The passing of the ACM Awards hosting torch from Blake Shelton to Dierks Bentley came — no surprise — with a sarcastic tweet: “Hey @DierksBentley congrats on co-hosting the @ACMawards! You’ve got 3 months to learn how to read. You’ll be great!,” posted the notoriously sarcastic singer, who emceed the show from 2011 – 2015.
So when Bentley is asked if he’ll look to Shelton for hosting advice, he’s quick to say a big “hell no.” Instead, the “Somewhere on a Beach” singer will look a few feet away to co-host and longtime friend Luke Bryan for cues. The duo sat down with Rolling Stone Country to talk about being center stage — and “head bartenders” — at the 51st annual Academy of Country Music Awards, April 3rd in Las Vegas.
Dierks, did you get any advice from Blake on hosting?
Bryan: Any advice from him I wouldn’t recommend.
Bentley: Blake’s advice is probably make sure you drink a lot, knowing him. Luke’s the old pro here so I’ll be looking to him for advice, and if the show goes off great I’ll take the credit for being the new guy, and if goes off terribly, you can blame Luke since he’s the boss.
Will you do Blake proud and drink before the show?
Bentley: After the opening monologue, when things kind of get going a little bit.
Bryan: Yeah, you gotta take the edge off. Alcohol is perfect for me to curb the nerves a little bit.
Bentley: I see us as sort of being the head bartender. You’re the host of the party, and it’s more fun to hang out with a bartender who takes a shot or two with you when you’re in the bar. You don¹t want to have a sober bartender, that’s no fun.
Are you guys nervous?
Bryan: The first year I did it, I was extremely nervous. . . maybe the most nervous I’ve ever been about something. But that’s the fun part about show business. I love getting amped up.
Bentley: Right now, I’m not nervous at all because we’re not really in show mode. Just yesterday, I was asking Luke about the opening monologue and how it goes down. I have no real idea what happens to get to that point. I think the only question I asked him was, “Do you drink before you go out there, kind of get loosened up beforehand?” He’s always done such a great job at it, as has Blake.
It’s definitely something I’ll be nervous about, but if you’re not nervous you shouldn’t be doing it. I get nervous playing the Opry still. You take that nervous energy and channel it into being amped. I’ve been doing this for 12 years, so anything new is exciting. I’m always looking for things that make me kind of uncomfortable.
After the broadcast’s big move to Texas last year, how does being back in Las Vegas this year add to the show?
Bryan: The fun part about Vegas is everyone is out here to see the show, but they’re also out there gambling and hitting all the sights. They’re out there on the tables and bam, they’re in the room, and that whole energy translates in the room and on TV, so I think it’s up to us to keep that energy going.
Bentley: In Vegas, everyone lets their hair down a little bit and it’s a little looser. You expect to see some different stuff and hear some different stuff. Even the red carpet is different here.
Bryan: It’s less formal. Dierks may not wear underwear.
Bentley: I’m not wearing any right now. Do you wear underwear for the show?
Bryan: I’ll be in underwear.
Bentley: You probably got a jock strap on to contain everything.
Bryan: Not needed.
Clearly, the chemistry you guys have is pretty good.
Bentley: We’ve known each other for so long.
Bryan: We’ve had a fun ride in this business. When Dierks did his first headlining tour, it was me, Bucky Covington and Dierks was the headliner. We had so much fun back then. We’d load the bus with his band, my band and we would play all night.
Bentley: I wish there was more video footage or a way to tap into that memory because I don’t remember much, but it was fun.
Bryan: I’m glad we didn’t write a diary on those days. Really, the bottom line is we’ve had the opportunity to be around each other a lot. We can do a pretty good job of feeding off each other and have some fun with it.