DIARY - 20 MAY 2013 - KENNY CHESNEY FEATURE
- BOOTS OFF ON THE ROCK
say we're the land of misfit toys/ an insane mix of girls and boys/ nothing
really changes, like a stretch of sand time forgot/ that's just living,
that's just living." - Life On A Rock - Kenny Chesney.
superstar Kenny Chesney kicks back and writes songs on beaches he's unlikely
to be wearing the boots given to him by former President George Dubya
Bush when Kenny serenaded John Howard at the White House.
That was May 16, 2006 - the same night the Texan served barramundi to
his Australian Prime Minister VIP guest.
Chesney's black eel skin boots, replete with black calf top and black
eel in-lays and also sporting twin U.S-Australian flags, were designed
and made by Houston boot-maker Rocky Carroll.
Although expat Australasian superstar Keith Urban and thespian spouse
Nicole Kidman also dined with the President that night they did not perform.
Maybe Chesney, 46, and repeatedly borrowing writing themes from four time
Australian tourist and singing sailor Jimmy Buffett, could wear them when
he belatedly tours Australia next year.
Chesney has perfected his Gulf & Western sound on his 15th album
Life On A Rock as he joins Buffett's Coral Reefer band guitarist-recent
touring partner Mac McAnally for one new tune Must Be Something I Missed.
It's a wry examination of need with the couplet: "I wake up in the
morning just making a fist / I don't call it living, I just exist."
It's a flavour Chesney injected more than a decade ago on No Shoes,
No Shirt, No Problems in 2002 with similar success later shared by
recent Georgian tourist and fellow Grammy winner Zac Brown.
Album titles reflecting his seaworthy sound include When the Sun Goes
Down, Be as You Are (Songs from an Old Blue Chair), The Road and the
Radio, Just Who I Am: Poets & Pirates, Lucky Old Sun, Hemingway's
Whiskey and Welcome to the Fishbowl.
Chesney owns a 60 Sea Ray yacht and has a home in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
He spends time in the Caribbean where he wed actress Renée Zellweger
in a ceremony on the island of St. John on May 9, 2005.
They met in January at a tsunami relief event but on September 15 the
same year, after only four months of marriage it sank in an annulment.
Despite that personal trauma Chesney boomeranged to success and shares
a pro-active passion for sport with Australians.
He produced and narrated biographical film, The Color Orange, on
favorite football player - University of Tennessee quarterback and Canadian
Football League hall-of-fame Condredge Holloway.
The film was produced for ESPN's Year of the Quarterback series
and premiered on February 20, 2011.
His charity work includes working with the V Foundation, founded by North
Carolina State Wolfpack basketball coach Jim Valvano, to help to find
a cure for cancer.
Chesney is a regular performer at Farm Aid - founded by duet partner Willie
Nelson, Neil Young and John Mellencamp - to keep family farms from foreclosure.
Chesney performed at Farm Aid in 2005, 2008, 2010 and 2012 and donates
his talent, time and travel expenses.
I come from a little bitty, homegrown small town/ Smoky Mountains, nice
play to hang around / moonshine, that's where they make it/ pit it in
a jug, makes you wanna get naked." - Pirate Flag - Ross Copperman-David
examine the sweet solace Chesney found in his musical paradise since that
ruptured romance was exorcised long ago on other albums.
wrote or co-wrote eight of the 10 songs here including reflective
It's That Time of Day - direct descendant of Buffett-Alan Jackson
hit It's 5 0'clock Somewhere.
This time he kicks off with latest hit Pirate Flag, penned
by Russ Copperman and David Lee Murphy whose fourth Australian tour
included CMC Rocks The Hunter festival in March.
The tune, whose embryo was in the moonshining mountains of Chesney's
native east Tennessee, is a joyous journey to a beach where the recipient
of the note in a bottle is, of course, a "long legged model"
that the character woos on a sail boat with a pirate flag.
A far more
idyllic locale and tale than perhaps where bloodthirsty ransom seeking
21st century pirates operate off the African coast.
"It's one of the two songs on the record that I didn't write, but
I could've," Chesney revealed recently.
