Dierks Bentley Wanted His 'Only the Brave' Ballad to Focus on "Holding the Light" Amid "Unimaginable Grief"

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His track "Hold the Light" is featured in the movie based on the true story of 19 firefighters who perished in Arizona's Yarnell Hill Fire in 2013.

When Dierks Bentley was writing "Hold the Light," the bittersweet ballad he also performs in Only the Brave, Sony's film based on the true story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, his thoughts were focused on the families of the 19 firefighters who perished in Arizona's Yarnell Hill Fire.

"I thought, 'If they hear this song, how are they going to feel?' " he says. "My greatest dream would be that somehow they found some tiny measure of inspiration or hope in it."

It's an event the country singer cares about deeply: Shortly after the 2013 tragedy, the Arizona native organized a benefit show, with all proceeds going to the United Phoenix Firefighters Charities. So when the film's director, Joe Kosinski, contacted Bentley about participating, he was all in: "Whether it's writing a song or just bringing me to the red carpet [to] open doors for people, I just wanted to be involved."

The film's composer, Joe Trapanese, and Bon Iver's S. Carey, who sings on the track with Bentley, had started on the song before they brought in Bentley. To prepare for his contribution (he co-wrote with Jon Randall), Bentley hiked around Yarnell and read writings from the Hotshots' superintendent, Eric Marsh, who died in the blaze. The song plays at the film's end as photos of the real Granite Mountain Hotshots appear onscreen. "These families went through the ultimate dark time. Just unimaginable grief and darkness. The song celebrates the idea of holding the light and light being a symbol for hope."

This story first appeared in a November stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

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