Sunday, May 15, 2016

DB Congress Exclusive Interview: Ben Helson, Dierks Bentley's New Lead Guitarist

Ben Helson far right/foreground; From left: Dierks Bentley, Steve Misamore, Tim Sergent
Photo Credit: Zach Belcher 

While we were sad to see Brian Layson leave, we are excited to welcome to the DBC family Dierks Bentley's new lead guitarist, Ben Helson!  Ben joined Team Dude March 31, 2016 and he was gracious enough to answer questions from DB Congress reps in the middle of the Somewhere On A Beach Tour!  

We can already tell his sense of humor is right on par with the rest of the band and his talent has already been proven on stage. He's played in bluegrass, rock and country bands, which he says set him up perfectly to play for Dierks and draw musically from each of those influences!  

Introducing...Ben Helson!


DBC: Where were you when you got the call/text to be part of Dierks band? And what did you
think when you were asked to join the band? PS: Welcome to the family! (Adrian Taylor,

BH: Thanks, Adrian! I was actually in Italy of all places. I received a text from Dierks who asked
me to give him a call when I had a minute. Of course my heart was racing pretty fast, as I’m
sure is normal when one of your hero’s texts you. He was super cool and asked if I’d like to
come and play some guitar with him and the guys, and here I am. That’s the short version… I
think I blacked out for the rest of the conversation, haha. An unbelievable moment to say the

DBC: When did you start playing (age?) and what was the first song you learned? What other
instruments do you play besides guitar? (Linda Alberts, FL)

BH: I started playing around the age of 13. My dad taught me my first song on the guitar which
was the old bluegrass tune, Home Sweet Home. As far as other instruments, I play a little
mandolin, banjo, bass, dobro, and piano!

DBC: I saw you playing in Dublin and I thought you fit in with the band perfectly. I loved your
guitar playing. My question is, when you started to play guitar, was this the kind of
music you envisioned yourself playing, or did you see yourself taking another path?
(Reet Eaton, Ireland)

BH: Thanks so much! Honestly, I was all over the map musically. I played in a bluegrass band
with my dad, a rock band with my friends at school, and in a few different country bands in
the area. I loved them all. I had no real preference, I just wanted to play music 24/7. I never
imagined it leading to the place I’m at now, but I’m so thankful it did. Looking back, playing
all those styles of music set me up perfectly for Dierks’ band. It’s the first gig I’ve had where I
get a chance to draw heavily from each of those influences!

DBC: Aren’t you originally from Brownsville, Kentucky? Tell us about your family. (Meredith
Mauer, SC)

BH: I am indeed. My family is amazing! I come from a musical family. My mother grew up playing
bass in gospel groups and my dad plays guitar and sings. My step-mother is also a great
piano player and singer. They were always very supportive of me and my dreams of playing
music. I also have 2 brothers and a sister who are awesome. I’m very proud of them all!

DBC: What weird or interesting initiation or pranks did Dierks band play on you? (Grace
Lenehan, TN)

BH: Nothing too big just yet. I have a feeling they’re still cooking something up!

DBC: Do you have a nickname, if so what is it and the story behind it? (Kathy Butler, IN)

BH: I’ve never had a nickname that has stuck. However, because I have a pretty thick
southern accent, people usually think I say Dan when they ask my name. It happens all
the time, haha!

DBC: Who are your musical influences? (Heather Ashley, TN)

BH: Too many to count. Everyone from Van Halen to Tony Rice to Django Reinhardt to Keith
Whitley. I could go on and on but I’ll stop there for now!

DBC: You have toured with mostly female artists—Rhonda Vincent, Danielle Bradbery and
most recently Maddie & Tae. How is it different touring with all guys now? (Ronna Clark,

BH: The bus doesn’t smell as nice. Haha!

DBC: Who would you like to play with/for dead or alive? (Linda Alberts, FL)

BH: That’s a tough one. I'm thankful to have had the amazing opportunity to share the stage with a
lot of my heroes thus far. But some that come to mind that I would/would’ve loved to play
with are, Emmylou Harris, Merle Haggard, Keith Whitley, and Alison Krauss. I’m sure I’ll think
of a hundred more as soon as I send this out, ha!