"It was almost like Ross Copperman and David Lee Murphy wrote that
song specifically for me because it does tell my journey in a lot of ways.
I think we all have this idea that we're overwhelmed. Life has its way
of throwing some worry and stress and anxiety and it can be a mundane
existence. You got your teachers, you got your boss, you got your lovers,
you got this, that. And I think people raise their pirate flag in a lot
of different ways. Me, mine is just basically on a boat. Other people
may go to the golf course, or they may go to NASCAR or whatever, but they
still have that one thing that they lean on to get them away from all
that. And that's the whole idea behind Pirate Flag."
Chesney delves deeply into the lives and loves of the characters he meets
in his travels.
"It's even more personal, I think, than the Be As You Are
record," Chesney explained of the 2005 album also known as Songs
From A Blue Chair.
"The stories are more colourful, the characters are a little more
colourful. The first song I wrote on Life on a Rock, I wrote in
2006, and I wrote the last one at the end of last year.
So this record was made over time and, in a way, that's unlike how we're
conditioned to make records. Like, a lot of times we go, "OK, it's
18 months after the last one, so now we're gonna put out a new record."
This record wasn't made like that. For a lot of the songs, I literally
pulled a legal pad out of my backpack and wrote down just stories, trying
to paint a picture. I wrote a lot of these songs without music, without
a timeline, without a deadline, without expectations, with just the idea
of trying to be a storyteller. Just simple songs and simple reflections
about my life, my friends' lives, their stories and all these great characters.
For that reason, Life on a Rock is very personal."
Writing for a deadline is something Chesney has juggled since his 1994
debut disc In My Wildest Dreams was released on Capricorn Records
but stalled after the label closed its country division.
It was déjà vu all over again in June, 2012, when his long
time label BNA Records closed - Chesney was transferred to Columbia Nashville.
"I didn't ever know that this was gonna be a record at all,"
"I thought the only people that were gonna hear these songs were
the people I wrote them about. We'd all sit around going, "Ha, isn't
that funny." But, the more I thought about it, the more I realized
that even though they are really personal songs, they're still universal
emotionally. And I feel like I've gotten better at being truthful with
the people that have invested a lot of their life into my life and into
my music and letting them see inside this a little bit."
- A BLOKE NOT A BELLE
plays piano at the church when nobody's watching/ takes cigarettes from
strangers and sometimes/ you see him talking to himself, laughing to himself/
Lindy strolls around and around." - Lindy - Kenny Chesney.
Like a good
journalist, Chesney studies his subjects from a safe distance, before
he tackles them.
Lindy is an acoustic shuffle that embroiders a thumbnail portrait of its
homeless character who strolls around town "picking up pennies."
"Yeah, Lindy was a unique individual," Chesney recalled.
was a person that I never had a conversation with, and I don't know
that many people that did. He was just a person on the island. Just
one of the brushstrokes that could give a place heart and charm.
And he was an example of really look into his eyes and look past a
dirty shirt, and you can find a really good person. One night I was
walking past this church on my way home, and I heard somebody in there
I walked up the steps, and there was Lindy.
I was there for a couple of minutes and realized, as different as
our life is, here was a person alone with his thoughts and his music.
And I realized that Lindy and I had a lot more in common that I could've
ever imagined. And I went home that night and pulled out my notepad
and sat on the porch and started writing the song Lindy. That was
in 2006, and that's where this album, Life on a Rock, was born."
character is depicted graphically in song - "Lindy's seen it all,
storms and hurricanes/ Some say he's insane/ No one knows his last name/
But I believe he's the salt of the earth/ Just look past his dirty shirt
and you will see just what he's worth."
The title track was equally realistic.
"We all live life on a big rock, right?," Chesney says.
"But for me, this song describes a lot of things I've gotten used
to, the way I've gotten used to living since 1998, 1997, something like
that. It was interesting for me to learn that people live that kind of
lifestyle. I think it takes a unique individual to live there all the
time. That's why I was drawn to those people so much because they live
the kind of life I craved so much, because I was a 180 away from that.
