Lyrics Uncovered: Dierks Bentley, ‘Burning Man’
Luke Dick and Bobby Pinson had just finished a six-hour writing day when Dick played a basic instrumental he'd been working on. "Lightning struck him when I played the track," Dick recalls of Pinson's reaction when he heard the fiery melody that would wrap around Dierks Bentley's "Burning Man" lyrics.
"He was like, 'We gotta write this right now,'" he recalls.
The song was seemingly born out of subconsciousness, as Dick went into the session with few lyrical ideas, but was drawn to the concept of having mixed identities.
"The chorus is the idea of being a walking contradiction in some regards. There is — especially for artistic types ‚ the feeling of wanting to wander or be out in the world, but also the desire to be grounded in some way too," he says of the part of the song that came together in "minutes." "I feel like artists are free spirits to some degree. You have to be to want to be an artist and want to live that lifestyle ... but also there's that pull."
Dick says the desire to write a song about being a walking contradiction wasn't intentional. Rather, he let the energy and inspiration between him and Pinson dictate where the "Burning Man" lyrics went, and it took them down an intriguing path that captures the free spirits of the world who are constantly restless, yet still long to be grounded.
Once the song was complete, Dick knew it would be a natural fit for Bentley. He sent it to his publisher and Bentley's executive producer, Arturo Buenahora Jr., who agreed the song sounded like The Mountain star.
"It felt like something that would resonate with him on a lyrical level, and I'm so glad that it did. I really feel like the song is made for him," Dick says. "He loved it from the get go."
He's worked with Bentley in the past, so Dick was observant of how the country star seems to have a tether home to his wife and three children. "I used to always feel him being pulled home a lot," Dick describes. "I know Dierks and I feel like that's part of his life is getting out there on the road and then also missing what's going on back at home, missing the grounded part of life."
Listen to Dierks Bentley's "Burning Man"
The true soul of the song lives in the visionary lines: "Maybe I'll go to the desert / Find myself in the Joshua Tree / If we pass in the night, then just hand me a light / And tell me you burned just like me," which were inspired by actual Burning Man — an ethereal trip to the desert with a group of friends Dick describes as "California weirdos." The eclectic event brings together roughly 100 people in the Mojave Desert who soak themselves in an artistic experience, using rocks as projection screens for films they've created and broadcast their own radio station to the various campsites that gather.
The people he met in the desert symbolize the "burning man" in all of us and the eternal contradiction of wanting to escape the societal rituals of life while also feeling ourselves being pulled back to it, an idea that lives at the song's core. "That's what makes that group so appealing. You can have these conversations in the middle of the night on a desert dance floor talking to people about life, or the next morning making breakfast together and you haven't slept and you've got the Joshua trees all around you and these rocks," he says of the "Burning Man" lyrics and his experience. "The connection that we have of feeling like walking contradictions, of needing to let loose and forget about the social trappings of houses and cars and mortgages and all of this. Connecting on the human level, of the woes and triumphs and beauty of being a human."
"Burning Man" is the second single off Bentley's 2018 album, The Mountain. The song features Brothers Osborne.
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