Dierks Bentley's version of the classic Tom Petty song "American Girl" just dropped. It's part of a larger Tom Petty country tribute album called Petty Country, which is slated to arrive later this year.

Petty Country album promises to be filled with icons and legends. Taste of Country Nights sat down with the "Gold" hitmaker this week to talk about his cover and the full project, as well as Petty's country music legacy.

Don't go to Bentley for any insight on what the rest of the Petty Country album will sound like — he has only heard his contribution — but he jokes that his song must have been the best one, since it's the one they decided to release first.

Taste of Country Nights: What are your first memories of hearing Tom Petty?

Dierks Bentley: You know, I'm old enough where MTV was a real thing. When "Don't Come Around Here No More" came out on MTV, that video, that trippy Alice in Wonderland, the cake, the big giant mushrooms everywhere ... I mean, that had such a big impact on me. It was just like, "Who is this guy? This is like so far out there and the music's so good and the singing is so good and weird."

My second real big exposure to Tom Petty was the Del McCoury Band. They put out an album in 1996 called The Cold Hard Facts, and they did a cover of "Love Is a Long Road." It's the crazy uptempo version of it, killer mandolin solo, and I love that band so much. The fact that they cut that song really made me go back and dig into Petty's stuff, because that was my favorite band.

This song, "American Girl," I've listened to it so many times ... I'm convinced the second verse of this song is some of the best singing in the history of any rock or country band, because his voice ... there's so much angst!

You know, it's just his voice has that kind of brokenness to it to begin with — just the emotion behind his voice is just unparalleled.

Did you ever get to meet Tom Petty?

No, never did. Always a fan. I love the fact that Tom was a country fan. You know, obviously his taste skewed a little more towards traditional country music, which at times, I've been a part of that movement.

I've also been a part of the more commercial stuff, which he probably didn't like as much. But his music is so ... I mean the storytelling, I think it fits in the country landscape pretty well.

A couple of years ago, before he passed away, he was really critical of modern country. When someone who's so influential speaks out like that, does it resonate in the country community?

Yeah, it does. I mean, I really respect his opinion on that. But at the same time, you know, down the road, I won't be making too many comments, I would hope, about what the kids are doing.

Everyone is trying to carve out their own sound. Buck Owens was skewered for being pop. Buck Owens took out a full-page ad in Billboard magazine, saying, "I will always stay country, I'm a country artist," because his songs were on pop radio.

We listen to that now, or we listen to Johnny Cash now and are like, "Oh, he's a traditional country artist." There was nothing traditional about those guys when they first came out. You gotta let a little time go by to see what is and what isn't.

Petty Country Tracklist:

A full tracklist for Petty Country: A Country Music Celebration of Tom Petty will be announced soon.

Evan Paul is the host of Taste of Country Nights, a syndicated radio show heard on more than 130 country radio stations nationwide, every night from 7PM to midnight. He plays the best new country music and interviews today's top stars, like Luke Combs, Morgan Wallen, Kenny Chesney, Miranda Lambert, Dan + Shay, Keith Urban, Carrie Underwood, Luke Bryan, Chris Stapleton, Lady A, + more! 

Top 20 Dierks Bentley Songs

Dierks Bentley's songs have consistently alternated between rowdy party anthems and deeply sensual slow jams. Few artists can pull off both with such proficiency. He's been nothing if not an original since debuting in 2003. Check out some of 20 of his best songs, as ranked by Taste of Country, and see where your favorites land on the list.

Gallery Credit: Jeremy Chua

PICTURES: Look Inside Tom Petty's Spectacular Malibu Beach House

Tom Petty's lavish beach house in Malibu is for sale, and pictures show a luxury getaway that offers stunning views of the ocean.

Gallery Credit: Sterling Whitaker

22 Photos of Toby Keith Young

Toby Keith was one of the most influential artists in country music history, with a career spanning from the mid 1990s all the way until his death in 2024. Let's take a walk back in time and see pictures of Toby Keith young.

Gallery Credit: Evan Paul

More From 98.1 The Hawk