be a little bit of everything on this tour.”

And, if their past tours are any indication, a little bit of drinking, too.

Dierks laughs. “We had a lot of great times, and I wish I could say I remember a lot of them, but I don’t! Most of my memories live on in photographs.”

Miranda blames it on that icy liqueur Jägermeister and, when asked what fans may not know about Dierks, reveals that her buddy could really put it away.

“He can drink a lot of Jäger, but I hope he’s grown out of that phase. When I was on tour with him, he had a Jäger machine, and I don’t think I’ll ever drink that again,” she says, wincing. “I was trying to be cool and keep up with the boys, but it didn’t work out so well.”

“Man, she’s dropping some dirt on me.” Dierks chuckles. “But Miranda can party herself, so I’m not the only one—to quote my song. She can throw down big-time.”

Such good-natured ribbing is nothing new for the pair, who, as Miranda said earlier, are very much like cousins, or even siblings. “We kind of jab each other, but we’re also really respectful of each other as artists,” she says, offering that she has more in common musically with Dierks than with spouse Blake Shelton. “It’s funny, people always say, ‘Are you ever going to tour with Blake?’ And I’m like, it’d be a lot harder, even though he’s my husband, because we’re so different musically. But when it’s someone like Dierks, it falls into place because we have the same taste.”

Miranda Lambert and Dierks Bentley: Locked & Reloaded Tour
April18Syracuse, N.Y.
 19Hershey, Pa.
 20Uniondale, N.Y.
 27Indio, Calif.
 29Friant, Calif.
May08Ponte Vedra Beach, Fl.
 09Bakersfield, Calif.
 10Sacramento, Calif.
 11Mountain View, Calif.
 16Phoenix, Ariz.
 17Albuquerque, N.M.
 18Denver, Col.
 26Little Rock, Ariz.
June6St. Louis, Mo.
 7Winstead, Minn.
 12Chattanooga, Tenn.
 13Columbia, Mo.
 14Dubuque, Iowa
 15North Lawrence, Ohio
 28Dauphin, Manitoba
 29Oshkosh, Wis.
July5Jam in the Valley
 12Fort Laramie, Ohio
 13Rhinelander, Wis.
 18Twin Lakes, Wis.
 19Brooklyn, Mich.
 24Harrington, Del.
 26Philadelphia, Pa.
 28Washington, D.C.
Aug.2Bangor, Maine
 3Hartford, Conn.
 4Bowmanville, Ontario
 9Indianapolis, Ind.
 11Des Moines, Iowa
 23Charlotte, N.C.
 24Raleigh, N.C.
 30Milwaukee, Wis. – Harley Davidson 110th Anniversary
Sept.12Southaven, Miss.

Except when it comes to their stage sets and even backstage “vibe rooms.” Dierks is building a new set for the Locked & Reloaded Tour, which Miranda says is appropriately manly. Her own set will be more feminine.

“Mine is a little bit more girly and he has masculine stuff. I didn’t want to girl-out too much, for his sake,” she says, promising that there is no pink onstage. “But there is some in the [backstage pass], so I hope he’ll forgive me for that.”

As the father of two girls, Evie, 4, and Jordan, 2, Dierks is most likely used to his share of pink. And he’s already looking forward to when they inevitably join him on tour.

“My girls love being on the road. And I’m sure they’ll be out there for some dates. I love having them, hanging out with me and the band and being around instruments and music in general. It’s a fun gypsy kind of lifestyle and I love them being around that,” he says, excited to introduce them to Auntie Miranda. 

“I haven’t met them before!” Miranda says. “But I know his wife [Cassidy] pretty well, and I told her, ‘Hey, we need girl power out there!’ So hopefully he’ll bring all his girls and hang out. We’re all about having fun, but we’re definitely family friendly. We’re all about having the babies and the dogs and everybody else. We’re one big happy traveling train.”

Dogs are certainly a pet project for Dierks and Miranda, as well as a source of inspiration. On their first tour together, Dierks named his backstage vibe room “Jake’s Place” after his fan-favorite pooch (who recently prompted a citywide search when he ran off, spooked, during Nashville thunderstorms; he was found safe and sound). Not to be outdone, Miranda erected her own room, christening it “Delilah’s Lounge.”

“I made my own, inside of ‘Jake’s Place,’ and put up little curtains and made ‘Delilah’s Lounge,’ because that was my dog’s name that I had on tour. We already started our little rivalry over who had the coolest vibe room back then,” Miranda says with a laugh. “Maybe this time he’ll bring Jake, and I have my two dogs that I bring all the time, Delta and Delilah. It’ll be a very pet-friendly tour.”

Canine rivalries aside, both singers have the same instant answer when asked to describe the appeal of their tourmate: They’re “real.”

“Miranda is totally real on and off the stage—and on and off Twitter,” Dierks says. “She’s a girl that other girls can hang out with, but she’s also a girl who is doing what the guys do. And I think the road is harder on girls than on guys. It’s tough, man. But Miranda can hang in there. 

“On top of all of that, she’s extremely talented. To have that kind of songwriting talent and vision for your music, but still be down-to-earth and be normal and be cool? She’s one of the new strong women of country.”

Miranda is similarly effusive in her praise of Dierks.

“He’s very relatable. You feel like he’s somebody you could have gone to college with and hung out with. And somebody you just want to sit down and have a beer with. He sings about things that are real, and he doesn’t hold back. When he’s onstage, you expect him to walk out into the crowd at any point and start partying. Because he’s very humble and down-to-earth. There is no ego with Dierks. He’s never trying to be too cool for school,” she says, before drawing a comparison with the tour itself. “It’s all about the music.”

And even Merle Haggard would agree with that.

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