Archive for August, 2013

Kenny Chesney: My Playbook For Life

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Kenny Chesney: My Playbook For Life

Kenny Chesney is not wearing a hat. That’s the old Kenny Chesney—or at least the public Kenny Chesney—the country mega-star who is forever party-ready, beck-and-call rowdy, always peering out at his fans from under a brim.

But last fall, something inside Chesney changed.

“You’d think I’d have been happiest in my life playing music in front of 50,000 people at Gillette Stadium. But let me tell you, it’s an odd feeling to feel alone in the spotlight,” the singer-songwriter says, sitting in an overstuffed chair in his Nashville production office. He’s wearing jeans and sneakers and a T-shirt that exposes his buff biceps. A bottle of Corona is by his side. “I was standing onstage last year, and I felt like I wanted to be somewhere else. No matter how many people were out there, it all just felt like a blank sheet of paper.” So the 42-year-old entertainer, who has sold more than one million concert tickets during each of the past eight summers, decided to sit out the season—surprising his fans and Nashville, but most important, surprising himself.

It’s said that rockers want you to forget where they come from but country stars want you to remember. This country star had to remind himself of his own roots. He spent his year off reconnecting with his family and hometown in east Tennessee, which culminated in his producing a documentary about the impact of high school football, The Boys of Fall, due to air on ESPN this fall. A reverie of innocence lost and manhood found, it features coaches and players from the pro and college ranks reminiscing about their times in high school. It also highlights a few small-town high school teams, including Chesney’s own former squad.

See exclusive pics from PARADE’s phoot shoot on the football field with Kenny Chesney

“I felt as if I had lost my center,” Chesney says, explaining why he took the year off. “But sitting there talking to those coaches and hearing these icons of the game—their wisdom and philosophies about football, life, marriage, and love—relates to how I am now trying to find some balance in my life. It’s done more to inspire me than anything in a long time. I didn’t see it coming. I didn’t realize this film would do that for me.”

Chesney’s love of the game began on the football field of Gibbs High, near tiny Luttrell, Tenn., where he grew up. He didn’t go out for the team until his junior year; he played wide-receiver. “It all started for me on that field,” Chesney says. “Football taught me how hard you had to work to achieve something,” he says, his eyes lighting up at the memory of “knockin’ heads and talkin’ trash, slingin’ mud and dirty grass,” as he sings in his first single—also called “The Boys of Fall”—off his new album, Hemingway’s
, due out Sept. 28.

In high school, Chesney was too busy with baseballs and basketballs and footballs to pick up a guitar. That didn’t happen until he went to college and began to play local clubs. “When I was playing for tips in college, I felt a fire in my soul. I had the same principle of focus that I had learned playing football.

Yearbook photos of Kenny and other celebs who played high school football

“I stopped [touring] because I need to feed this,” he says, grabbing a fistful of his T-shirt right where his heart is. “I needed to reconnect with my family. I needed to reconnect with me. I needed to pick up the guitar just because. I needed to get that kind of heart back in my life.”

He takes a long, slow swig of his beer and rubs the birthmark on his right bicep. It’s an endearing, daydreamy gesture that emerges whenever he feels his innate sweetness begin to blur his party-guy image.

Chesney’s sweetness comes in large part from being raised so well by his mother, Karen, a hairstylist, who was only 19 when she gave birth to him and was divorced soon after he was born. His father, Dave, is a former schoolteacher. Karen was a working single mom for most of his childhood before marrying his stepfather. She divorced again when her son was in high school and recently married for a third time.

“She was dating someone once and broke up,” Chesney says. “And this stayed with me. She said, ‘Kenny, I just want you to know I’d rather be miserable alone than miserable with somebody else.’ That makes a lot of sense to me.”

Chesney’s own love life has been spotty as well—most notably, his four-month-long marriage to actress Renée Zellweger, which was annulled in a miasma of media scandal in 2005. He is currently in an on-again-off-again relationship with a young Nashville nurse, Amy Colley.

Even though the breakup with Zellweger was hard, “there ain’t nothing you can do about it,” he says. “Just hang on for the ride. Now I look back on it as just another way of getting knocked down on the football field.”

And he insists it hasn’t made him marriage-shy. “Not at all,” he says. “I hope that’s in the cards for me one day.”

