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[edited and compiled 13 March 2007 McClure & Trowbridge Publishing Ltd]
KENNY CHESNEY, SONGWRITER - INTERVIEWS
Kenny Chesney fr. ETSU.edu
Kenny Chesney built his career the old-fashioned way: one step, one hit, and one gold record at a time. With his fifth album just released, he has proven that hard work and dedication are the keys to success.
Born in a small town outside of Knoxville, Chesney did not begin having musical aspirations until attending East Tennessee State University. He received a guitar for Christmas one year and began practicing several hours a day. He then joined the bluegrass band at ETSU where he learned to write songs. While writing music and playing in the ETSU Bluegrass Band, Chesney landed a regular job at a Mexican restaurant, as well as playing for other local bars and fraternity parties. It was after a recording session at the Classical Recording Studio in Bristol, Va., that he realized his goal. From that session, he sold a thousand copies of an album filled with songs he had written.
After graduating in December 1990 with a degree in advertising, Chesney decided to try to make it in the music industry. He moved to Nashville and acquired a job singing at a club on Lower Broadway. After several months of garnering experience at the club, Chesney quit to concentrate on songwriting. His songwriting skills have helped open many doors for him, and in 1992 it finally paid off when he signed a publishing deal with Acuff-Rose Music. This songwriter's showcase led to him signing a recording deal with Capricorn Records.
While his 1993 Capricorn debut had little success, he gained the attention of Music Row Executives. When Capricorn closed its country music division, Chesney signed with BNA Records. His first album under the BNA label charted three hit singles and his next two albums gained even more success, producing the No. 1 hit "When I Close My Eyes." Then in 1997, Chesney was awarded top new male vocalist of the year by the Academy of Country Music. Currently, he has recorded a new album, Everywhere We Go, which was released March 2, 1999.
Chesney received the Distinguished Alumnus in Arts award on August 29, 1998, during a concet for ETSU PRIDE Day at the Appalachian Fair in Gray, Tenn.
fr. countrymusic.about.com by Shelly Fabian
"The thing about the islands is that I've been writing songs about what it's like down there, well, almost as long as I've been going down there," concedes the almost bashful superstar. "I just never thought I was writing them for anyone much other than me and some of my friends… You know, the idea that these songs would ever mean anything to anyone other than the people who were living in these moments with me.
"Heck, I wrote the first one ('Sherrie's Living In Paradise') because literally the girl the song is about refused to believe any of us were musicians or songwriters or anything like that. We'd pestered her to death, but I wanted to defend my honor… So I wrote and wrote and it took me about a week, but in that time, I realized that a lot of these people are pretty good stories waiting to be told."
Indeed, all the characters on Be As You Are are real walking, talking people, characters who inhabit Chesney's world beyond the footlights.
And in a lot of ways, the people who helped the burgeoning superstar come to terms with who he was far beyond the name that was on the marquis.
"Like I've said a bunch… I didn't know whether I was chasing something or running to something, but I was definitely chasing and running when I started going down there - and to this day, I'm still not even sure what it was," he admits candidly. "But that's the thing about the Carribbean and the Bahamas, everybody down there's like that, especially in the beginning. The people down there may not even remember why, but they were or are doing the same thing, so you have that in common.
"So for me, running away from a relationship that had blown up, a career that wasn't working the way I wanted it to, I was trying to get away from a whole lot. It was a very painful, pissed off time… When I went down there, though, and met all those people, I just fell in love with them. They were so generous, so giving, so easy - and it was just what I needed."
And so, Kenny Chesney country star was able to make friends with people who didn't much care that he made his living with a guitar. There's Jerome, who's a cook from Ireland, a slew of friends from Maine who fill the tourist-necessary occupations, West Indian fishermen, bums, bartenders, bar owners, marina rats and all kinds of people in between.
"When I first got down there, I found this native guy who was going out on his fishing boat all by himself. I asked where he was heading, and he just said, 'Fishing…' I bought a big bottle of rum, gave him $50 and asked if I could go with him. He said, 'Sure…' and we talked about life and love and the ocean, the fish, when he was little. That was a turning point.
"Every time I'd come back, everyone would say, 'Welcome home…' And it wasn't my home, but emotionally, it became a resting place for me."
Certainly Sherrie - who now lives somewhere in Southern California, the girls he knows who work the season as waitresses who inspired "Boston," his beachcomber/part-time bartender friend who inspired "Island Boy," even the bartender who had the vacation affair that remains etched on the weather "There's Something Sexy About The Rain" are all people that Kenny Chesney calls friend. For him, the people and the island way of living offer acceptance of people as they are most simply.
"Suddenly, I wasn't running anymore. I was peaceful. I was content. Whether it was a couple of West Indian bartenders who know my name, but have no idea about what I do - and we'd sit and talk about life, the tides, how many fish were brought in, the storms, whatever, or the folks who took me in and made me one of their own, it's just easy…
"It's really basic. Deep down, I'm a very basic person. I like places that're simple - and people who can fun just being. They do that in the islands in a way I've never seen anywhere else… I joke that I can lose myself, find myself and in a crazy way, strip down to just being another guy."
There's a tug that comes with island living… something the locals call "toe roots." They often put themselves down during vacations: suddenly someone doesn't want to return to the mainland, and the next thing they know several years have past. "There are NO expectations, no deadlines. You just exhale… and it's so easy. You just let down your guard and watch the days go by.
[c. McTrow Ltd. 13 Mar 07]
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Last Updated 13 Mar 07
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