Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw to Reunite for 'Real Special' Stadium Tour
By Ray Waddell
Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw, who famously toured together in the early 2000s, will reunite for the 19-date Brothers of the Sun stadium tour, beginning June 2 in Tampa. The tour also features special guests Grace Potter & the Nocturnals, and Jake Owen, and will play weekends at mostly NFL stadiums across the country, wrapping Aug. 25 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass.
The artists are clearly stoked about the prospects of touring together again, and their enthusiasm was evident when interviewed Friday. "To do it the way we're going to do it next summer, this will be more than just a tour for me," Chesney tells Billboard.biz. "To go out there on the road with a guy you've been friends with for a long time and made a lot of music with already, with all the songs and music that will be played next summer, this is going to be real special for me and Tim. But, to be honest, I think the people that are going to benefit the most are the fans."
Those fans, "are going to see things they just don't get to see," McGraw tells Billboard.biz. "What we're looking forward to as much as anything is getting out there and making each other better, because we want each other to get better, to be on stage together and come up with things the fans don't have any idea they're going to see. Things will happen when we're on stage and making music together that we didn't have any idea we were capable of doing, or even knew we wanted to do. It's just going to evolve, and that will be a cool thing."
The tour reunites a dynamic touring duo that first toured together as part of the George Strait Country Music Fest stadium tours and then later as a run of mostly sheds in 2001 headlined by McGraw that moved 662,469 tickets, according to Billboard Boxscore. Chesney will close the Brothers shows-"technically," he adds. McGraw will join Chesney on stage in a way similar to how the Zac Brown Band took the stage with Chesney's outfit as a finale this past summer, but "we're going to do even more," Chesney adds.
"Technically I am closing, but Tim and I are going to give the fans their money's worth," Chesney says. "If I was being correct about it, I'd say me and Tim are closing. We're going to try and change it up every night, have as much fun as we possibly can."
The careers of both artists have grown exponentially since they last toured together, with both broadening their artistic horizons while remaining among the elite acts in their genre at retail, radio and on the road. Chesney has become the biggest ticket seller in country music, taking home his sixth Top Package award at the 2011 Billboard Touring Awards Nov. 10 in New York.
"When I went out with McGraw in 2001, I was just trying to find my place in the world, to learn all I could," Chesney says. "The two years I went with Strait out on the stadium tours, and the year I went out with McGraw, that changed my life. It's so wonderful that a decade later Tim and I are still doing it, still trying to record the best songs that we can and still having fun doing what we're doing. The chemistry and the friendship and how much we've both been through in our lives to get where we are today, we're going to bring all of that, every emotion, to the stage, and I think that's going to be really fun for the fans to watch."
For his part, McGraw, a three-time Grammy winner who has rung up 32 No. 1 singles and remains a touring force, also has become an accomplished actor, with prominent roles in such notable films as "The Blind Side," "Country Strong," and "Friday Night Lights."
"Ten years ago when Kenny and I toured, he was just getting his feet under him, and now he's gone on to have incredible success," says McGraw. "I'm sure I'm wrong, but I can't remember when two artists at the top of their games that have such a history together have gone out and done something like this."
Chesney says he and McGraw have been "toying with the idea" of touring for a couple of years, "but the timing wasn't right yet," he says. "This all started with me asking Tim to do one show with me next year just to see where he was with the idea. We had a conversation about it, and decided if we're going to do that, why don't we just do the whole year? It says a lot about Tim that he wants to do this, because he doesn't have to. I respect the hell out of him."
McGraw agrees the topic of touring has come up when the pair get together, "then we go on about our business and our life and do the things we do. It just never seemed like the right time. But next year, 2012 has sort of a magic to it, it's been 10 years, it's a great time in my career, in his career, all the pieces fit together. It seems like a perfect way to kick off next summer."
For Louis Messina, producer of Chesney's tours, Brothers of the Sun is a promoter's dream. "Come on, McGraw and Chesney together? It's my dream," Messina says. "They just want to go out there and rock it. To me, the fans are going to get their money's worth like you wouldn't believe. I told Kenny and his band, every night Tim's gonna be wanting to kick your butt - in a friendly way - and you're gonna be wanting to kick Tim's butt-in a friendly way. So the fans are going to get the best of Tim McGraw and the best of Kenny Chesney every single night. They both want to own that stage."
