Riser

Album: Riser (2014)
Charted: 108

Songfacts®:

  • Written and recorded in the year following his father's death, the Riser album draws its title from this song about resilience and determination. "Life in general has a way of knocking you down," Bentley said. "It's different reasons for different folks – could be personal reasons, could be family reasons, your job, drugs, alcohol. That song really applies to anybody that's lived. There have always been those moments when we have to get back up and get on our feet. They are defining moments… breakthrough moments."
  • The LP is perhaps the most personal one that Bentley's ever recorded. "I named the album Riser because the lyrics in that song perfectly articulate who I want to be, who I try to be," he said. "There's a lot of really intense material on this record, but there's also a lighter side that is equally important in telling the story of the last two years of my life."
  • Dierks Bentley's executive producer, Arturo Buenahora, sent this Travis Meadows and Steve Moakler penned song to the singer back in 2012, shortly after Bentley's father passed away, which is why it resonated so strongly with him as inspiration for the entire record. "It's a big song," Bentley told reporters at a media event. "It takes different meanings as it goes on."

    "It's not a song for the dead, it's a song for the living; it's a song of resilience," he continued. "It's one of those songs that will always have various meanings. I certainly think about my fans, and people out there, looking out at a crowd of 20,000 people, everyone has some story they're struggling with, whether it's bills or their kids, and they're finding a way to make it happen."
  • Bentley first performed the song nationally on the February 4, 2015 episode of The Late Show With David Letterman. It was a mostly acoustic rendering, with an electric bass serving as the only amplified instrument. Check out this video of Bentley's rendition.
  • Bentley took the song literally during his 2015 Sounds of Summer Tour, singing from a lift in the middle of the stage. "It's a centerpiece of the production with the riser - the lift - and being a single now, I feel like it has a spot," Bentley explained. "Like 'Riser,' 'I Hold On' - you can sing those anywhere. They stand up on their own. Just a chance to do that song, get a really nice slot in the show, the big look - hopefully [it] will be impactful on the audience."
  • The song's music video is taken from Bentley's performance at the 2015 ACM Awards. "It was really hard for me not to get emotional that night at the ACMs in Cowboy's Stadium," Bentley told Entertainment Weekly. "I really wanted to keep the production simple and make the performance all about the arrangement and the lyrics. The reaction that night and now when we perform it on tour has already been so gratifying. People just relate to the message in that song... we've all lived it in one way or another."
  • The original working title was "Survivor," but it got changed to "Riser" during the writing of the song. "I think the term 'riser' was something that Travis had. I think that's what makes it unique," Steve Moakler told Taste of Country. "The term 'survivor,' we've all heard that, and first of all the chorus lands on 'riser,' which is how most country songs are titled, and I think the term 'survivor' takes on a victim stereotype. You take away that connotation, but 'riser' is the opposite. You don't have to have been through something to call yourself a riser. It's more the determination."
  • Meadows had come up with the original idea for the song and chose to collaborate with Moakler because of his optimistic nature. One of Moakler's lines highlighted the reason why Meadows chose him as his songwriting partner. "I do remember one in particular, because it's one that I would have never come to on my own, and it's exactly pointing to that optimism that I was talking about," Meadows said. "I would say something like, 'I'm a fighter,' or 'I'm a don't-run-and-hider.' But I would never in a million years say, 'I'm a lighter.' That's such an optimistic phrase, and it's one of my favorite parts of the song. 'When darkness comes to town, I'm a lighter.' What a beautiful thought."
  • A second video was released, which follows the true story of a formerly homeless mother of two named Amy as she rebuilds her life. The Wes Edwards-directed clip was inspired by a 60 Minutes segment that Bentley viewed about families living out of their cars in order to get by. "I really wanted this video to reflect the 'risers' among us," the singer told The Guardian. "So, when it came to casting, it was important to me that the storyline follow something real – no acting."

    "The first thing I thought when I met Amy was you would have never known that she had been living out of her car with two kids and nowhere to go," he added. "Hearing her story is such a solid example that there are people we pass all around us every day who are going through tough times. It's dedicated to all the 'Risers.'"
  • This was the second song that Travis Meadows and Steve Moakler wrote together following a tune called "Wide Open." Meadows told Moakler that, this time he wanted to pen a tune titled "Survivor." Moakler recounted to The Boot the story of how the pair conceived the song that was to become "Riser."

    "I was like, that's a big title. Destiny's Child pulled it off. How do you write a song with that kind of grand title? He started to mumble all this stuff from his deep well of life; he looked at me and goes, 'What do you think, man?' I said, 'Everything you're doing is amazing. I just don't think I'm the right person to write this song with you. You really are a survivor. You've overcome addiction, cancer, you've been in and out of jail, and you turned your life around. I failed algebra a couple times, but I haven't really survived anything. I think someone else could do a better job with you on this.'

    He got pretty mad, picked up a notepad and threw it across the room. He said, 'Damn it, Moakler! I was saving this for you because you're so dang optimistic. I've been having a bad day for six years, and I need you on this!' So I sat back down, a little frightened, and we wrote that song together. It was really like, he'd say one line, I'd say the next line, he'd say one line, I'd say the next line. It happened really quickly, and I think that's part of what makes the song so powerful - it has that edge of hell, and it also has the light of Heaven and optimism in it, together."

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