Kenny Chesney


Kenny Chesney was born March 26, 1968, in Knoxville, Tenn., and raised in nearby Luttrell. He attended college at East Tennessee State in Johnson City and became a fixture in the area's venues, including Chuckie's Trading Post and Quarterback's
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Barbecue. "The scene up there then was mostly blues, rock and folk," he recalls. "I was about the only one doing George Jones and Hank Jr. I got to where I had a pretty good following."

An awakening of sorts came when he went into the Classic Recording Studio in Bristol, Va. Backed by several musicians he knew from college (who are now the core of Alison Krauss' band), he recorded an album's worth of songs he'd written. When he pressed up a thousand copies, sold them all at his shows and made enough to buy a new Martin guitar, he realized he was onto something. A month after graduating from college with a degree in advertising, he headed down I-40 west to Nashville in early 1991.

The going was slow the first couple of years. He made the rounds of the publishing companies without much success. He went to see the only person he knew in the business, producer Kyle Lehning, who told him, "You've definitely got something, but it ain't there yet." The only steady gig he could find playing music was in a down and dirty honky-tonk called the Turf. This was on Nashville's storied Lower Broadway before the area was gentrified. In 1992, the head of publisher/writer relations at BMI set up an audition with Opryland Music Group. Chesney came out of the audition with a songwriter's contract.

A year or so later, an appearance at a songwriter's showcase led to a contract with Capricorn Records, which had recently started a country division. He'd had only a couple of modest chart singles when the label closed its Nashville office. But one of his 1994 singles, a song he wrote called "The Tin Man," stirred considerable interest up and down the Row, despite making it only to No. 70 on Billboard's country singles chart.

RCA's Joe Galante put in a call and not only offered Chesney a contract but also to buy the masters of his Capricorn album. Galante signed Chesney to RCA's affiliated label, BNA Records. His Capricorn album sold only about 100,000 units, but All I Need to Know (1995), his debut BNA disc, more than tripled that figure. Me and You (1996) was certified gold, I Will Stand (1997) was certified platinum and Everywhere We Go (1999) was certified double platinum.

Chesney also made headlines in 2000, when he hopped on a police officer's horse at a fair in New York state. Chesney said he had permission, but when the officer tried to pull him off, touring pal Tim McGraw blocked the policeman's efforts. Both men were acquitted for their alleged crimes -- Chesney for disorderly conduct, McGraw for obstructing governmental administration and resisting arrest. The publicity was priceless, as Chesney found himself with his highest media exposure to date.

His Greatest Hits (2001) reminded listeners of Chesney's consistent track record at country radio, selling more than 3 million copies. No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems (2002) catapulted him into the big leagues and played up his fascination with the islands. "The Good Stuff" and "Young" were massive country hits, and he continues to sell out arenas across the country. Along with a hugely successful tour in 2003, Chesney headlined a concert at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, filmed a behind-the-scenes DVD, and released the holiday album All I Want for Christmas is a Real Good Tan.

At the end of 2003, he rested atop the Billboard country singles chart with the hit "There Goes My Life," months before his latest studio album was released. In 2004, that album When the Sun Goes Down won a CMA Award, and Chesney captured the CMA entertainer of the year trophy. He offered Be As You Are: Songs From an Old Blue Chair, an introspective singer-songwriter album inspired by his love for the islands, in early 2005.


He Says

"I grew up in a very small town, went to a small elementary, then high school - and got to play football as a starter. I skinny dipped and fished in a lake, had my heart broken by my high school girlfriend. I`ve lived like a lot of guys listening to my music live? And I think that`s why people buy my records, because they can relate to the guy singing those songs: They feel like the songs are about their lives, because they`re about my life - and I`m not all that different from them, even now."

Kenny Chesney, the pride of Luttrell, Tennessee, is actually quite a bit different. With back-to-back double platinum records for Everywhere We Go and Greatest Hits, multiple week chart-toppers and career definers with "I Lost It," "How Forever Feels," "Don`t Happen Twice," "She Thinks My Tractor`s Sexy" and "Fall In Love," the launch of his first true major headlining tour, he`s the Everyguy who proves that dreams can come true.