But does The Boys of Fall, which is filled with scenes of young men bonding with one another as well as their fathers and coaches, make him want to have kids of his own—so he can be a cheering parent in the stands? “Not really,” Chesney says. “I hope I have kids one day. But I don’t wake up every day and miss that in my life.”

What he does miss is trust.

“The world is a different place now,” he says. “I mean, if I go out with a girl, there is a possibility that she’s going to get up from the dinner table and go to the bathroom and use Twitter to tell everybody what she’s doing. And the next thing you know, everybody’s got a play-by-play of what you’re having for dinner. That would make anybody uncomfortable.”

As Chesney polishes off his beer, I ask him why so many of his songs are about drinking. Would he call himself a functioning alcoholic? Laughing nervously, he turns to one of his entourage. “Bring me another beer!” he shouts good-naturedly. Then he looks at me soberly. “I probably don’t drink as much as perceived,” he says. “I’m too healthy. But a lot of my songs were written with the idea of having a good time. When I’m on tour, you’d be surprised by how disciplined I am. Because I have to be. But when I’m off tour, that’s when those drinkin’ songs get written. That’s probably a misconception about me. Yeah, I have a few cold beers every now and then. No doubt about it.”

See photos of Kenny working the stage and the crowd 

The other misconception about Chesney is that he’s not comfortable without his hat. The truth is he also learned to be follically challenged on that same football field.

“When I was 17 or 18, I’d take my helmet off on the field, and I’d see hair in it and go, ‘Good God! What’s going on?’” he says with a chuckle. “It did bother me in college a little bit—going bald—but it doesn’t at all now. What’s ironic about it is that friends of mine in their 30s and 40s are just starting to lose their hair and are freaking out. I went through all that in high school.”

For Chesney, everything comes back to football. “When my father and I didn’t have anything in common and didn’t talk about anything, there was always University of Tennessee football,” he says. “There are a lot of fathers and sons out there like that. Last year, after my tour was over, me and my dad went to lots of games. It was because of football that our relationship got better. We even went to the Super Bowl.”

Does Chesney dream of playing the Super Bowl halftime show? “If I was asked to do it—yeah, I probably would.” What he wants to do right now, however, is get the word out about The Boys of Fall. It’s as if he’s on a mission.

“I feel a responsibility to myself—the self that was that kid,” he says. “I want a sophomore in high school to take away wanting to be the best player, the best friend, the best person he can be. Football emulates life. You get knocked down—but it’s how you get up and handle it that’s important.”

During filming, former NFL coach Bill Parcells told Chesney, “I want these players and myself to hang onto your passion. If you can hang onto someone’s passion, it becomes habit-forming.”

“That was the best compliment I could have gotten,” Chesney says. “Because that’s another reason I took the year off. Not that I’m not passionate about what I do musically, but it was beginning to seem mechanical. I didn’t like that. Music has to be about the heart and soul.”

That’s a lesson he learned not onstage but on the football fields of east Tennessee.

“When I was that boy in that high school football uniform, and I was dreaming, I had no idea my life could be like this,” Chesney says. “I used to go out in my backyard and just look up at the sky and know there was something out there for me. I just didn’t know what it was. I do love my life now. I am blessed beyond belief.”

Exclusive Extras: Kenny Chesney Talks Fame, Football, His Happiest Moments and More >>

My Sunday Morning, by Kenny Chesney

I look forward to my pancakes. I love sundays, because I’m usually on a really strict diet, and my trainer, Daniel, gives me Sundays to eat whatever I want—even if it’s a chocolate-covered cheeseburger. Sometimes I get to go home to east Tennessee to see my family and everybody. I’m off the road this year, but usually on Sunday mornings I’m getting off the bus because I’ve been gone all weekend. I’m getting all my dirty clothes off the bus. I’ve always been laundry-conscious because my mom was a single mom who worked, and if I didn’t do my own laundry, it wouldn’t get done. In the fall, I’m glued to the television watching football. Even if I am on the road, I’ve got two big-screen TVs in my bus with different satellite receivers so I can have two games on at once.

Kenny Chesney Rocked Gillette Stadium Friday Night

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FOXBOROUGH — If there is one thing that Kenny Chesney’s performance Friday night made clear, it is that he has a special connection to Boston, and in particular to Gillette Stadium. It’s a connection that has been forged through many visits; as he announced early on in his show (the first of two he did this weekend as the New England Country Music Festival headliner) it was the 10th time he has played there, more than any other stadium.