I think if you can do that it adds years to your life, there's no doubt
up high in a coconut tree/ laying low, just my baby and me/ sunny skies
as a far as I can see/ high up in a coconut tree." - Coconut Tree
- Casey Beathard-Michael White-Monty Criswell.
didn't write Coconut Tree - the song he performs as a duet
with octogenarian Farm Aid altruist, Shotgun Willie Nelson.
Willie was born at Abbott in the shadows of the recent fertilizer
plant explosion at West but he spends enough time in his movie town
Luck and Hawaii holiday home to soak beachside bliss of the theme.
"You know, my life on the road - and sometimes my life off the
road - can be insanely complicated," says Chesney.
just busy. I've got a lot going. Coconut Tree is a very simple
song and a very simple lyric, but it kind of exemplifies how I'd like
to look through a certain window of the world.
And Willie inspires all of us in a lot of ways. The simplicity of Willie
is what really inspires me. I had the opportunity to spend some time with
him out in Hawaii this past December, and we sat around a poker table
for a couple of hours and just listened to music and laughed, told jokes.
I heard this song, and it almost defines that day. The idea of the world
being as simple as just climbing up a coconut tree and having fun."
Equally accessible is Marley - not about late Rastafarian reggae
But Chesney utilizes talents of Marley's surviving Wailers including Jewish
singer Elan Atias on gospel-reggae hybrid Spread The Love.
Responsibility is the key message of Marley.
"I mean, anytime you're responsible for a lot of people, there's
a certain knife of responsibility that comes along with that, and you
feel that. I try not to think about that too much," Chesney revealed.
"But along with that knife of responsibility, I do feel like this
song is more about the contrast of my life and how hard that I do work
but also in how much I appreciate the fact that I have music in my life
and that I can share it with so many people. The fact that how hard we
work makes so many people smile and happy. But this song basically describes
where I go in my heart and in my head and how I try to get away from all
that where I'm away from all the sounds from being on the road and the
knife of responsibility, or I can literally sit and listen to music and
be still. I'm telling you, when you're planning constantly and you're
working and everything that you do associated with your work is ahead,
you're constantly planning in our business. It's really hard to live in
the moment when you're constantly looking forward. It's hard to sleep
at night. So, that's where the idea of Marley came from."
FOR VIRGIN ISLANDS GIRL
time can be our healer/ maybe time can be a friend/ still I'm a strong
believer/ someday we'll see you again/ where the sun is on our faces and
the wind is at our back/ sailing south to favourite places where the water's
calm and flat." - Happy On the Hey Now (Song For Kristi.) - Kenny
dance halls and honkytonks often fertilize chart chaff but some are more
specific like the source of When I See This Bar.
"There is, and I think we all have that place," Chesney says
of his song source.
"You had your group of friends, you fell in love at that place, you
fell out of love at that place, you met a lot of really interesting people
and, over time, you don't realize that it's becoming a really important
spot in your life. And then life has a way of taking each one of you and
moving you along, and you don't really notice at the time, but all of
a sudden, you're just not there anymore. And that's the root of this song.
I think when we see that bar or we see that place, we don't see four walls.
We see the laughter, we see the faces, we hear the music. I had this bar
that I had my first beer in college at and I had my last beer in college
at with the same group of friends. And every time I go to that town and
every time I drive past it, I think about those people."
Chesney finishes his album with another powerful paean.
"Well, Kristi was a part of a really special, wonderful circle of
friends that I had met in the Virgin Islands years ago," Chesney
"In a lot of ways, she defined that circle of friends. She defined
living in the moment. She wanted everybody to be happy. When someone like
that passes, when they die young, I don't care who you are or what you
do, it stops you in your tracks. It did me. I mean, it changed me. It
changed the way I write songs. And things I used to get mad at, I don't
get mad at that much anymore. I think it changed the way I look at my
relationships. If you've got somebody in your life that you love, you
better tell 'em, you know? So this song is a simple reflection of her
friendship and how much she meant to people and how big of an impact she
made on my life. She never knew, but this song was a simple thank you
Chesney confessed writing is a trusty tool for chronicling eras in his
life with therapeutic bonuses.
"I think that it's really easy to let those life moments that inspire
you evaporate into thin air, and you never revisit them again," says
"I was able, over time, to actually catch some of those moments and
write about them."
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