Capitol NashvilleFor Dierks Bentley, waking up to four Academy of Country Music nods Wednesday was a great way to start the day, since he hadn’t slept particularly well the night before.

“I have a dog that’s 15 years old, George,” Dierks explains, pointing out he adopted George at the same time as his beloved Jake, who passed away in 2016. “He’s got cancer — he’s not doing well — so he gets to be in the bed with us. And I can’t sleep with an animal in my bed…”

“So at five o’clock,” Dierks continues, “I’m like, ‘I’m out!’ And I went and slept in my five-year-old’s bed. And I woke up and saw those nominations, and I’m like, ‘Oh man!’ It was the perfect morning to get that news. So I was very appreciative of it.”

Dierks considers The Mountain‘s Album of the Year nod to be his top honor.

“The album obviously to me is the biggest nomination…” he says. “It’s one of the tangible results you get to physically see from putting… the year-and-a-half that goes into making that.”

The caliber of talent in the Male Artist category — which also includes Keith Urban and Chris Stapleton— isn’t lost on Dierks, either.

Luke Combs is probably gonna be a staple in there now. And Thomas Rhett‘s gonna be in there every year. So it’s harder,” he admits. “There’s less space. There’s only five guys in there. So to be one of those, I think I just appreciate it now more than ever.”

Though he still recalls how important nominations were early in his career, Dierks he says it’s even “sweeter” now: “It’s so much more gratitude… It’s like, wow!”

Dierks is also up for both Music Event and Video for “Burning Man” with Brothers Osborne.

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