That connection was something he kept coming back to. He noted that “no shoes nation,” the epithet that his fans now go by (and the name of his current tour), originated at Gillette. He prefaced his performance of “Boston” — a song, he pointed out, that he only plays when he’s in Boston — with an understated but genuine tribute to the victims of the Marathon bombings (and then swapped out his trademark cowboy hat for a Boston Strong ball cap that remained in place for the rest of show). On three occasions he even paused mid-song, abandoning his lyrical train to remark on the connection and to marvel at the crowd.

His visits to Gillette, he said — after singing his ode to the season, “Summertime” — have reached the status of being a summer tradition.

The lovefest that was this year’s addition to that tradition (a tradition that will have to wait at least a year to be renewed, as Chesney plans to take some time off from touring) brought few surprises. The singer played only two songs from his new record, “Life on a Rock;” the rest was standard-template Chesney set list.

Kenny Chesney performing at Gillette Stadium on Friday.

Kenny Chesney

He was his usual ball of energy in serving up his tropical cocktail of escape (a soaring “Reality,” a driving “Living in Fast Forward” and nostalgia trips (a “Young” that had the crowd yelling along, an “Anything But Mine” that had it crooning along). But at times, things dragged a bit; the quasi-autobiographical “Big Star” seemed particularly inert, and one of the singer’s signature songs, “When the Sun Goes Down,” lacked its usual jump. Perhaps it was end-of tour fatigue (the two Foxborough shows were the tour’s finale), but whatever the reason, on this Friday Chesney’s typical machine-like precision and drive showed occasional stutters.

Eric Church suffered no such afflictions. Church had the set-up slot in the concert’s lineup and he made the most of it, careening through a 75-minute set that ranged from the country metal of “I’m Getting’ Stoned” and “Keep On” to the high-test, shuffling country groove of “Jack Daniels” and a “Drink in My Hand” that (of course!) saw Church bringing the song to life with a beer in each of his. If Chesney was, for the most part, a well-oiled machine, Church was a jacked-up force.


Jimmy Buffett sings about ‘that rocket’ Neil Armstrong rode

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August 26, 2013 — In “The Rocket That Grandpa Rode,” a song off Jimmy Buffett’s first new album in four years, the “man from Margaritaville” sings about the man on the moon.”And the kids turned into flying machines with their arms opened wide like wings, but one solitary boy knows the plane is not a toy, I’m talking about the man on the moon,” croons Buffett in the twelfth track from “Songs From St. Somewhere,” the singer’s 27th studio album released last week.

Buffett is “talking” about Neil Armstrong, the moonwalker who died one year ago Sunday (Aug. 25). As commander of the Apollo 11 mission, Armstrong took “one small step” to make “a giant leap for all mankind” on July 20, 1969.

But it wasn’t the astronaut’s passing that apparently led to Buffet’s song. As the lyrics to “The Rocket That Grandpa Rode” hint, inspiration came from a trip the musician took a year earlier, in July 2011.

“We’re going to watch the shuttle fly away – last day,” the song recounts.

Buffett was among the guests invited to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida to witness the final launch of the space shuttle program on July 8, 2011. To get to the VIP viewing site, the singer rode a bus with other spectators.

“And for some kids behind my seat, there’s a very special treat, more than just history on parade,” Buffett describes in “The Rocket That Grandpa Rode.”

Those kids happened to be Armstrong’s grandchildren.

As recalled by Rick Armstrong, one of the moonwalker’s two sons, he and his children were seated in the very last row of the bus. As they were driven past the voluminousVehicle Assembly Building, he remarked something along the line of, “that is where the rocket that grandpa rode was put together.”

Hearing this, the man seated in front of Armstrong and his family turned around and replied, “That sounds like a good idea for a song,” Rick Armstrong recounted in an e-mail to collectSPACE.

The exchange led to introductions and Jimmy Buffett met the Armstrongs.

NASA’s VIP launch viewing site is located adjacent to the Apollo/Saturn V Center, where one of the three remaining Saturn V rockets is on full display. The 363-foot-long (110 meter) booster was the type of rocketship that Armstrong — together with Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins — rode to the moon in July 1969.

Giant nozzles, bolts and beams,” Buffett sings, “She was a stairway to heaven, ole’ Apollo 11.”

