Dustin Bentall Talks His Songwriting Evolution on 'You Are an Island,' Streams Album on Exclaim.ca

Dustin Bentall Talks His Songwriting Evolution on 'You Are an Island,' Streams Album on Exclaim.ca
Up to this point, Vancouver singer-songwriter Dustin Bentall has been known for making twangy alt-country. But that started to change with last year's Orion EP, produced by Limblifter's Ryan Dahle, who acted on Bentall's wishes to tweak his sound.

The move into more pop-rock territory continues for Bentall on You Are an Island, his third full-length, again produced by Dahle, and featuring his now-steady backing band the Smokes, featuring longtime guitarist Del Cowsill and fiddler Kendel Carson, also of Belle Starr.

You can hear the shift for yourself via a full album stream here, and as Bentall recently told Exclaim!, the move has very much been an intentional one.

"I do like to have control, but I always wanted to have a band that felt like we're all in it together," Bentall says. "So I worked really hard at that, touring as much as possible over the past two years, and getting everyone involved in the creative process."

He adds that his original intention was to have all of the material laid down for You Are an Island and Orion to come out together. However, recording sessions had to be broken up due to touring commitments.

"It was a hard decision to split them up, but there were a few songs on the EP that we were really excited about that we wanted to get out right away. But mostly, You Are an Island has the poppier stuff on it, and I wanted to keep all of that together."

When asked about his conscious move away from alt-country, Bentall says, "It's so hard to define what genre anyone is in, and I was starting not to like some of the tags that were being put on me. Sometimes when people see Kendel playing the fiddle, they expect a certain type of Canadiana thing, but we've been trying to do something different than that. We basically want to show that we can hold our own with a band like Mother Mother, who we just played with, and connect with a younger audience."

Bentall has not completely shed his roots, though, as evidenced by the successful run of shows he's also done lately opening for legendary singer-songwriter John Prine. Bentall admits they have been some of the most magical experiences of his career to date.

"After we all got to know each other a little bit, John would bring Kendel on stage for the encore. They'd do a song, and then I'd come out and he'd hand me his guitar, the '64 Martin D-28 that he wrote all of those incredible songs on and we'd sing 'Paradise' together. I've been a fan of his since I was 12, so that experience was just mind-blowing."

Check out You Are an Island here and see Bentall's tour schedule below.

Tour dates:


6/27 Toronto, ON - Dakota Tavern $

6/28 Barrie, ON - Clarkson Pub

6/29 Peterborough, ON - Peterborough MusicFest

6/30 Wakefield, QC - The Blacksheep Inn

7/3 Charlottetown, PEI - The Factory Cookhouse

7/4 Halifax, NS - The Carleton #

7/5-7 Canso, NS - Stan Rogers Festival

7/11 Calgary, AB - The Palomino

7/12 Edmonton, AB - TBA

7/13 Peace River, AB - Peacefest

7/20 Clinton, BC - Outdoor

8/8 Squamish, BC - Squamish Valley Music Fest

8/9-10 Edmonton, AB - Edmonton Folk Fest

8/17 Christina Lake, BC - Living Arts Centre

$ with Leeroy Stagger
# with Barney Bentall