DBC: Who is your favorite guitarist and why? (David Mattingly, KY)

BH: If I absolutely had to narrow it down to one person, it would have to be Bryan Sutton. When I
heard a Ricky Skaggs record that he played on, that’s the moment that made me really want
to start taking guitar seriously. I didn’t know that people could play like that. He plays
acoustic guitar (and lots of other instruments) on numerous recordings in Nashville, including
Dierks’. He adapts so easily to whatever style he’s asked to play and seems to always have
the right ideas and approach to every song!

DBC: Did you become friends with Dierks/mates while on tour with Maddie & Tae? (David
Mattingly, KY)

BH: Yes, we got a chance to hang out quite a bit with Dierks and the band while we were out with
him last summer. Dierks does an amazing job of making everybody on each tour feel like
family, and the Sounds of Summer tour was no exception. It seemed like each night all the
bands and artists would end up hanging out and having backstage jam sessions. Fun times!

DBC: Have things been as expected so far? Or have there been some surprises during
rehearsal/tour? (Amy Wicks, FL)

BH: The transition to this role has been surprisingly stress free. Everyone in the band and crew
(including Dierks) has gone above and beyond to make me feel comfortable and made sure I was set up for success right off the bat. The only aspect that was a little surprising is how much freedom there is to be yourself musically. They embrace the idea that everyone has their own musical personality and will encourage each other to bring that to the table!

DBC: What is your favorite DB song to play live and why? (Sherrie Shamon, FL)

BH: I love so many different ones for different reasons. However, right now I’d have to say Black.
It’s just different than anything I’ve gotten to play before!  I also really like 5150, Lot of Leavin’, and Freedom, too. Those are great guitar songs!

DBC: You were a musician with Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder and directed the
Renaissance Bluegrass at Bethel University in Tennessee. Did that background help
influence Dierks’ bluegrass “Up On The Ridge” to be the show opener for the
Somewhere On A Beach Tour? (Ronna Clark, FL)

BH: I’d like to think it did, haha. Dierks seems to have a never-ending reservoir of ideas and this
one seemed to come about very organically, right before our first show in Ireland. He thought
that since the country of Ireland had such a rich history of Celtic fiddle music, it would be cool
to open the show with the banjo and fiddle. We all liked it so much we thought we would give
it a shot on the SOAB tour. So far people seem to dig it, which lets me know that DB has a lot
of cool fans!

DBC: What are you looking forward to the most in regards to this summer's tour? What
venue/city are you the most excited about playing? (Nancy Eaton, ME)

BH: I can’t think of anything in particular that I’m looking forward to more than just being on stage
with Dierks and the band each night. He and the band bring so much energy to the table, it’s
impossible not to have a ridiculous amount of fun on stage. Each night I’ve had to pinch
myself to be sure it’s all real.

DBC: When you have time outside of music, what are your hobbies? Are you a sports fan?
Favorite team(s)? (David Mattingly, KY)

BH: Not really a sports fan, which I know is borderline sinful when you’re from Kentucky, haha.
When I’m not traveling, I mainly try to be intentional about spending quality time, in whatever
facet, with close friends/family, and of course my wife, Danielle. But, I’m still just as into
playing/practicing music as much as ever, so there’s usually an instrument close by at home.
So, my hobby outside of music is still music I guess, haha!

DBC: What's the craziest fan encounter so far? Have you been warned some of us (DBC
reps) are a little crazy? (Kathy Butler, IN).

BH: Hahaha, no crazy encounters yet, just a lot of support which I appreciate greatly!

DBC: What do you like best about touring with Dierks? (Sherrie Shamon, FL)

BH: Concise answer is… everything. I’m having the time of my life out here. One specific
thing is getting to see how much he doesn’t take anything concerning his success for
granted. He knows where he came from and is thankful for where he’s at. It’s easy to
root for a guy like that.

DBC: What one thing can you tell us about Dierks that we die-hard fans don’t already
know? (Ronna Clark, FL)

BH: I should be the one asking you all! Maybe how seriously knowledgeable he is about
bluegrass and country music. Pretty incredible. But I have a feeling you already knew

Thanks for the questions. I’m so thrilled to be apart of the DB team and I know I have
impossibly giant shoes to fill from Brian Layson (he’s the man!). So thanks for being so
supportive everybody. It means a lot!

Thank YOU, Ben! See you on the tour!

1 comment:

  1. Really enjoyed reading that. Great job all round. 😊