First, Kane Brown made his acting debut on Fire Country, CBS’ red-hot new drama series about an ex-convict who seeks redemption by becoming a firefighter. Now, Dierks Bentley and Miranda Lambert are joining the show.
Unlike Brown, who appeared on camera, Bentley and Lambert will be seen but not heard. The pair have collaborated on three new songs, two of which — the atmospheric, moody “Saved” and the smoldering, romantic “Still Burning” — will appear in the May 12 episode; while the questioning, haunting “Something in the Water” will appear in the May 19 season finale. Additionally, Bentley co-wrote and sings the cautionary “Barbed Wire Heart” that will also air in the finale.
Hear an exclusive preview of “Saved” below.
CBS executive vp Jack Sussman approached Bentley and Lambert separately, and after watching the pilot, Bentley was in. “I loved the vibe of it,” Bentley tells Billboard. “I have developed relationships with a lot of folks in the firefighter community after the  Yarnell Fire in Prescott [Ariz.], and meeting those families shortly after that tragedy occurred, I’ve got a lot of respect for wilderness and structural firefighters and their families and what they go through. So any show or movie that really sheds light on that lifestyle and the sacrifices that community makes, I’m all about supporting.”
As fans will remember, Bentley also wrote and performed the song “Hold the Line” for the 2017 biographical firefighting drama film Only the Brave.
Max Thieriot, the show’s creator and executive producer, who also stars as Bode Donovan, says the initial idea came after he and Sussman were talking about how well country music syncs from artists including Chris Stapleton, Morgan Wade and Warren Zeiders played in the Fire Country pilot.
Sussman asked Thieriot to call him and told him he’d reached out to Lambert and Bentley and he hadn’t heard back, but that was because “Dierks and Miranda reached out to each other first and they wanted to work on this together!” Thieriot explains via email. “Being a huge fan of both, I was blown away and sooooo excited! We then met, talked about music, the show, but mostly just BS’d about life. And now, here we are!”
Bentley, whose song “Gold” stands at No. 2 on Billboard’s Country Airplay chart this week, loved the chance to work again with Lambert, whom he’s been friends with for almost 20 years. “We did a FaceTime call with Max and we’re like, ‘Yeah, we know some people that could make this happen and make it happen pretty quickly.’”
Bentley and Lambert called in two of their longtime and favorite songwriting collaborators Luke Dick and Jon Randall, and the quartet collaborated in varying degrees on the four songs. “I’m not even sure who wrote what,” Bentley says. “It’s been a collaborative process from the very beginning for the four of us. The four of us have an intertwined relationship that’s so special.”
They saw no episode other than the pilot and talked to Thieriot about his direction for the songs, but Bentley says that was enough. “You could just see how this is like wilderness firefighting meets a little bit of Yellowstone with a redemption story tucked into it,” he says. “We weren’t writing for a specific scene; we were writing for an overall general theme that I think resonated with [Max] and the show.”
Thieriot says the pair didn’t need much direction. “Miranda and Dierks are incredible artists and knowing how excited they were, I just wanted them to make it their own,” he says. “Their songs are so special and they truly pour their hearts into them. We didn’t really have an exact number of songs planned. I think we were all just excited about what we were doing creatively, so we didn’t stop at one or two.”
On “Saved” and “Something in the Water,” Bentley sings lead while Lambert provides ethereal backing vocals. Lambert takes the lead on “Still Burning.”
“We were like, ‘If Fire Country doesn’t use these songs, I’m definitely holding them for our next album,’ because the songs turned out so cool and vibey and different,” Bentley says.
The songs will be exclusive to the episodes they air in with no plans to put them on streaming services or for either artist to put them on a future album. “It’s just a gift to the universe, I guess,” Bentley says. “We had fun making them and Luke and [Jon] will make a little money off of it, which is great. It wasn’t like Miranda and I [went], ‘Oh gosh, this is a chance to make a lot of money.’ It’s just like, no, this is a way to get together and hang out and call it work.”
However, the more he thinks about it, Bentley conjectures, “If Miranda and I were ever to make an album together, which should be a great thing to do, then these would definitely be included,” he says. “Maybe we should make a record and go tour together. That’d be a lot of fun.”
As far as writing more for TV or film, Bentley says he’s open to all possibilities: “I’d like to do more of anything that’s just collaborative and fun.”
Thieriot is also looking at ways to bring more country music to the show, given its natural fit. “Our show is set in the country, so it feels country. The show is grounded by nature and the outdoors but we tell a lot of stories that are relatable to a lot of people,” he says. “Being a blue-collar worker, living in a small town where community and family are everything. There is a lot of crossover in tone and storytelling so it always felt like the right fit.”
As for who else is on Thieriot’s wish list, he’s not giving anything away, but does hint, “We have been working on some really cool ideas and different ways of bringing country music and country artists into the show. We will see how that all shakes out, but I’m very excited about the possibilities.”