Work mixed with play makes Kenny Chesney a hit maker

CorrespondentMay 16, 2013 

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    Who: Kenny Chesney

    When: 7 p.m. Thursday

    Where: Time Warner Cable Music Pavilion at Walnut Creek, 3801 Rock Quarry Road, Raleigh

    Cost: $78 and up

    Details: 919-831-6400

The grass is always greener, particularly on a baseball diamond.

It’s not enough for Kenny Chesney to be the biggest country star on the planet. The diminutive singer dreams of being a baseball player. “I talked to (Phillies pitcher) Roy (Halladay) and I told him that I want to face him in a simulated game action,” Chesney says. “I want him to bear down on me like it’s the seventh game of the World Series. I just want to experience what that feels like.”

A few days before Chesney’s band kicked off its “No Shoes Nation” tour in Tampa two months ago, the younger generation’s Jimmy Buffett wanted to inspire his crew. He called his close pal, “Monday Night Football” analyst Jon Gruden, who won a Super Bowl for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, to fire up his minions.

“It was an opening tour speech done in a way that only Jon Gruden can do it,” Chesney says.

Big is the only way Chesney knows how to play, and perhaps that’s part of the reason he has become so successful.

He can play CEO and laidback dude just as easily. His latest album, “Life On A Rock,” shows a side of the casual character – who relishes happy hour.

“Pirate Flag” is the initial single from an album that is filled with breezy, easy-to-consume anthemic songs that are perfect for the beach. Chesney’s fondness for the Caribbean had an impact on “Rock.”

“The pirate life definitely had an influence on this album,” Chesney says.

“ ‘Pirate Flag’ reminds me of my favorite bar in the Virgin Islands. They ring a bell every day at 3 in the afternoon. At that time there, you let go of everything.”

Chesney, 45, will showcase some songs from “Life On A Rock” at Time Warner Cable Music Pavilion at Walnut Creek, but he’s not going to inundate fans with new material.

“This is a very personal record for me,” Chesney says. “This whole record is about my life and the islands. It’s my stories. It’s a very reflective set of songs.”

It’s an about-face from “Welcome to The Fishbowl,” an album that was released less than a year before “Rock” dropped. Chesney hardly wrote anything for that release, but his fingerprints are all over “Rock.”

The fresh tunes are emotional, direct and catchy. “I think they’re also the rawest and edgiest songs I’ve ever come up with,” Chesney said. “I just sat down with a pen and paper with no expectations, no deadline and just went with it.”

Chesney claims that at midlife, he’s never been more inspired. “This is the most creative I’ve ever felt,” Chesney says. “As a result, I had a really great song cycle. I want to keep on building on what I have done so far.”

What Chesney has accomplished is staggering. Fourteen of his 15 albums have gone at least gold. He has 22 singles that have climbed to the top of the Billboard Hot Country Song chart.

Chesney, who headlines stadiums around the nation, is arguably the hottest country recording artist on the circuit. But Chesney wants to up the ante as a musician. Forget about the number of invitations Chesney has received to act.

“I don’t know why so many people want me to be in their films,” Chesney says.

It probably has something to do with Chesney’s star power. If you can sell out a stadium, you might attract a myriad of fans to the movie theater.

“Maybe that’s it,” Chesney says. “I just have no interest in acting. I’m just coming to keep on making music.”

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