He was raised in the city, but musician Dustin Bentall has found his roots in the small village of Clinton.
The singer-songwriter, who spent his teenage years on a farm off Big Bar Lake Road, decided to settle in the South Cariboo town in 2019 when he and his wife Trixie Berkel were expecting their son Bucky James. Not only were they looking for a home but a place with space enough for them to build a recording studio and leather boot making workshop, two of Bentall’s passions.
They found the perfect spot on Clinton’s main strip and turned it into the Star Dust Trading Post.
“I love it here. I love the climate I like the cold dry winter. I grew up on the coast and I’d rather have a cold frozen winter where the sun shines quite often rather than the grey wet,” Bentall said. “I love the western feel and cowboy culture (of Clinton). That’s always been something I’ve been drawn to since I was a little kid.”
The son of pop-rock singer-songwriter Barney Bentall, of Barney Bentall and the Legendary Hearts, Bentall followed in his father’s footsteps and spent the last 15 years as a touring and recording musician. Most of his time was spent “bouncing around between Vancouver and Toronto” writing and performing music at gigs across the country.
But Clinton was always close to his heart. Bentall, 37, bought his first car in Clinton, a ‘69 Impalla that he drove across the country and back before ending up in a bad accident near Lytton. That accident made him focus on his songwriting full time and take inspiration from the area for his first album Streets with No Lights.
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“Throughout my career touring, I would always kind of long for Clinton and when I would get back to B.C., back to Vancouver, I’d always want to get up here as fast as possible if I had the downtime,” Bentall said. “I’d hop in the car, drive up here and feel the magic of this area.”
His family’s new space is “amazing and full of character,” Bentall said. The building is known to locals as the old Parkies, or in more recent years, As the Crow Flies. His leatherwork business is downstairs, along with his own small recording studio for his musical ventures.
Leatherworking began as a creative outlet for Bentall while he was on tour. He then started studying bootmaking in Toronto and fell in love with the process. He has since gained the skills and machinery needed to start his own shop, making boots, leather accessories and gloves.
Bentall said his son, and the pandemic, has helped to keep him even more firmly rooted and inspired to make music and develop his leatherwork business. Bucky was only two months old when the whole world locked down, which in a way was beautiful as it forced him to stay home more than he used to and spend quality time with his son.
It has, however, forced him to figure out what to do now that he can’t perform his music live for the foreseeable future. Before the pandemic hit, Bentall and his friends in the band Hunting were preparing to do a series of shows in Calgary, Toronto and Vancouver and take part in the upcoming festival season. That’s now on pause, but Bentall hopes to return to live shows when they are once again allowed. He’s also eager to perform live in and around Clinton this summer, once the new guidelines are announced.
In the meantime, he’s been able to get back to playing music once a night and begin the process of gathering new songs for an album. Bentall said that he and his wife have been learning and singing old country songs around the house, much to Bucky’s delight.
Musically, Bentall said he takes inspiration from a wide variety of sources from classic country music, rock, indie and the lyrical energy of hip hop music. He finds it difficult to limit his music to one genre and instead focuses on one thread that binds them all together.
“I like to think that it’s honesty and that my songwriting comes from a special meaningful place,” Bentall said. “I want my songs to come from real-life experiences and relationships with people I meet along the way.”