No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems finds Kenny Chesney again holding a mirror up to himself -- and all the folks back where he comes from. If the 12 songs contained herein are a little older, a little wiser, a little more aware, they still capture the unbridled joy being young, life lived for the pure feeling of it and the unburnished emotions of people who prefer to experience rather than analyze what`s happening to them.

From the opening notes of "Young," a song that celebrates the thrill of all the things you can do before you know what you can`t -- tempered by the acceptance that comes with the wisdom of being grown, No Shoes is a record that looks at the phases of youth coming into their own. Whether it`s the haunted yearning of the Conway-esque "I Remember," the tortured understanding of Bruce Springsteen`s conflict of faithlessness and jagged hearts "One Step Up," the make-it-happen-in-spite-of-those-who-say-you-can`t feel-good anthem "Big Star" or the tropicali attitude adjustment that informs the title track, Chesney understands the phases and stages of growing up, the thrill of football and falling in love, the pain of loss and regrets.

"I think I was strong enough to put more of myself in these songs. . . because it`s scary to put yourself out there like this," the man deemed "Country`s Hottest Bachelor" by Country Weekly confesses. "To show people your doubts, your hurts, and even your mistakes, to be willing to show people that part of yourself, the part that`s so human and raw and aching - well, it`s the hardest thing about this.

"But if you truly have the audience I believe I do, then you owe them that. After all, I can`t imagine giving them less than the truth -- and since the last album, I lived a lot of life and learned a lot of lessons. It`s all here, if you listen."

Certainly "A Lot of Things Different" does that. Written by Bill Anderson and Dean Dillon, the half-spoken, half-sung meditation on passing up opportunities in the moment that might define one`s life, "A Lot of Things Different" is a plea to live every chance, savor every sensation and to experience the richness of the journey so that one can embrace the fullness of it all.

"Regrets are the one thing I believe most people live with in one way or another," Chesney allows. "Everybody lives with it, because we all have times in our life when we didn`t take the extra step, didn`t go out on that limb -- whether it was asking that one girl out or standing up for something we believed in. Whatever it is? so, you wonder what if? And you wonder what it would have felt like.

"To me, we should live our lives to experience it all, to seek happiness, to be the things we believe in. But it`s scary, that sense of getting hurt? so what did we pass up? And that is the real tragedy, far worse than the longing for what wasn`t. It`s what drew me to `A Lot of Things Different` from the first line.

"You know, `I`d`ve spent a lot more time in the pouring rain without an umbrella, covering my head?` is almost like what it feels like to be chasing your dreams. Being out on the road sometimes, you feel like an astronaut, rolling in your own little world, going to another town -- totally disconnected from anything resembling a normal life. You hit that stage, though, and you see those people, hear them connecting with your life, seeing their lives in these songs -- and you remember why.

"Being disconnected isn?t painful. You give some things up. But look at what you gain: kinda like being out in the rain, without an umbrella. It`s not bad, really, and if you feel it for what it is, it`s actually pretty nice."

Not that everything Kenny Chesney does is seriousness on top of contemplation. As he`s the first to admit, "Not every song has to change the world. I love serious songs, but people need a release, something that makes you smile and laugh and forget about it. Those songs are important, too, especially for people trying to make it all make sense.

"So if it moves you in the heart, or the soul, or the hips, then we`re connecting somehow, somewhere that works. And you know, it`s always been so."

With "Young" Chesney has found a way to merge content with that infectious feel good beat. And the merger of groove and bigger reality also informs "Never Gonna Feel Like That Again," a breezy song about phases in a young man`s life -- from playing football as a kid, to falling in love and making love for the first time, to having to face the consequences of two kids in lust in a way where ultimately each transition leaves the singer richer for the passage.

There`s even "Live Those Songs Again," a song capturing an aging hippie, who finds his life`s definition -- albeit a life that was much less than he`d imagined post-Vietnam, post-Summer of Love, post-burn out -- in the music that he loved. Riding a wave of glimpses of Creedence and Buddy Holly and the Haight Ashbury scene, he can still go back to a time when shooting out the lights was all that mattered and escape the drudgery life can sometimes become.

