Strolling up to the nosebleed seats while singing, Dierks Bentley knew Sunday night he wasn't the only one who wanted to party at the 46th Academy of Country Music Awards in Las Vegas.
Calling two days earlier from Los Angeles, he sounded pumped up for a concert that night and for the awards telecast on CBS, two days after performing his new single, "Am I the Only One?" on NBC's "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno."
Bentley said preparing to perform for millions on television does not differ from the routine on tour.
"It's the same energy," he said, "the same thing live. You go out and attack the song."
Bentley headlines the Jagermeister Country Tour, stopping Thursday at the House of Blues in North Myrtle Beach and May 12 at the North Charleston Coliseum.
The Capitol Records Nashville artist laid out his approach to the new single and his forthcoming seventh album, all recorded in Asheville, N.C.
"Spending five days locked in the studio," he said, "it takes that kind of catalyst to make a great record."
The project represented a change of pace from "Up on the Ridge," a bluegrass-driven CD from fall 2009 that generated his ACM nomination for Album of the Year.
"I really wanted to make that 'Ridge' record," Bentley said. "It was getting into the music and breaking it down to the roots. I'm honored for the recognition. After a year or so, though, I'm for something louder and more fun. It's what the sound is all about. You rock and turn it up."
That speed took flight on many hits in the past decade, including "Free and Easy (Down the Road I Go)," "Lot of Leavin' Left to Do," "Feel That Fire" and "Sideways," although he can slow things down, too. Just listen to "Come a Little Closer," "Every Mile a Memory," "Settle for a Slowdown" and "Long Trip Alone."
The video for "Am I the Only One?" will come out in about a month, Bentley said. Fans who like looking for his longtime white pooch, Jake, a star in Bentley's videos from the start with "What Was I Thinkin'?" won't be let down, either.
"He made a cameo in the new video," Bentley said.
A member of the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tenn., since 2005, Bentley spoke about the moving experience he took from performing at its reopening in September, after severe floods swamped Middle Tennessee in spring 2009.
"That place has a special meaning for me," the 35-year-old said. "It's an emotional feeling, in one of the special places in country music."
Bentley, whose first name reflects his mother's maiden name, just put on his father's cap again. He and wife Cassidy, his high school sweetheart from Phoenix, welcomed a second daughter three months ago, joining their 21/2-year-old at home in Tennessee.
Getting back to the House of Blues, which he called a "great-sounding room," Bentley said he always tries to recline a bit on the sands.
"I love Myrtle Beach, and I love that coast," he said.
Although high on professional hockey and football, Bentley keeps his baseball loyalties to his native state, the Arizona Diamondbacks.
As the NHL Playoffs kick off Wednesday, the team from Phoenix earns his howl.
"I love the Coyotes," he said.
Josh Thompson on tour
Josh Thompson, opening for Bentley on tour this spring, has enjoyed the ride from his first album, "Way Out Here," on the Columbia Nashville label. Its title track, from last year, centers on the "John Wayne, Johnny Cash and John Deere" refrain.
"It has really turned into an anthem," Thompson said. "Every night, it's a huge, huge song. It's really good to have something like that in the arsenal, right out of the gate."
Thompson, who has seen the Milwaukee Brewers play in the Badger State, where he was born, has appreciated everyone with whom he has toured.
"Dierks is just another of one of those great matches," he said. "His fans and my fans are very similar."
Thompson, 33, said he didn't pick up a guitar until age 21, but that staying immersed in songwriting is another attribute he and Bentley share.
"That's the main focus of mine," Thompson said, "to keep it rooted and lyrically simple and honest, and something people can relate to. ... Writing music, I found my ability to take my thoughts and real-life experiences and put them in a form that isn't so personal that nobody understands them."
Thompson said he has been to Myrtle Beach, breezing through on another artist's tour, but he'd like to explore, possibly with a putter.
"Miniature golf: That's my style," he said. "I can mini-golf all day."