Written by Walker Dyess. 2 March 2016.
Dierks Bentley may be worth $24 million dollars, but it didn’t take him long to figure out that it wasn’t the new purchases that made him happy (Field). Just as any other American, he has stories behind his possessions and keeps close to the people he loves. In August of 2013, Bentley released a single from his Riser album, the song is titled “I Hold On”. Writing the song was a joint effort by Bentley and his close friend, Brett James. In this song, Bentley opens himself up to his fans, as well as makes the song relatable to his fans. The song explains what is important to Bentley: family, freedom and faith, among other things. We as the listener are introduced to several of Bentley’s personal stories that allow us to get to know the kind of man he really is. He also lists several things that are universal to all his fans, so they can relate this song to their lives and help them endure the tough times. The song is intended for his faithful fan base, who enjoy his usually cheesy songs, but also songs that give meaning to everyday American life. Simply put, “I Hold On” is a reflection of Bentley’s values, as well as the values of those who pile in to sing along with him on Friday nights.
The instruments used in this song are bold and confident. The song begins with the humming of an electric guitar, which is then met with the pluck of a bass guitar. It is at this time both the electric guitar and bass guitar are played loud enough to fill a large dancehall, and in such a way that demands attention. There is a reason for this, and that is to alert the listener what is about to be said is important. The background is filled with drums being played to the beat of a train rapidly moving down the tracks. This drumbeat shows the depth of the meaning to this song. The song is deeper than the lyrics, it makes the listener begin to think what he or she values in life. The instruments are then combined with the deep and serious vocals of Dierks Bentley. Yes he is singing the lyrics, but the words sound as if Bentley is speaking directly to each listener. This serves a purpose to show that this song is both from the heart, and true to his life. He sings the lyrics in such a way that makes the listener realize this song is very personal to Dierks Bentley (SLN Staff).
In an interview with Metrolyrics, Bentley said he had no intentions of writing a song for a record when the song came about. He was simply mourning the death of his father, in his home state of Arizona, which then made him reminisce on a road trip he and his father took from Arizona to Nashville. He then thought to himself “Wow I still drive that same truck, I’m still holding on to that truck” (Hutchinson). That is where the song and lyrics originated. In the first verse of the song Bentley explains he still has the same old 1994 Chevrolet Silverado. He states that many people say that he should get a new truck now that he has made some money. He then sings, “I wouldn’t trade that thing in for a rocket”. He “holds on” to this truck because it reminds him of all the memories he has had in it, all the miles he has seen in it, and most importantly his relationship with his father. Bentley’s father died in June of 2012, so it was his death that partly inspired this song. He was able to sit by his father’s side as he passed away, something he said was a special moment as well as an honor to be able to be there during his last few moments (Willman).
An old truck is not the only thing Bentley holds onto from his past. In the second verse he speaks of an old guitar he has. In the song he states “it probably don’t look like much to you”. He sings of the scratches in the wood as well as the rusty strings, but these are things that make the guitar special to him. The guitar has so much history and so many stories to it. During a fan club party, Bentley told some of the stories he has had with this guitar. One night he got upset and punched the back of this guitar, putting a hole in the back of it that is still there today. He also began getting autographs on the sides of the guitar, which include George Jones, George Strait, Willie Nelson, and even Joe Walsh, which he described as a “drunken night” (Willman). He still uses this guitar in performances today, and you can even see it in the music video posted above. It sounds better to him, and he prefers to play this one rather than a brand new guitar. This guitar is another inspiration for him writing this song, because after his father’s death, it was an object he coveted and thought was worth holding onto when he was forced to assess what was important to him.
This song is a reflection of Bentley and those things that “keep him going strong” as he sings in the song. He is quoted in an article from Country Weekly stating, “If there was ever a song that I wanted to be on radio, it would be ‘I Hold On,’ because it’s such a reflection of me” (Schmitt). We have explored the connection to the truck and guitar, but we are leaving out one aspect that makes this song personal to Bentley. We find this in the last verse, the love for his wife Cassidy, whom he married in 2005. Bentley says in the last verse he transforms the song into a love song about his wife (Schmitt). He does this by singing, “So if you ever worry about me walking out, yeah, let me tell you something, I hold on”. He realizes when he looks at her he would be nothing without her and reassures her he would never walk out on her. This song is a chance for him to tell his wife that he is ready to endure both the good and bad times with her. At the time the song was released the two had a 5-year-old daughter, 3-year-old daughter, and his wife was 7 months pregnant with their first son. He is telling her they have built a family, and he will “hold on” to them, look for them when he needs help, and most importantly will be there as the rock of the family, just as his father was a rock for him. These verses are so personal to Bentley because he wrote them from his heart, and wanted to allow others to see who he was.
As Bentley delivered a personal message through the verses of the song, Brett James wrote a very universal chorus that would be sure to capture the majority of audiences. The chorus has three main ideas, and that is holding onto faith, love and freedom. As Bentley put it, there is not a country fan out there that does not hold these three things as a big priority in their life. Firstly, faith plays a big role in country music as a whole. You always hear country singers sing about God and church, something country fans value. Its safe to say the majority of country artists and fans are Christians, so this line recognizes that. It identifies that many country fans look to the Lord for help in times we experience a loss, such as the one Bentley experienced. The song also recognizes we all look for love to keep us going throughout these hard times. Whether it is love from our family, friends, or our spouses, we all need love from time to time. Everyone can relate to having a bad day and just needing the embrace of a loved one to make all that pain go away. Lastly, we hear about freedom, something Americans don’t take lightly. When this song was released in 2013 we had troops in Afghanistan and over seas. Americans hold their freedom dearly to their hearts, and are thankful for those giving their life for our freedom. This chorus recognizes all those things, so fans can apply this song to their life, just as Bentley applied it to his.
This song holds a special place in country music, because it comes from the heart of the artist, and you can hear that in the song. Not only does it tell his story as a person, it tells the story of country music fans. The song can help someone get through tough times, and point them in the right direction for help. The instruments do a great job in setting the mood for the massage sent, and that should not be overlooked. The song allowed Bentley to explain where he was in life in 2013, and also identified what country music fans have always been about. Thanks for the stories Dierks!
Dierks Bentley Sings and Tells Story behind “I Hold On” at Fan Club Party. Dir. Chris Willman. Perf. Dierks Bentley. 2013. Youtube.
“Dierks Bentley Releases New Single ‘I Hold On’ From Upcoming Album Riser.” Sounds Like Nashville. 12 Aug. 2013. Web. 23 Feb. 2016.
Field, Jennifer. “Dierks Bentley Net Worth.” Richest Celebrities. 9 Oct. 2015. Web. 23 Feb. 2016.
Hutchison, Amanda. “Dierks Bentley Explains The Emotional Story Behind ‘I Hold On’ Read More: Dierks Bentley Explains The Emotional Story Behind ‘I Hold On'” Metro Lyrics. 29 May 2014. Web. 23 Feb. 2016.
Schmitt, Brad. “Dierks Bentley Says “I Hold On” Is a Love Song to His Wife.” Country Weekly. 18 Feb. 2014. Web. 23 Feb. 2016.