- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
The “hard reset” helped the “Drunk on a Plane” singer, who has a new partnership with mocktail/cocktail mixer company WithCo, find balance — and bring fun back to his party
Dierks Bentley is always ready for a challenge.
The country star once spent a year and a half not eating meat — and another year eating meat only from animals he’d hunted. He’s gone on 100-mile mountain bike rides. He’s taken ice baths long before the practice reached pop culture status. And he’s been known to ditch his iPhone for a flip phone for stretches at a time.
So, taking time off from drinking seemed like one more worthy, and formidable, experiment for a singer whose hits include party anthems like “Beers on Me” and “Drunk on a Plane” — and who hosts a backstage bar party before every show when he’s on the road.
“I like to do hard things,” Bentley, 47, tells PEOPLE of deciding to take break from alcohol in November 2020. At first, he decided to quit for a year: “A big part of it was just trying to see if I could. I’d been dabbling in taking breaks, but I liked the idea of being able to say you've done a year of sobriety. Not 30 days, not 90 days, a frigging year. That’s hard.”
He was inspired, he says, by the memory of his dad, who died in 2012. “My dad quit drinking when he was in his 60s, for what I thought was one year. I remember him saying, ‘It was the best year of my life,’” Bentley says. “Part of it was to kind of have this experience with my dad. He did this thing, so of course I wanted to try this thing.”
But as he approached the one-year mark without a drink, Bentley says his mom told him his dad had actually done two dry years. "I'm like, "You've got to be kidding me!" he says. So the singer carried on alcohol-free until around his birthday in November last year.
The break from booze, Bentley says, was a chance to reevaluate routines that he had come to take for granted.
“On the road, I host a cocktail party every night,” he says. “I’ve had the same phone number for 20 years, so it doesn’t matter where I'm playing — Billings, Montana or Nashville, Tennessee — I’ve got friends coming out at 5:30. And I love it. But it became this idea of drinking every night because I had to, not because I get to. The fun gets taken out of it.”
His time-out from drinking helped him appreciate those moments again: “Drinking should be something you do that’s celebratory.”
Plus, he has a couple of practical reasons for more mindful drinking.
These days, Bentley is often his tour’s DP — designated pilot — flying his whole band to and from shows. “And If I'm flying a plane home that night, I can't drink on the road,” he says. “The FAA would frown on that!”
And then there’s his most important job: being dad to his three kids with wife Cassidy: Evie, 15, Jordan, 12, and Knox, 10. "To me, it was about, how do I be the best person I can be for everybody? How can I be the best person for these fans and give them a kick-ass show, and also go back home and take a kid to school?“ he sasy. Pre-kids, "it was one long party — passing out night after night, But I stopped all that a long time ago. You have kids, and it's exhausting, and you get older, and hangovers hurt a little bit more than they did before.”
Then again, he jokes, “Cass says sometimes, ‘I think you’re a better parent when you’re drinking! You don’t micromanage everything!’”
One of the things that made it easier for him to go alcohol-free was a cocktail mixer that Cassidy discovered and brought home from the store one day: WithCo Cocktails.
Mixers that can be used either with or without alcohol, WithCo mocktails became such a favorite with Bentley (the Agave Margarita mixed with Ritual non-alcoholic tequila is his go-to) that he had it written into his rider that his tour stops needed a WithCo supply. "If you're not drinking, I lose the desire to socialize. I don't want to go to a bar where it's loud if I don't have a drink in my hand," he says. "So this made hosting the backstage bar fun. It made the shows fun."
When WithCo founders Joshua Ellis and Bradley Ryan, who started the company in Nashville in 2016, learned Bentley was a fan, they reached out. "When we found out that he was hosting and using WithCo in all these aspects, I'm like, 'We need to hang out with this dude,'" Ellis says. "He's a kindred spirit." The singer has since become an investor and a strategic partner in the business.
The little bottles, which come in nine signature blends, have been an easy tool that allowed him to comfortably commune with guests at his pre-show parties during his dry spell. “It can be a challenge when everyone else around you is drinking and you're not. People are like, ‘Why aren't you drinking?’ The hardest part is being like, ‘Oh God, I got to manage your expectations. I don't want to disappoint you,” he says. “But this stuff was so good, I felt like I was still drinking.”
Bentley, who is careful not to “preach” sobriety (“most people are just grinding all day long, and having a beer at the end of the day is probably the best way to take a break”), has gone back to drinking alcohol — but not every night anymore.
“And on the nights I don’t, I can still party,” he says. “WithCo, is so inclusive. Everyone gets to partake. You want to drink? We got you. You can't drink tonight? Great. Or you don't drink at all? Awesome. It's all about everyone getting a chance to hang.”
For more People news, make sure to sign up for our newsletter!
Read the original article on People.