Dierks Bentley kicks off summer tour in Charlotte

With the release of his new album “Riser,” Dierks Bentley is itching to get back on the road.

“It’s been two months,” he says during rehearsals at an old Nashville steel mill. “That’s forever for us.”

He kicks off his summer tour Friday at Charlotte’s PNC Music Pavilion (formerly Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre). He says the key is rehearsing until he and the band are sick of it, so there’s nothing left to tweak.

“From Day One I want the first show to be as good as the last show of the tour,” Bentley says. “I’ve never had a show where I didn’t reach that transcendent moment where as a band and a crowd we really come together. The combination of being with my band on stage and a little bit of alcohol and Red Bull turns me into a crazy person. No one has more fun on stage than me.”

For all the fun he’s having on stage, he’s stacked “Riser” with thematically heavy numbers inspired by the 2012 death of his 88-year-old father and crowd rousers like the current single “Drunk on a Plane.”

He unveiled the single “I Hold On” on tour with Miranda Lambert last summer.

“ ‘I Hold On’ is a style of songwriting I’ve been working on for 10 years – the personalized verses with the universal choruses,” he explains. “With ‘Here on Earth’ (also from “Riser”), I’m just writing from my gut after losing my dad.”

On the latter, he does something atypical of country artists – he questions his own religious beliefs.

“That’s just one of those questions that I asked,” Bentley says. “You can be a believer and still ask questions. You think about people that go through real tragedy. People say ‘It’s meant to be.’ That’s a hell of a thing to say to someone that’s been through something tragic.

“It started out about my dad. Then the Sandy Hook shooting happened. It’s hard to even fathom to lose a child in that way and a person going through that,” says the father of three.

“The only answer you have for sure is there isn’t an answer down here. You’re not going to find anything here on Earth,” he says, comparing the sentiment to U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” (“That’s one of my favorite songs”).

“Riser” isn’t all contemplation and reflection. “Pretty Girls” verges on stoner country (although Bentley cringes at the description) with its methodical, laid-back pace.

“ ‘Pretty girls drink tall boys’ – that’s what I see every night looking out in the crowd,” he says, laughing. But he gets his point across. “It’s a rock show. I want the girls going crazy and blowing off steam. Some songs help the crowd party and cut loose. You have to have those in order to have moments where you can hit the fans with an ‘I Hold On’ or ‘Home,’ and yank a little sentiment out of them. It’s those songs that create these other moments.”