Dierks Bentley thinks country music can rock on its own.

He plays electric guitar as loud as anyone, and even covered U2’s “Pride (In the Name of Love)” on one of his albums.

But don’t talk to him about crossing over to the rock or pop charts.

“There is an emerging trend to make country sound like classic rock, but I try to avoid that,” said Bentley, 35, in a phone interview. “I think country can rock on its own without stealing AC/DC riffs. Country rocks with Telecasters and steel guitars.”

Bentley will bring his rockin’ country side — along with a deep fondness for bluegrass — to the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston tonight. Josh Thompson (“Beer on the Table”) opens.

Bentley grew up with an appreciation for country music’s roots. When he was a child in Arizona, his father listened to traditional country artists of the ’80s and ’90s such as George Straight and Randy Travis, as well as country music legend Hank Williams.

Bentley liked that music, but as a young teenager, he was also very fond of the guitar licks and screaming vocals of Van Halen and Billy Idol. He didn’t settle on rockin’ country until he turned 17 and started playing electric guitar.

“I think that’s when I discovered Hank (Williams) Jr., and that music spoke to me. Waylon Jennings, too. Country music with substance,” he said.

Bentley seems to have the substance country music fans crave nowadays. He’s had seven singles go to No. 1 on the country music chart since 2003, including “What Was I Thinkin”‘ and “Sideways.” Five more singles have hit the Top 10.

It wasn’t something that happened overnight. Bentley left Arizona as a teenager and moved to Nashville in 1994 to pursue his musical career. He worked his way up the musical ladder and started releasing recordings on a national scale about a decade later.

One of the things he’s seen change in the time he’s been in Nashville is how most stars make their money.

“It used to be, somebody would sell millions of albums, had hit songs, and they made a lot of money,” said Bentley. “But with iTunes and things like that, it’s a lot harder. Now the only way to make a lot of money is touring. Lucky for me, I love touring.”

As an adult, he’s gained an appreciation for bluegrass and now calls it “the most authentic music.” He has recorded with and toured with Del McCoury’s band, one of the best-known bluegrass outfits working today.

Bentley doesn’t like to be too predictable. So when he plays live, he’ll do some electric stuff, some acoustic stuff and some party songs.

“I don’t like to do the same show every time. That’s not fun for me,” said Bentley. “I want people to come along with me on a roller-coaster ride.”

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at: [email protected]