Kenny Chesney is playing live for more people each summer than any country music artist on the planet. In fact, Chesney's five-year attendance total of nearly five million ranks him in the league of such global heavyweight touring artists as U2 and the Rolling Stones.
Chesney is also on his way to becoming a summer staple entertainer in the manner of Jimmy Buffett, James Taylor and Dave Matthews Band, carving out a niche that could keep him filling venues long after the hits slow down.
"I can see me going out and touring every summer like Jimmy [Buffett]," Chesney tells Billboard.com. "I saw Dave Matthews Band this summer -- I sat on the side of the side of the stage and was inspired. Dave, Jimmy and James Taylor, those are guys people expect to go see in a summer, and I do feel that happening with us."
Chesney topped 1 million in attendance for the fourth consecutive year this summer, a feat not even accomplished by Garth Brooks. That milestone is "something that obviously I didn't even know how to dream about when I was dreaming of doing this for a living," Chesney says. "I'm thrilled that people are loving our music like that -- not just hearing it on the radio, but actually living their lives with it. They want to come see it live."
Chesney added nine stadiums to his route in 2006, and will have at least seven stadiums on his tour next year in Boston, Cleveland, Detroit, Seattle, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Dallas, according to manager Clint Higham. "The stadiums are a great perception and a lot of fun, but they're also a lot of work and very expensive," he admits. "We talked about doing an all-stadium tour, but Kenny just loves the intimacy -- even if it's still 20,000 seats -- of a shed or an arena."
Indeed, Chesney says he will focus primarily on the outdoor amphitheaters for the 2007 tour. "Each venue, indoors and outdoors, has a different energy, and for us I feel outdoors is just more my lifestyle," he says.
But could he envision still doing this 20 years down the road? "If the people still want to come spend a couple of hours a summer with us, why not?," he says. "I really love what I do. I can definitely see us doing it for as long as they want to come experience it with us. But I can't see me doing it with the gas pedal down all the way like I have been for the last six years, I can tell you that."