Story Behind the Song: Dierks Bentley, ‘Black’
"Black" is the title track of and third single from Dierks Bentley's eighth studio album, released in 2016. The song, written by Bentley along with Ross Copperman and Ashley Gorley, was inspired by Bentley's wife of 11 years, Cassidy Black, who appears in the song's music video, shot in frigid Iceland in two days.
Below, Bentley and his "Black" co-writers share with The Boot and other reporters the story behind the hit tune.
Dierks Bentley: I was at [the Nashville coffee shop] Portland Brew. I knew I was writing with these guys, so I had the idea started that morning.
It was something I was thinking about for a long time, but I was cautious about wading into it, because I knew I wanted to write this song -- the idea is about my wife. A lot of songs, you start with a good idea and it doesn’t work out, and you move on to the next thing. Or you tweak the title and try to write it with somebody else. But with "Black," there’s only one "Black." I can’t write "Blue;" that’s already been written.
I had this one shot with this song. I knew I had a great opportunity with these guys to get it.
Ashley Gorley: Dierks is an exception to the rule. A lot of times, when you’re working with an artist, maybe they’re not as skilled as a writer; they’re looking for people like me and Ross to give them that direction.
Dierks comes in -- I have a voicemail at 6:30 AM, with him mumbling through some of "Black," which is a whole different thing. He knows what he’s after, and we come alongside to help him get there. It’s an ideal situation for me and Ross, with somebody like Dierks, who’s kind of a writer first. And so, that helps, that scenario.
The more successful the artist, the higher the bar goes, so we try different things, like the feel of "Black" and the flow and different things like that, because we have the freedom to try that, freedom to reach different places.
Bentley: [Cassidy] loved the song. It’s definitely special for her, and it’s a surreal thing.
We were sitting on the bus the other night, and one of my semi-trucks goes by, and it has my name on it, and it has the world "Black" on it. It’s so weird -- there’s our names, all mixed up on the side of this truck. The whole song, with making the video, the track, the lyrics -- it’s one of those really special songs, and the video too is so crazy.
You always want to push yourself as a songwriter and a performer. This song’s definitely stretched me as a performer, and I feel so much more comfortable onstage doing this song ...
I can’t believe I got her to do the video. I think she’s sweating just talking about doing the video; she was so nervous. It was really cold.
The way I talked her into it was, I was going to do it with some video folks, girls and stuff, who could play the part in that song. She’s not going to miss a chance to go to Iceland, and I was like, "You can come to Iceland, and there will be a van everywhere we go, and you can stay inside the van and watch the video monitor with folks from the record label, and see Iceland that way. Or, you can just play the part, do this thing. I know you’re not an actress, but pretend that you are ... Just do it. I know you can do it. That’s the only way we’re going to see Iceland. We’re going to be in and out. I’ve got to do work, so we’re only going to be there for two days, shooting. This is our vacation. Just do it." And she was like, "Okay."
And she did a great job. I look at that video, and her wrists are relaxed, and she’s just walking all comfortably. It was so cold. You can’t see me yelling at her behind her as she’s walking, saying, "Pretend you’re in the Bahamas. Just pretend you’re in Cancun." It was negative every day … The one day it was -7 Fahrenheit. I had on two layers of long underwear and a T-shirt and a leather jacket and long underwear, all the crew’s wearing this arctic gear that Columbia company gave us, and she’s out there in a black dress. And the wind would pick up and all of a sudden there would be sand blasting. It was crazy. It was so cold.
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