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Kenny Chesney Opens Up At The GRAMMY Museum

Janet Edbrooke |
April 29, 2011 | 2:02 p.m. PDT


via Wikimedia
via Wikimedia
Amidst an exhibit celebrating hip hop music's urban culture, Kenny Chesney sat down with GRAMMY Museum Executive Director Robert Santelli to discuss his songs based on a small town way of life.

The exclusive event was held in the intimate Clive Davis Theater and included a discussion of Chesney's road to success, how his creative process works, and the details of his recent year off from touring.

Chesney began by speaking of his first musical memories, which were centered around family and church. He mentioned, however, that while music was always a part of his life, it was never in the forefront.

Rather, he was focused on athletics and dreamed of becoming a professional baseball player – as made evident by his constant use of sports analogies throughout the conversation.

Chesney mentioned that he was actually playing a game of pick-up-basketball when he heard “Take It to the Limit” by The Eagles for the first time, citing the song as his first introduction to harmonies and great music in general. That experience inspired him to pursue music further, and he learned to play guitar his junior year of college.

Today, all of Chesney's college roommates are on the road with him for his “Goin' Coastal” tour, just as they have been for the past eighteen years of touring. He spoke of the long way that his self-titled “road family” has come since the first year on tour, during which fourteen band members – including Chesney himself – had to take turns sleeping in the twelve beds on their bus.

That memory prompted him to speak of the way in which artists gain success so quickly today, pointing out that young singers now get a new tour bus for every song they release. “It concerns me a little bit today,” said Chesney, “that the idea of the singer-songwriter isn't that important. I always loved the people who wrote their own music and went out there and performed.”

Among the artists who he admires, Chesney mentioned Willie Nelson, Roger Miller, Jimmy Buffett, Tom Petty, John Cougar Mellencamp and, most importantly, Bruce Springsteen.

Robert Santelli pointed out that during Springsteen's visit to the GRAMMY Museum, the celebrated musician explained the three things necessary for an artist to be successful: the ability to be a great listener, a keen attention to detail, and a commitment to honesty.

Chesney agreed, and went on to explain the most important advice his idol ever gave to him. “Bruce told me that you can write half a song and put it in a drawer. In five years you can pull it out and it will still be there. Life's not like that – you have to live life. You can't put it in a drawer.”

Those are the words of wisdom that led Chesney to take a break last year, something he said he desperately needed. He realized it had been years since he had picked up a guitar just to play, and he never went a day without ringing in his ears.

Said Chesney about his short sabbatical last year, “I was back home in East Tennessee, driving from my grandmother's house to my mom's house, and I finally heard silence. I appreciated it, but it also scared me a little bit to hear that. I want the ringing back!” he added with a laugh, which was received with a loud round of applause from the audience.

Chesney will hear that ringing once again this weekend as he plays for a roaring crowd at the Stagecoach Music Festival in Indio, California.

At the conclusion of the event, guests were given a copy of Chesney's latest CD, Hemingway’s Whiskey, as well as an opportunity to pose for a picture with the star. Event posters were also available for sale, and proceeds joined the revenue from tickets in benefitting youth music education.

Chesney's conversation joins the museum's archive of interviews with over eighty prominent artists, which will be made available to the public this November.


Reach Janet Edbrooke here.



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