Kenny Chesney: Still Goin’ Strong

LAS VEGAS, NV - SEPTEMBER 18: Recording artist Kenny Chesney performs at the 2015 iHeartRadio Music Festival at MGM Grand Garden Arena on September 18, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images for iHeartMedia)

Without a doubt, Kenny Chesney has transcended the generic success of many country music artists, propelling himself to superstardom. However, the most surprising characteristic of his career is the longevity as well as popularity with new and younger audiences. Unlike many of his contemporaries, such as Toby Keith or George Strait, Chesney shows no sign of slowing down. Having been to one of his concerts, I know first hand the kind of energy and interaction he continues to bring, not leaning on his previous fame for popularity, but instead ensuring the audience has a good time. However, this is nothing new for Chesney, as this can-do attitude was shown even at the beginning of his career.

chesneythrow-x600After spending years performing in the country bars and clubs of Nashville in the early 90s, the Knoxville native finally caught his break when he auditioned for music executive Troy Tomlinson. Commenting on his talent and lyrics, Tomlinson was the first to catch onto his personal drive, stating in an interview, “more than anything there was a kind of this ‘I-will-do-it’ look in his eyes – I was really drawn in by the fact that he was so set on being successful in this business.” It was because of this enthusiasm that Chesney landed his first record deal in 1994 for his album “In My Wildest Dreams,” exactly two decades before his most recent album “The Great Revival” in 2014.

However, Kenny Chesney’s continued relevance is not only attributed to his strong work ethic and success-oriented mindset, he is one of the few country artists from the 90s that has continued to change his sound to match the constantly evolving genre itself. For example, while both “She’s Got It All” (1997) and “Somewhere With You” (2010) topped the country charts in their respective years, it’s clear to see the differences in styles between the two. The former displays the typical twangy tones of old school country while the latter employs a faster pace tempo, incorporating electric guitar riffs and strong chorus’ to tie the song together, a style that is far more popular with the contemporary country music crowd.

One of the more distinctive characteristics of Chesney is the frequency of his tours and album releases. Since 2001 alone, he has released a staggering 12 albums and has gone on over 14 tours with the hottest stars of today, such as Miranda Lambert, the Zac Brown Band, Eli Young Band, and Eric Church. Suffice to say, I doubt there were many critics who believed that the 1998 Country Music Awards New Male Vocalist of the Year would continue to put up successful album after album up, continuing to win awards even up to 2015, with claiming his third Country Music Awards Crystal Milestone Award from the same organization. Overall, it makes me glad to see how an artist so devoted to the craft continues to please the fans and master his art from his discovery in the early 90s to continuing to pump out number 1 hits to this day.


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15 Responses to Kenny Chesney: Still Goin’ Strong

  1. Olivia English

    This was a really interesting post to read, Adrian! I had not previously known much about Kenny Chesney’s history before reading this post, so it was really fun to read and learn more about his career. I thought it was really cool that Troy Tomlinson described him as having an “I-will-do-it” look in his eyes, and that is definitely a tribute to his determination and how well he has done throughout his career from his own perseverance. I think it’s really cool that he’s been able to morph his sound as the genre of country music has flowed and changed, all while keeping up such a fast paced career and releasing new work so regularly.

  2. Shira Yoram

    I love Kenny Chesney, so I was really happy to see this post about him. Back in high school I got to go to a free concert of his and you were spot on about the way he performs. I didn’t know about his past very much though so that was super interesting. What I love about his music is the “no shirt, no shoes, no problems” vibe that pretty much all of his songs have. His songs are perfect for sitting on the beach and relaxing. I actually just saw him perform at the Houston Rodeo a few days ago and he rocked the stage. I’m looking forward to seeing him put out many more albums!

  3. Great article Adrian. I have never really thought about it, but you are right, Kenny Chesney has really adapted to the evolution of country music. I can remember his older song, and if I were to play them for someone I am sure they would be able to identify it as a 90’s song. His new songs are filled with electric guitar, and almost remind me of a rock song. I think he has been able to last so long in the industry because he has built an image for himself. He has made a “beach boy” image for himself similar to that of Jimmy Buffet, and people like to see something different in country music.

  4. Paige Hinkle

    I enjoyed how this post talks about how Kenny Chesney both adapts to new trends in music and still makes music that can be appreciated over time. It is certainly difficult to stay true to yourself and be so successful for so long the way Chesney has. As you pointed out, this may be because of his dedication to the music and persistent work in recording music and going on tour. He also seems to be very in touch with the industry and what the other artists around him are doing. Hopefully he will be able to continue this success for many more years to come.

