The music business has changed a lot in the past few years, let alone since 1990. It was the summer of that year when MCA Nashville released "Too Cold At Home," the traditional-styled debut single from Mark Chesnutt. As the singer was taking part in a media day to promote his new single, he reflected about the changes since then.
"All we had then was TNN and CMT," the singer recalled. "The big country boom was just starting. Now, you can get your music heard and seen immediately with the new technology," he said, adding that he had just taken part in a Stageit online concert the evening before. "I think it's the best thing that ever happened."
Chesnutt is excited for audiences to hear his new single, "When The Lights Go Out (Tracie's Song)," as it is his first new release in quite some time.
"I co-wrote the song with Jimmy Ritchey and Roger Springer. I was just dying to get in the studio and cut something. I was restless and needed to record some new songs. I kept telling Jimmy to write me some songs because hes a great writer. He said 'I've got a better idea. Why don't you get your ass up here and write with us."
That posed somewhat of a challenge for Chesnutt. "I didn't know if anyone was still writing my kind of music. I said 'You're right. The best way to get the kind of music I want is to have a hand in writing it.' I had no plans or ideas on what I wanted to write – went into it cold turkey. Roger did what he always did – he said 'I've got this thing I've been messing with, and he took his guitar out, and played 'When the lights go out and the crowd goes away,' All of a sudden, my wheels started spinning, and I became a songwriter. I started thinking about what I know – going out on the road, singing for the fans. But, while they know me, my heart's at home with her. I love the line 'No matter where I go, I'll always turn around and go home, because girl, you're always where I' going. I was amazed that kind of stuff came out of my mouth. We finished the song, and someone said 'That's a song for Tracie,' so that stuck to the title."
With a new release out at radio, Chesnutt is planning to record an all-new album this year. "That's the goal," he says. "Since I'm doing it myself, I don't have the budget I would like to have, but we do pretty good with what we've got. I'm not saying it isn't important, because it is, but it wouldn't kill me if it didn't. I know there's a lot of competition out there. My main objective was to get some new music out from people who wanted new music from me."
If Chesnutt, who topped the charts with such hits as "Almost Goodbye," 'It's A Little Too Late," and "Blame It On Texas," could change anything about his career, what would it be? He doesn't hesitate. "I would tell myself to get more serious about the songwriting. My management was trying to tell me – everyone was trying to tell me I needed to write songs, and they were trying to team me up with these other writers. I was lazy with it. That's what I'm doing now – after all these years," he says with a smile.
The singer can still be found out on the road, and he loves it as much as ever – although he says he approaches it different than he did two decade ago, when he was doing well over 200 dates a year. "Now, the longest I may be gone might be a week at one stretch," he admits. "We still work a lot, we just pace it different."