“The rocketship their Grandpa drove,” the chorus repeats.

Buffett did more than watch space shuttle Atlantis lift off that day. He also performed a private concert for shuttle workers, marking the end of 30 years of launches.

As “The Rocket That Grandpa Rode” ends, Buffett thanks NASA, as he does “Neil.”

It’s not the only time the singer paid tribute to the first man to walk on the moon.

On Aug. 25, 2012, on the day Armstrong died, Buffett was performing for an audience in Wisconsin, when at the end of his show, he dedicated an encore performance to the late astronaut.

“We lost a great flyer in America today, “Buffett told the concertgoers. “Neil Armstrong passed away, the man on the moon. As you know, flying has been an inspiration in my life the whole time so I’d like to send this off to Neil Armstrong’s family tonight. It’s a little thing called ‘Oysters and Pearls’ and he certainly was a pearl.”

The song’s lyrics cite aviator Charles Lindbergh and artist Elvis Presley. Buffett added a final stanza for that night’s rendition.

“Neil Armstrong walked upon the moon, and now he has gone to heaven,” Buffet sang.

Key West Weather

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Jimmy Buffett, Songs from St. Somewhere

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Songs From St. Somewhere

Jimmy Buffett, Songs from St. Somewhere (Mailboat Records) * * 1/2

At 66, Jimmy Buffett is still filling arenas, releasing studio albums every few years when many of his peers coast on nostalgia, and he’s got an empire of restaurants, beers and hotels to manage.

Still, no one takes the time to write more thoughtful liner notes than this guy. “ St. Somewhere popped out of a toaster of tropical tales that was powered by books that I had read, or stories I had been told by my seafaring forefathers. Like Treasure Island, Kinja and Margaritaville, St. Somewhere is not a place you can get to by consulting your GPS or going on Google Earth. The islands I have spent a good deal of my adult life on, over, under and around … are situated between the tip of Florida and the northeast corner of South America. The island where much of the work on this record was done is St. Barthelemy.”

All of that in a lavishly illustrated booklet in a world of downloads where few read lyrics or include liners anymore. But Buffett owns the label, too. He can give himself the lavish treatment along with an expense account as St. Somewhere, his 26th studio album, was recorded all over the world. The 16 songs were cut in studios in Miami (with Emilio Estefan producing a redundant Spanish version bonus track of I Want to Go Back to Cartagena, which differs only in the addition of guest vocalist Fanny Lu), Key West, St. Barts, Nashville, Austin and London.

But unlike the return to form songwriting that populated Buffet Hotel, his 2009 album, St. Somewherefinds Buffett and his Coral Reefers sailing into Holiday Inn lounge territory on an overlong set of overly polished tropical ballads with lazy steel drum rhythms and slick production from long-time collaborators Mike Utley and Mac MacAnally. There is an occasional rouser, like the rather predictable Too Drunk to Karaoke duet with Toby Keith and, by comparison, the superior Dire Straits-like pulse of Useless But Important Information, in which the head Parrothead tackles Twitter.

Buffett and MacAnally come through with the most winsome melody line ( Serpentine) but only Mark Knopfler, who appears on two tracks, writes a true Buffett song that could stand alongside keepers on ‘70s albums like Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes.

Knopfler’s Oldest Surfer on the Beach is everything one finds appealing in vintage Buffett: a smart seafaring tune that evokes time and place, an engaging melody and a warm vocal from the lead salt. Should Buffett pop out another studio album, a new producer who could push the star and his band back to their guitar-oriented roots would be the best ticket.


Photos from Southern Drawl Band’s Invasion of Clearwater, FL

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Photos from Southern Drawl Band’s Invasion of Clearwater, FL – October 2012

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Photos of Kenny Chesney Tailgating

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Photos of Kenny Chesney Tailgating – March 2013 – With Team Cocktail, Rum Shop Ryan, Coastal, and No Shoes Radio

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Photos from our 1st Swim Skinny Show

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Photos from our 1st (of many) Swim Skinny Show – October 2012

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Photos from Parrothead Days in Palm Harbor, FL

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Photos from Parrothead Days in Palm Harbor, FL – June 2013

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Photos from Music on the Bay 2013

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Photo Gallery from the 2nd Annual Music on the Bay at Whiskey Joe’s in Tampa, FL – March 2013

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