Kenny Chesney: Hemingway And Country Music

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On Hemingway's Whiskey, Kenny Chesney says he feels like a different artist and a different person. Rick Diamond/Getty Images Entertainment hide caption

itoggle caption Rick Diamond/Getty Images Entertainment
Kenny Chesney

On Hemingway's Whiskey, Kenny Chesney says he feels like a different artist and a different person.

Rick Diamond/Getty Images Entertainment

If you could sit and pick the brain of one person, living or dead, who would it be? Country star Kenny Chesney 's answer may surprise you.

"Ernest Hemingway would be one of those guys because he had such a wonderful, tragic, creative life," says Chesney. "I would love to sit down and pick his brain a little bit about love and the loss of it., living with regret and depression."

Chesney says that he couldn't have recorded the title track from his upcoming Hemingway's Whiskey and made it believable four or five years ago. Something changed.

"I think that in the last four or five years I've constantly struggled with the balance in my life. There still is that struggle," Chesney says. "But I feel like a different artist. I feel like a different person. Things that made me happy five, six years ago don't make me happy anymore. I want to spend more time with my family. I need more balance in my life."

Gentle Drinking Songs

Hemingway's Whiskey features, unsurprisingly enough, songs about whiskey and tequila. Chesney has done his fair share of fun drinking songs, but in an interview, NPR's David Green is struck by how gentle how these songs are.

"['You and Tequila'] is a struggle song," Chesney says. "There are some commonalities about getting someone out of your mind and drinking and trying to quit. I spent a lot of time [driving the Pacific Coast Highway]. I'd go to friends in Santa Monica about sunset. I would drive back up to the house, had the windows down. I'd listen to a lot of Eagles songs and some Tom Petty. When I heard this record and this song, it just put me in this place."

The album features Grace Potter, who sings on much of Hemingway's Whiskey.

"Her voice is just wonderful," Chesney says of Potter. "This song kind of made me believe in the art of making music again. She's from Vermont. I'm from Knoxville, Tenn. We came from two different backgrounds, but when we got into the studio, none of that mattered. It just shows how universal music really is."

Green wanted to know about a story involving Chesney stealing a horse from the Buffalo, N.Y., sheriff's department while on tour with George Strait.

"That did happen. I was accused of it, but we didn't really do that," says Chesney. "I actually did get on a horse, but I didn't know it was a police horse. It didn't have anything on it saying it was a police horse. It was a big deal at the time, but it's funny to look back on it now. It wasn't funny at the time."

Finding Balance

Hemingway's Whiskey comes after some tough and maturing years for Chesney, which makes "Seven Days" particularly worth noting.

"I think everybody in his life has that one person that they can't mentally get rid of — maybe we're with someone romantically and emotionally even for a short time," Chesney says. "And the character of this song, it was seven days of his life, a week. I think we all have those people and the time that we're with them, we have no idea the impact that they're going to have on our lives later on. And I have that person. I think that a lot of people do."

Green wonders if we can ask who that person is.

"You can ask, but I'm not going to answer!" says Chesney.

Chesney has written many songs about the Caribbean, but he says that as a child, he didn't even know it existed. His family didn't have the money to travel, so they vacationed in Myrtle Beach and what he calls the "Redneck Riviera."

"I've always been drawn to the ocean," says Chesney. "I've always felt peace there. It's where I feel, honestly, the most creative because it's impossible for me to write songs on the road. I'm just spread in so many different directions mentally. What drew to that place, why it still does and why I love it so much is that time, for me, just hangs in the balance. There's no time involved for me there."

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