Brian O’Connell, Dierks Bentley Talk Seven Peaks Festival, Rise In Artist-Branded Festivals

Dierks Bentley

Dierks Bentley has always been a risk taker, and an artist eager to display the various facets of his music. In 2010, after lobbing nearly a dozen singles into the Top 5 on country radio (both traditional-leaning and more pop-inspired fare), he did the unexpected, releasing the acoustic-based, string-laden sounds of Up On The Ridge. In 2016, he released Black, a contemporary conceptual project that spawned the hits “Black,” “Somewhere On A Beach,” and “Different For Girls,” among others. Earlier this year, he released The Mountain, a project conceived in Colorado, which explores some of country music’s rougher rock edges.

Over Labor Day Weekend (Aug. 31-Sept. 2), Bentley will showcase his latest creative endeavor, welcoming nearly 30 artists back to Colorado for his own The Seven Peaks Festival.

“Starting my own festival is a dream come true,” Bentley tells MusicRow. “After playing as many festivals as I have over the years, it makes you think about what you’d do if you could put your own stamp on one.”

Miranda Lambert headlines the Saturday show, while Bentley closes out the festival with a headlining performance on Sunday. Bentley will also welcome his “Burning Man” collaborators Brothers Osborne, and “Different For Girls” duet partner Elle King. Meanwhile, newcomers including Boy Named Banjo, Abby Anderson, Rapidgrass and Travis Denning will commandeer the Whiskey Row side stage.

However, you never know where Bentley will show up over the course of the three days.

“I think we are going to have to lock him up to keep him off the stage,” Live Nation’s Brian O’Connell says. “He wants to play with every act that is on the bill, which is unique to say the least. Friday night, kind of a celebration of country music on Friday, it will be damn near impossible…I’m afraid for some of the artists…”

“With Seven Peaks, I was part of planning from day one and am looking forward to spending time with fans in all capacities: on stage, off stage, in the campsites and trying out the activities we’ve been working so hard to plan.” Bentley says.

For O’Connell, the Seven Peaks Festival has been years in the making. He had long been scouting for a Colorado location that would serve as the site for a new festival.

“We had decided on a different site at one point, and literally the night before we were going to go live, I just had a bad feeling about it and I pulled the whole thing down,” O’Connell recalls. “I felt like I was forcing it. So the idea of doing a country festival in Colorado is clearly not a new thing.”

O’Connell followed his intuition, waiting for the right opportunity. That opportunity came in the form of superstar Dierks Bentley and his manager Mary Hilliard Harrington, who suggested collaborating on the Colorado festival.

“That’s one of the cool things about our business is that we all do business together but we are also buddies. So we just broke down the fourth wall and let’s do this together.”

For Bentley, the festival in some ways feels like an extension of the album-making process.

“The more personal you can make it, the more of a universal appeal it has a possibility to be. I am taking everything I love musically, and surrounding it with everything I love about festivals, the things I’ve been making note of for years and hopefully creating one of the best fan experiences of any festival anywhere.”

Live Nation’s Brian O’Connell and Dierks Bentley

The festival will be held in Buena Vista, Colorado, which is located at the foot of the Continental Divide, surrounded by 14,000-foot peaks.

“Buena Vista is a cool town. I made a joke, ‘It’s kind of the essence of Colorado without skiing.’ It’s a real chill town with really great people in it. It’s a great place to really get away from the clutter and noise.”

The area is home to world-class rafting, as well as numerous other outdoor activities from mountain biking to hiking.

I’ve never seen any artist do an outdoor camping experience like this,” O’Connell says. “Someone asked me the other day, what are you going to do with the festival to make it different? I said, ‘Look up.’ There are seven 14,000-foot mountain peaks around you. There is nothing I can do to beat that.”

Though Bentley and company will headline the festival, O’Connell admits they have some stiff competition.

“When the sun sets and the sky turns purple, it’s amazing. We’ve talked about pausing the show just to watch the sunset. It’s that dramatic.”

Of course, taking on the role of financial partner in a festival comes with financial risk for artists, but O’Connell says that won’t deter more artist-branded festivals from launching. “It wouldn’t surprise me if everyone had one sooner or later, if they have that drive,” he says, also noting current festivals such as Luke Bryan’s Crash My Playa.

“Artists want to create, and they want something they own that is unique to them, that has their own touch on it, to draw their hard-core fans. Not everything in their world at this point is about money. The idea that they can have creative control is gold to most artists.”

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About the Author

Jessica Nicholson serves as the Managing Editor for MusicRow magazine. Her previous music journalism experience includes work with Country Weekly magazine and Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) magazine. She holds a BBA degree in Music Business and Marketing from Belmont University. She welcomes your feedback at [email protected]

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