Dustin Bentall belongs in a different era, by all accounts.
He croons about classic cars and country roads in a pair of shoes Bentall made with his calloused hands.
In fact, on any given day this urban cowboy is sporting something he fashioned out of leather.
There were some growing pains as Bentall walked his own sartorial path at Sutherland Secondary in the late 1990s.
“High school was definitely, stylistically, a confused time for myself, as it is for probably for almost everyone,” says Bentall, adding some peers thought his sense of style was weird.
“But I’m definitely more confident with it these days.”
The News caught up with Bentall last week while he was kicking back at his family’s ranch in the B.C. Interior, near 70 Mile House. He’s found his shoe-making tools and is in his element.
“It’s just a place to decompress and have some space. It’s very remote, kind of out in the middle of nowhere,” explains Bentall, the son of Canadian pop/rock singer-songwriter Barney Bentall.
The family ranch is where Bentall was first exposed to the versatility of leather.
Seeing saddles and horse tack made from the durable material had an influence on Bentall’s desire to create leather accessories.
Naturally the first thing Bentall, who followed in his father’s musical footsteps, created was a guitar strap.
Then he started kicking around the idea of experimenting more with the rustic looking material.
In 2013, Bentall was at the end of an album cycle and decided with a friend to go full hog and dive right into making a leather line.
“We both started from scratch which made it really interesting because we were able develop our own style because of trial and error and just teaching ourselves,” says Bentall, who leans towards clean lines in his designs.
These days Bentall has gone out on his own, establishing a new brand, aptly named Dust Leather, an abbreviation of his first name.
“There’s sort of an evocative sound to it,” he explains, describing an image of dust on a pair of leather boots.
There is no sewing machine to serve as the workhorse in Bentall’s home studio overlooking the ocean on Bowen Island, where he lives these days.
Every leather bag, belt and wallet in his collection is hand-stitched by him. The high-quality leather he uses couldn’t even be punctured by a sewing machine.
Making his own shoes from scratch has proven to be an inspiring experience for Bentall.
“I draw up a pattern just for the pair of shoes that I’m making at the time, nothing has been scaled or anything,” says Bentall.
In today’s throwaway culture, Bentall says he takes great pride in making stuff with his hands that he knows will last a lifetime and look better as they age.
“You visualize something and maybe you draw it down on paper and then you create it in your mind and then you hold that thing in your hands – there’s a very great level of satisfaction,” says Bentall.
He sources his leather from a couple places in the Lower Mainland, including Lonsdale Leather in Vancouver.
The accidental cobbler explains how you have to go into the shop and sift through the different hides to find the right one for the project.
If he wants a softer feel, Bentall goes for the chromexcel leather, which undergoes at least 89 separate processes.
However, if he needs something more durable and longer lasting, it’s the vegetable tanned leather that does the trick. But that type of leather does take a lot longer to break in.
“With certain products you get more of a payoff with that because it takes a long time to get the patina, other things you want it to be soft and supple to begin with,” explains Bentall.
Working with his hands is a trait Bentall inherited from his grandfather, who Bentall says was an inspiration to him and his brother.
“When we were kids he would always bring over a broken toaster or something and take us down to the shop and be like, ‘This doesn’t work right now but I know we can fix it and I’ll show you how.’”
Bentall does have a dream leather project in the pipeline.
“Yes, yes!” he says, enthusiastically. “A leather jacket. I’ve been thinking about it, which means eventually I will do it.”
Bentall only sells his products online, at dustleather.com, to keep life simple for the bustling musician.
Last fall he was on the road with his dad's Grand Ol’ Opry-like touring road show, the Cariboo Express, while launching Dust Leather between gigs.
Dustin made a special pair of shoes for his dad, which he is proudly wearing while on tour at the moment.
The younger Bentall has made his mark on the local alternative folk music scene ever since the release of his debut album, Streets With No Lights.
He’s currently in the process of finishing a new album and releasing a poignant song this spring. Bentall started penning “Not Been Sleeping” after his grandpa passed away.
“So there’s definitely some weight to it,” he says.
A few years have gone by since Bentall first put pen to paper, with the song evolving and gathering new meaning for him over time.
The video was shot on a train travelling through the Rockies this winter.
“I’m really excited to push it from the nest and let it into the world because it’s a special song and it means a lot to me,” says Bentall.