McGraw, who started hanging out with Chesney when they were both new to Nashville in the early '90s, admits there is a competitive aspect to the relationship. "We're great friends, but we're also competitive guys, too," he says. "We played basketball when we were on tour last time, his guys against my guys, and got in heated competitions. Of course, you know we kicked their ass. But he's a great competitor, as am I. The beauty of what we're going to get out of this, the crowds are gonna be great, the money's gonna be great, the fun we're going to have is gonna be great, but the fun we'll have pushing each other, I think we're going to make each other better."
Chesney thinks the tour will be good for both the touring industry and the country format. "When you can have two guys that have been lucky enough to have been as successful as we have the past decade to go out and tour together, that's uncommon, and there are a lot of factors that keep that from happening with a lot of acts," he says. "It doesn't have to happen, but it is, and it's special. I can't wait, I wish it was summer right now."
Even with two of the biggest stars in music-not just country music-on the bill, Messina says ticket prices will be roughly the same as Chesney's regular stadium shows, only increasing by $4 or $5 per ticket on the lower levels and remaining the same as last year in the upper deck. Though Chesney's 2011 Goin' Coastal tour was "basically sold out" in moving 1.3 million tickets, Messina thinks a different staging configuration that adds more capacity will compensate for added production costs. "Instead of raising ticket prices extraordinarily, we'll get to where we need to be selling more tickets," Though Messina did not confirm, given the box office clout of McGraw and Chesney on the same bill, it is likely that dates will be added in some cities. As it stands, this tour has all the makings of a blockbuster.
Outside of the possibility for a few shows here and there, the Brothers tour will for the most part be the extent of both artists' road work in 2012. "I think we're going to do the shows we do with Tim and that's gonna be it," says Chesney. "I'm going to work on other things, other projects, and I'm constantly working on the record, though I'm not sure when that's coming. We may go overseas-maybe. But as far as the States, the shows I'm doing with Tim are the only ones we're gonna do."
McGraw has a similar plan. "I'll probably do a few [live] things, but not a whole lot," he says. "That will be a lot of people we'll be in front of every night [on the Brothers tour]. Some of those places, we'll probably end up doing two or three nights. And who knows, places we get to stay for a couple of nights, Kenny and I may pop up at a few honky tonks while we're out there."
Beyond the road work with Chesney, McGraw says he is considering several film projects; given that Brothers will play weekends, scheduling other work would possible. "There are three or four things we're looking at, trying to get the scheduling right," McGraw says. "Movie projects are like a house of cards; one day they can go up and the next day they can fall down."
While McGraw and Chesney have already convened for several brainstorming sessions about how the show will play out, they'll likely get together early next year to move the vision forward, "just the whole idea of what we could put together to make it the most special tour of the summer, for any genre," Chesney says. "I think it's going to be one of the best tours in the world next summer, not just in country music. With Grace Potter and the Nocturnals and Jake Owen, it's going to be a fun night of music. I'm glad I'm on stage, but I wish I could be in the audience too."
Tickets for the Dallas, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Chicago, East Rutherford, Detroit, and Foxboro shows will go on sale Dec. 3 through Ticketmaster. On-sale info for the remaining dates will be announced in the coming weeks.
Brothers of the Sun Tour 2012:
Sat. June 2 - Tampa, FL - Raymond James Stadium
Sun. June 3 - Atlanta, GA - Georgia Dome
Sat. June 9 - Dallas, TX - Cowboys Stadium
Sun. June 10 - Kansas City, MO - Arrowhead Stadium
Sat. June 15 - Philadelphia, PA - Lincoln Financial Field
Sat. June 23 - Nashville, TN - LP Field
Sun. June 24 - Charlotte, NC - Bank of America Stadium
Sat. June 30 - Pittsburgh, PA - Heinz Field
Sun. July 1 - Cincinnati, OH - Paul Brown Stadium
Sat. July 7 - Chicago, IL - Soldier Field
Sun. July 8 - Minneapolis, MN - Target Field
Sat. July 14 - Anaheim, CA - Angel Stadium
Sat. July 21 - Denver, CO - Sports Authority Field at Mile High
TBA - Indianapolis, IN - Lucas Oil Stadium
TBA - Cleveland, OH - Cleveland Browns Stadium
Sat. August 11 - East Rutherford, NJ - MetLife Stadium
Sun. August 12 - Washington, DC - FedExField
Sat. August 18 - Detroit, MI - Ford Field
Sat. August 25 - Foxboro, MA - Gillette Stadium