WATER WORKS

Hot newcomer Dierks Bentley cools off by escaping to the serenity of his home - on a boat!

It's a beautiful, sunny morning on the lake in Nashville. Rows of boats bump against the dock with the gentle motion of the waves. The door to a houseboat swings open, and a shirtless Dierks Bentley, wearing drawstring shorts, steps barefoot on the deck.

"Man!" he says with a stretch. "I could just sit here all day."

And why not? After all, the boat is his home!

"When I had a house, I used to think, 'I've got to get everything done so I can hurry to the lake!'" he recalls. "Now when I get here, I am home!

"I'm on the road so much, I gave up trying to maintain a house. It makes no sense to pay the gas bill or to give somebody $30 to cut my grass when I don't even get to see it."

The 25-foot houseboat is affectionately named The Grizzled Veteran - "She's got a few years on her," explains the bachelor, though he only bought her last year. "I'd like to get some property one day," he says. "But for now, this is a great place to crash."

Dierks pushes the boat from the dock, climbs into the captain's chair and starts the engine. "There's this cove I love," he says. "It's only ten minutes out and you feel like you're in the middle of nowhere."

Dierks eases the boat into the cove, kills the engine and hoists the anchor overboard. "Perfect - this is the place!"

He climbs up the stairs to the rooftop and plops down in a plastic chair. "This is the party deck," he says. "We bring lawn chairs up here, grab guitars or turn on the stereo and watch the sunset. It's the fastest way for me to recharge."

Recently, Dierks brought some songwriter pals to this very spot. "We intended to write, but never got going," he laughs. "There's something about being out here that makes you just want to drink beer."

Not long ago Dierks learned a lesson about being too laid back on the water. "We had a cooler full of beers and the smoker was going," he says. "So, I'm watching this great lightning storm. I thought maybe I'd head back in a while. Then my friend calls and says, 'Man, there's a big tornado coming your way!' So we packed up everything and flew back to the dock. The grill came flying across the deck. We were being blown so hard I thought the boat was going to tip. We were up on one pontoon!"

Dierks got ashore just fine - and he's since settled into the ups and downs of life on the water. "Even when it storms at night," says Dierks. "The boat just rocks back and forth. It's exactly like being on a tour bus. In fact, the whole inside looks just like my bus. The bathroom is the same size. The kitchen is the same size. It's consistent, anyway."

Dierks reaches in the fridge for a bottle of water.

"Here's proof I'm never here," he laughs. "All I have is water, beer and some really old ketchup."

He moves a cluster of fishing rods off the couch and sits down. "I don't know why these are even here," he laughs. "I went fishing not too long ago with Scotty Emerick and Billy Currington. But it's too much work. I'd rather just chill."

Dierks has earned his license to chill. Since making his smash debut last year with the chart-topper "What Was I Thinkin'," Dierks has seen his life become a whirlwind. He's been touring nonstop with George Strait and Kenny Chesney, earned a gold record, and is enjoying the success of his current hit "How Am I Doin'. "

Despite his success, Dierks claims he is still the same guy he always was - except for his unusual living situation. "Living out of a suitcase and a bunk changes everything," he admits. "Especially your personal life."

Dierks' personal life has included high-profile appearances at events with his bass player Michelle Poe on his arm. But he prefers to keep his personal life private. His life with his constant canine companion, Jake, is, on the other hand, a well-documented open book. The loveable dog has been in his videos and even attended awards shows with his master.

"Jake is at camp," smiles Dierks. "He's good on the road for about a week.

Then he gets tired. So I took him to this cool place where he can chase squirrels and rabbits and hang out with other dogs. In fact, I need to go pick him up!"

With that, Dierks throws on a shirt and heads down the dock.

- M.B. Roberts

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