No shoes, no problem for Kenny Chesney
Nobody has ever claimed a musician’s road to success is paved with gold. Because, with very rare exceptions, it’s not. Even so-called “overnight sensations” don’t get there unless they supplement their talent with a tireless work ethic, a steely resolve, laser focus and a little right-place-at-the-right-time fortuity. So, no, that road isn’t paved with gold so much as it’s covered with oil—and thorns.
Indeed, as AC/DC once told us (and Jack Black reminded us), it’s a long way to the top if you wanna rock ’n’ roll. And even those who are gifted (and fortunate) enough to reach the top invariably encounter a new—and equally difficult—challenge: How do you stay there? The answer, of course, varies from artist to artist, but those who succeed and endure usually default to some version of the following: Continue to work hard (if not harder), and always remain humble, grateful, respectful and loyal.
Which brings us to Kenny Chesney. An undeniable talent whose 20 albums have combined to sell an estimated 30 million units, Chesney didn’t burst on the country scene until 1995—five years after graduating from his home-state East Tennessee State University. But thanks to his strong work ethic—he released his first five studio albums in a five-year span—and fan-friendly demeanor, Chesney’s following grew exponentially with each passing year, eventually vaulting him to country music royalty.
But even as he piled up the No. 1 singles (29 in all) and Entertainer of the Year honors (four each from the Academy of Country Music and the Country Music Association), Chesney never abandoned those critical character traits that helped him reach the pinnacle of his industry. The best example of this can be found in Chesney’s approach to his most recent album, 2017’s Live in No Shoes Nation.
For most artists, live albums are little more than a quick cash grab: Slap one or two concerts on tape, hand them off to an engineer to overproduce, and—voila!—easy money. Given his stature, nobody would’ve blamed Chesney for mimicking that exact blueprint … except, perhaps, Chesney himself. That’s why he painstakingly pored over 10 years of recorded concert footage to find the songs that represented the Kenny Chesney Experience at its best—which meant capturing not just the best of himself and his band, but also the fan base he affectionately dubs No Shoes Nation.
The result: A 30-track double album that’s a mix of big hits, deep tracks, duets with such guest artists as Taylor Swift, Eric Church and Zac Brown Band and lots of sing-alongs. “Listening to show after show, the one thing that never changes is the intensity of the fans,” Chesney says on his website about the live album. “I figure if they’re as caught up in the moment as me and the guys are, they have no idea how awesome they sound. So in many ways, this set is about letting them hear what we get to plug into every single night.”
And that’s Kenny Chesney—forever humble, grateful, respectful and loyal.
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