Kenny Chesney knows about music`s power of personal delivery. Arriving in Nashville as the Garth/Clint/Vince/Alan wave was breaking, he knew he wanted to sing. He also recognized that he didn`t have any of the distinguishing elements that set those artists apart. But he burned with his dream -- and as the world`s smallest, slowest starting receiver ("It was a tiny school," he laughs), hard work and staying at something you want wasn`t an alien concept.

"I made up my mind I was going to figure out how to make my living playing music," says the veteran of Chucky?s in Johnson City where he played 5 nights a week for tips while attending East Tennessee State University. "Having done that, I figured I could scrape out a gig somewhere in Nashville, anything playing music was fine."

When Chesney said anything, he literally found one of the most meager homes there was: the Turf. A time-battered honky tonk on the worst part of Nashville`s once vibrant Lower Broad. If it was once a Ryman overflow haunt, the Turf`s times had grown rough -- mixing tourists with drunks, dreamers that never made it, working girls and the faded refugees that wanted their country music real in the truest sense of the word.

Kenny Chesney fit right in. A kid from a small town in East Tennessee who loved Conway and Waylon, George Jones and Lefty Frizzell, Willie Nelson and George Strait and Merle Haggard, Vern Gosdin and John Conley and whatever else hardcore country fans wanted to hear.

"I played 5 or 6 nights a week if I could get it, 4 hours minimum for five dollars an hour and tips," Chesney remembers. "When you`re making music in Music City, it?s all okay. I had a bad little tape someone helped me put together. Clay Bradley, who was at BMI at the time, helped me eventually get a publishing deal at Acuff Rose and that kind of lead to my Capricorn deal.

"It was one of those things where, looking back, it?s hard to believe you didn`t get discouraged or doubt, but in the moment, it all felt like it was happening, because you didn`t know what happening really was. It?s funny? I played the Gaylord Center (Nashville`s arena) on New Year`s Eve and there were almost 12,000 people. The Gaylord Center isn`t 100 yards from where the Turf used to stand before a tornado blew it away.

"I was onstage, looking at those people -- and it was like all of a sudden, I remembered having that New Year`s Eve gig at the Turf eight years ago. It was like maybe 10 people, but it was such a big deal to be working THAT night in Nashville? and in that moment, I just got lost because it was all a blur, every last bit of it. And you know? I`m not sure that the thrill -- even though the sound and the crowd`s energy was much bigger -- was all that different."

This is a confession not from a man who doesn`t appreciate where he is, but someone who`s never lost touch with his core. Over the four years since Everywhere established the quick-to-laugh, never-one-to-shy-away-from-what-needs-to-be-done young man as a force to be reckoned with, he`s still finding his fans are as much a mirror of who he is as he is who they are.

"To me, everybody talks about what?s country? Well, I think first and foremost, it`s about being true, singing about people really live their lives. And it can be some dumb little moment that maybe doesn`t seem like much, but is probably one of the moments that defines your life.

"I still am a fan -- and I know what mattered to me," he continues softly but pointedly. "I used to be that guy out front in the baseball cap, and I drove to see Keith Whitley at an (W)IVK listener appreciation show by myself to hear him sing `Don`t Close Your Eyes` and `Miami, My Amy.` And you know? I still will, still do -- because music is how we connect.

"Talking to people, especially about the stuff that matters, can be hard. When you sing or listen to a song, it just opens up doors. Whether it`s something like `I Can`t Go There,` which is about not being able to go places you love because the memories of what you lost are too strong, or `Young,` which is remembering how much fun being young is, or `How Forever Feels,` which is just the thrill of falling in love, it`s very real in a very basic way.

"I think people realize that. I`m not so different from them, they hear it in the songs -- and I`m like their buddy. You know, it`s not a bad way to make friends."

For Kenny Chesney, of the nearly 8 million albums sold, the soon-to-be arena-sized headliner, the inevitable chart-climber, that`s all cake. For him, it`s about the guy in the baseball hat and the girl that guy thinks is pretty. Real life the double platinum boy, who finds his solace in the ocean, realizes doesn`t always show up with the gilded edges and profound pronouncements -- you gotta find the truth as it rolls by with tan lines, an easy smile and a twinkle in its eye. And you know, so far, that`s worked just fine.

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