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Kenny Chesney

Songs Sung 'Blue'

KennyAfter more than a decade of hit records and relentless touring, Kenny Chesney ascended to the top of the country format last November when he claimed the entertainer of the year prize at the Country Music Association Awards. Now he's exercising his hard-won creative clout to take something of a musical left turn.

This week, BNA releases "Be As You Are: Songs From an Old Blue Chair," a singer/songwriter album that contains tunes Chesney wrote or co-wrote mostly at his Caribbean home. For him, this album is as personal as it is unintentional."I didn't really set out to make this record," he says. "For the past seven years I've been spending a lot of time in the islands, living on my boat and writing some songs about some of the really cool places I've been to and some of the people that I've met."

Even though he views his boat as a place to retreat from the music business, Chesney says creative urges always begin to surface there. "I've got a guitar that's in my closet on my boat and, after a couple of weeks, I've just got to pull it out," he says. "I always end up writing songs. I sat down and listened to these songs and [realized] I have a collection of songs that are probably more honest and real and me than anything I've ever done."

Chesney admits it's difficult to assign a genre to "Be As You Are," which he co-produced with Buddy Cannon. "I'm still a country singer, but if you listen to the tracks of this record, I just wanted people [to feel like they were] on my boat when they heard it," he offers. "I didn't necessarily want them to go to a honky-tonk. It isn't rock'n'roll and it isn't country. It's just a bunch of cool songs."