Interview: Kenny Chesney on What He’s Learned From Life in Quarantine
Kenny Chesney doesn't like to slow down. The country music headliner trains daily so he can bounce across stadium stages without losing his breath, but his dedication is less about doing a job as it is about maintaining a way of life.
Speaking with Taste of Country Nights hosts Evan Paul and Amber, Chesney concedes that he's grateful for lessons learned during the coronavirus pandemic. In fact, there's a song on his new studio album that sums it up. The title track from Here and Now (May 1) is a David Lee Murphy co-written assessment of where the singer — now in his fourth decade of country hitmaking — is these days. It's an appropriately uptempo rocker that he'll admit is a contradiction.
"Why you think we call the present the present / ’Cause there ain’t no better gift than here and now," he sings to wrap the second verse.
"I'm constantly moving," Chesney says in the same breath as, "I crave living in the here and now and I know it's important." Find audio of this conversation below. Here and Now features Chesney's Top 10 single "Tip of My Tongue."
Congratulations on your new album. It's your 19th album — have you already started working on 20?
Always working. I'm working on 22 (Laughs). When you write songs for a living, you're always working. You never know where that stuff is gonna land, you know.
Every time you release an album, about how many songs do you write or record that don't make the album?
It changes every time. It's just how it all fits together. I wrote two songs on this record. I wrote "We Do" and then I wrote "Tip of My Tongue" with Ed Sheeran. Now I wrote four or five more that just didn't end up making the record, because maybe it had too many ballads or it just didn't fit or whatever. I like the record to have a flow, to have a certain energy. But it's different. The last record I put out (Songs for the Saints, 2018) was the hurricane relief record for Irma, which I wrote basically every song on. But that was a different kind of album. For this one, I was writing a lot, but the best song kind of always wins and sometimes I write the best song and sometimes I don't.
The ones that you record that don't get on the album, do they just live on somebody's computer?
They live on a harddrive and sometimes I'll go back and listen and remix it. There have been several instances where that happened where they ended up making a later record. Because they may fit for something else. Like there was a song I did called "Coach" a couple albums back (Cosmic Hallelujah, 2016) that we recorded and mixed, but I felt like it was too close to "The Boys of Fall" song that I released so I waited like two more albums to put it on a record.
Have you been able to go out on a boat during the coronavirus quarantine?
Well, I will tell you I quarantined for a week on a boat. And there's no better place to quarantine than there. Nobody is around you, at all. Which is great. But I had to get off that boat and I had to come home and talk to you guys. So thanks a lot (Laughs)! No, just kidding.
What does Kenny Chesney listen to when he's on the boat?
I listen to everything, I really do. I listen to my friends records — I mean I've got such an eclectic brain when it comes to taste in music. If it makes me feel good, I'll listen to it.
Are you the playlist maker in your friend group?
Uh, yes. I am. Because I am so particular. It's like somebody who doesn't want you to do their laundry. Like, you can't touch my laundry and you can't touch my playlist. This is the music.
With the song "Here and Now," did you know it was for you the first time you heard it?
I knew I loved the feel of it. And I knew that I was looking for a specific energy for me to stand up there on stage and what I wanted to say to my audience, you know, with this new music. I knew it was a contradiction of myself because I'm constantly moving. I crave living in the here and now and I know it's important. It's what this time right now has really, really ... it's been good for all of us that are busy that want to be still, because now we're forced to be still. And it's forcing us to live in the here and now.
For me, when you're all the time planning to be somewhere else, it's hard to live in the moment. I love the song because it's what I crave in my life, but it's also what I want to preach to my audience. Or what I want to say to them, I don't preach really — and how special it is to be up there, to see them and them see me and we get to spend three hours together. We don't have to worry about later tonight. We don't have to worry about yesterday or tomorrow or last week or last year, all we gotta worry about is right here, right now. And love each other and enjoy the music, and that's what made me really love the song.
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