Kenny Chesney Reflects on ‘Just Who I Am’
He traveled around the U.S. in the highest-attended country tour of '07, produced a Willie Nelson album, played football with the New Orleans Saints and somehow Kenny Chesney also found time this summer to cut his 12th studio album. 'Just Who I Am: Poets and Pirates' hits store shelves Tuesday. The reigning CMA and ACM Entertainer of the Year calls it his most reflective project yet.
"I think that we've made a record that goes down a lot of different avenues," Kenny tells AOL Music about his new CD. "This album has a lot of chapters. And it's got a lot of emotions ... up and down. When I listen to somebody's record, I want to be taken on a ride, emotionally. And I think that we've done that with 'Poets & Pirates.'"
Chesney says he picked songs for this album that hit him the hardest and "in the right spot." In his own words, he shares with us the personal meaning behind each and every song on the new project. Read along as you listen to the album.
'Never Wanted Nothing More'
'Never Wanted Nothing More' kinda touched on a lot of things when people experience things for the first time in their life, whether it's being able to fall in love for the first time or get that first kiss from that girl ... having that feeling of "never wanted nothing more." Or it's a first car, or tasting love for the first time or getting spiritual fulfillment. There are a lot of things that this song talks about. And I think that it talks about it in a way where it kinda makes you think about other things that come into your life where you maybe say to yourself, "You know, I never really wanted nothing more than this."
As good as my life is out there on the road, it's still really hard for me to stop and take it all in. And that's what touched me about this song. Because I've blinked and I've been on the road 14 years. And it doesn't seem like it's been that long. I opened for Patty Loveless in November of '93, and I have not left the road yet! In some ways it seems like it's been 14 minutes rather than 14 years! And it all happened in a blink of an eye. And life is like that, too.
This song is so unique, and the melody of it is just so addictive. And it's a very satisfying thing for me to have George Strait sing on my record and to be a part of my life in a small way ... in a big way, personally. I never thought I'd be friends with the guy, much less have him sing on my record! I used to sit on a bar in East Tennessee with a tip jar in front of me and sing a lot of his songs. He was a guy that I really looked up to and still look up to.
'Just Not Today'
When I first heard 'Just Not Today,' I imagined me in front of all the people that come see me play every night. And I would like to think that for a couple of hours every night that they don't worry about anything. We've all got problems. But we ain't got to solve 'em today. A lot of the songs that I recorded on this record, I've envisioned myself singing live in front of an audience ... and how they'd react and how they would feel. And that's kind of become the process for me -- of how I record music and how I put a record together. The whole time, I am focused on how it's going to sound onstage. And 'Just Not Today' is going to be a song that we'll be doing for a long time, I'll betcha.
'Wife and Kids'
It's something that I do want in my life. Because I am convinced that the road is not all there is to experience in this world. But just because it's not right now doesn't mean that it's never. And that song definitely makes a statement about me and my life, but it doesn't mean that I want it right this second.
'Got a Little Crazy'
'Got a Little Crazy' is a song that definitely takes us back to our first ten years on the road. We still have a lot of fun, but there was a time when nobody knew who I was or cared. It was crazy. And this song reminds me of that time. We've all gone to concerts or gone out with friends and got into a situation where you woke up the next morning in an unfamiliar place. I know I have, and I know that all my friends have. And I would like to think that kind of starts at one of my shows, maybe!
Kenny Chesney in Pictures
'Better As a Memory'
The title of the album was found in this song. The line in the song is, "All my friends are pirates. It's just who I am." And that is a really true statement. I've got a lot of friends that are very wonderful, carefree spirits . . . that live their life to a little bit different beat than a lot of people. And I know I do. And I hope that's that way that I am, as a musician and as an artist and a songwriter. I am that guy in 'Better as a Memory.' This is the letter that I've written three or four times in my life to people.
'Dancin' For the Groceries'
I knew when I recorded this song that there were going to be some people to kind of thumb their nose up at this song. But I'm a big believer that country music -- or music in general -- is just about a description of people's real lives and how they live it. And I think something to be taught is that you shouldn't be so quick to judge people, because you never know their circumstances or what's going on in their life. And this song is a little bit deeper of a meaning than a girl who just goes out and rides a pole for a living. That's not what this is about. It's about a single mother who loves her kids ... who's just doing what she thinks is the best way to do it. And everybody's got their own way of doing it. I've never sang a song about a stripper before. And that's why I love this song -- I hadn't heard anybody else do it either.
When I was a kid pulling my own sound equipment in a truck and setting it up in Johnson City, Tennessee ... playing in a couple of Mexican restaurants and a couple of college bars, I never knew what kind of a ride that it could be. And it's everything and more than I could've ever imagined, in a lot of different ways. Dwight Yoakam wrote this song. Joe Walsh is playing guitar on it. It's a very true song about my life and the ride that I got on when I was 19 and started playing music. And I'm still on it. It's awesome.
I think we all want to be scared, no doubt. I think everybody wants to feel something. Everybody needs to be scared. Everybody needs to be excited about something or somebody. I don't mind saying this now, really, because after I'd spent a couple of weeks with that "certain someone," I drove her to the airport, and that's the first song I heard after taking her to the airport. I was like, "Wow." Because that fit the moment. I recorded that song several years ago. And I'm glad it made this record.
I think everybody has that demon inside of them. And it makes you do certain things, and it makes you want certain things and it makes you need certain things, whether you need it or not. And I think everybody has that. And some of us run from them. Some of us face up to them. And then some of us try to be best friends with them. This is as deep of a song as I've ever recorded. And there's some of me in it, and there's some of my buddies in it ... I think there's a lot of a lot of people in it. Because no matter what your truth or reality is about your inner demons, when you're not running towards them, they're running towards you. And I remember the first time I heard that song, I thought about my own life and about why I push certain things away, and why I run towards certain things and why certain things are just good enough but not great. I think everybody has that. Those decisions are made based on you running to your demons or from them and them chasing you ... and just dealing with it the best you can.