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Dierks Bentley, Brett James + More Share Stories Behind the Hits at PBS ‘Front and Center’ Taping

Rick Diamond, Getty Images

The CMA Songwriters Series celebrated its 10th anniversary Wednesday night with a taping of the PBS ‘Front and Center’ series in Nashville. Dierks Bentley was the night’s featured artist, but songwriters like Brett James and Jon Randall played hits by Luke Bryan, Kenny Chesney and more.

The acoustic “in the round” format featured each songwriter (Ross Copperman and Jim Beavers rounded out the group of five) taking a turn with a song they wrote. All had worked with Bentley previously. Copperman produced the ‘Riser’ album, while James helped write the chart-topping ‘I Hold On.’ This October, fans will tune into PBS for the songs, but it’s the stories and onstage camaraderie that will steal the episode.

The line between truth and fiction was blurry, and it’s probably best that way. Did Beavers really pitch ‘5-1-5-0′ to Bentley as he was exiting a Pilates class? Did Chesney really drag James to a tropical island on Christmas Eve to write what would become ‘Out Last Night’? The songwriting father of four says his wife understood, but did she really?

Beavers also told a story of how he and Bentley walked up a ridge on the edge of the singer’s property, thinking they’d write a soulful, introspective, life-changing ballad. What came out of the session was ‘Am I the Only One’ from Bentley’s ‘Home’ album.

The format of this concert brought fans at Marathon Music Works close to the stage, and it’s likely those watching at home will feel the same intimacy. Most of the stories were light-hearted. Bentley even cut up talking about how he passed on future hits like ‘Drink a Beer’ by Luke Bryan and ‘Watching Airplanes’ by Gary Allan (both co-written by Beavers), plus ‘I Drive Your Truck’ (penned by Jessi Alexander, who made a cameo).

The loudest applause may have been for Randall when he began picking ‘Whiskey Lullaby,’ his 2004 hit for Brad Paisley. Look for a Lady Antebellum episode of ‘Front and Center’ to correspond with the airing of Bentley’s piece. Both will lead up to the 2014 CMA Awards in Nashville.

Dierks Bentley Says He’s Embracing the ‘Kenny Chesney Role’ on Tour

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