Pirate Plunder: Kenny Chesney
Kenny Chesney's career now spans 14 years, but if his new album "Just Who I Am: Poets & Pirates," out Sept. 11 on Sony BMG Nashville's BNA Records, is any indication, there seems to be a lot of meKenny Chesney's career now spans 14 years, but if his new album "Just Who I Am: Poets & Pirates," out Sept. 11 on Sony BMG Nashville's BNA Records, is any indication, there seems to be a lot of meat left, all of it hard earned. Reflecting on playing to 1 million-plus people in each of the last five consecutive years, Chesney says, "In some ways it seems like we are just getting started and in some ways it seems like we've been out there for 25 years."
Chesney says a lot of energy went into those five years. "Our lives have changed a lot, and it's the most amazing feeling in the world to look at an NFL stadium full of people not just sing along to these songs, but be very passionate about singing along to those songs," he says. "You can tell the songs we recorded they didn't just listen to on the radio or at work, they are actually living with these songs. These songs have somehow touched their lives in a way that makes them want to come out and experience them live."
No matter how complex and complete the marketing plan for "Just Who I Am," there's one component that ties it all together: Chesney himself. It's not just that he and his music are being marketed, it's that Chesney in some way touches every element of it. "You're talking about a guy who designs backstage cups and backstage passes," says Clint Higham, who manages Chesney.
Of course, there's no better advertisement for a new album than a song on the radio, and the first single from the album, "Never Wanted Nothing More," spent five weeks at No. 1. The second single from the album, "Don't Blink," set a Nielsen BDS monitored airplay record for a high debut by landing at No. 16 on Hot Country Songs its first week out. (Keith Urban set the previous mark of No. 17 with "Once in a Lifetime" in the Aug. 25, 2006, issue.) While Chesney's record was short-lived—Garth Brooks quickly topped it with a heavily anticipated new single—the feat still speaks to radio's "he-can't-miss" attitude toward Chesney and his music.
Even though Chesney's career is well into its second decade, his fan base is still growing. "You can see it in the album numbers, you can see it in the digital download numbers, you can see it in the fan club," ." Sony BMG Nashville VP of marketing Tom Baldrica says.
It's obvious the guy from Luttrell, Tenn., takes zero for granted. "To play in front of a million people each of the last five years is amazing," he says. "I tell the guys all the time, 'Keep your eyes open and look at this, because not everybody gets to experience this.' I feel very lucky to have been able to have done it."
Actually, luck seems to have had little to do with it, and Chesney, by his own admission, is constantly thinking ahead. "We're already doing blueprints for next year's stage, the lighting rig, how it's going to look," he says. "A lot of energy has gone into making the live experience what it is, because I feel that's going to be there as long as I have the energy to do it like I'm doing it. That's the part of my life I'm going to always be able to do. Even if I don't make a record for a couple of years, I can still go out and tour and be part of people's summer."