  5. Laura Morales

    This was a really interesting post to read! I have not heard a lot songs from Kenny Chesney, let alone know a lot about how he got started, so this was a really great read for me! I learned more about how he started in the industry, but at the same time, learned a lot more about his determination. It’s definitely evident that he is a hard worker and very dedicated to his craft because he has had an incredibly long career and continues to produce chart toppers as well as continuing to get many awards! It will be interesting to see how much more success he can continue to achieve.

  6. Mackenzi McAfee

    This post is so great and I enjoyed learning more about an artist I’m already a huge fan of. You brought up such a valid point about Kenny Chesney being a star then and now. He has a very unique sound in country music and is so talented that he can pull off any type of song and make it a hit! While his new stuff sounds good and all, I am such a huge fan of his old music that he started out with. She thinks my tractor’s sexy will always be my favorite!!!

  7. Julie Kleberg

    I loved this post because Kenny Chesney is one of my all time favorite artists. I usualy am not a huge fan of artists who are trendy, in the sense that they change their songs to the times. He pulls it off though because, while his style has evolved over the years, it has never gotten too cheesy and he definitely has real raw talent. Ever since his start he has continued to become more and more succesful producing more and more good music that hits top charts. I think he will be remembered as one of the best. Interesting post! We love Kenny!

  8. Kevin Lefkowitz

    When my mom drove us to school, she had us listen to exclusively country music. Although I am pretty terrible at remembering artists, and worse at remembering lyrics and song names, I remember trying to sing along with my mom to “She’s Got it All.” I began listening to Kenny Chesney’s other songs and he really helped me get into country music. This post brought me some serious nostalgia, so thank you for that! I was lucky enough to see him at the rodeo this past week and, though he was not as good in person as I had expected, really enjoyed the show.

  9. Timothy Harakal

    Thanks for this post! I agree with your observation that he knows how to continually adapt his sound. And he’s already how old? Well, given that Wanda Jackson is already in her 80’s and still performing (although not really changing her sound that much to appeal to more modern audiences), who knows how much longer Chesney will be performing! I enjoyed how much you emphasized his personal drive, and it only makes sense that it seems like 75% or more of this business is just plain old hard work – work that Chesney has been putting in since day 1 to get his name and albums out there. It certainly helps that his other 75% is pure talent too.

  10. Erin McWilliams

    Adrian, great post!
    I am not very familiar with Kenny Chesney, but after this post I feel like I am. I think that to be successful in the country music industry, you have to take initiative like he did (unless of course you have famous parents or some connection to stardom). It’s interesting that you note that he appeals to the masses– both traditional and contemporary country fans–and continues to produce songs that are transforming along with the industry itself. I hope that Kenny Chesney never slows down and continues to make great music that everyone can enjoy!

  11. Something that has always surprised me about Chesney is how he manages to keep “up” with trends and yet lives a pretty isolated life. Doesn’t he live on his own Caribbean island, with just himself and presumably some house staff?

  12. Mae

    Loved this post! Kenny Chesney defines middle school music jams for me, and I think it’s awesome that he is still so relevant today! I laughed at Dusty’s comment about how he lives on his own Caribbean island, because he’s right, how does he keep up with everything?? I feel like any other artist with such popularity to just disappear into isolated life would lose all contact and unfortunately lose his fame. Kenny Chesney is definitely not this case! Not that it matters though, because he has made enough money so that he can do this. Kenny Chesney was an artist that I listened to even when country music was not my genre of choice, so I definitely agree that his success is hugely due to his ability to appeal to so many crowds. Despite his age, he still looks the same as he did 15 years ago and I truly think he will stay in style for many more years to come.

  13. Lee Allen

    This was a step in a different direction from the other posts, and I like it! It’s not every day that you find someone who’s been around for a while, and is still relevant. When I think of that topic, the only ones I can imagine are sports figures, like Michael Jordan, Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki, Derek Jeter, etc. For it to happen in music, ESPECIALLY COUNTRY, is a feat of its own. We all know how quickly country music changes, and for an artist to stay true to his values and beliefs, yet somehow change their music to stay up to date, that’s admirable. It’s incredible that he’s still topping charts and selling out shows, his target demographic truly cannot be categorized.

  14. Joseph Schooling

    Nice post, Adrian! I really enjoyed listening to the song you posted. It’s amazing to see how long Chesney has lasted in the music industry, especially since the music industry evolves so quickly. It’s also interesting that Dusty pointed out that he lives by himself on his own island. Maybe that’s one of the biggest reasons he can just live in his own world and write whatever he desires and not based on external pressures. The popularity and success of his songs is also unparalleled to none.

  15. Tyler King

    Great article! Kenny Chesney is someone I’ve always enjoyed listening to because of charisma he has in his songs. One of my favorites of his is “Boys of Fall”. I enjoyed reading about his experience being picked by a record label and them looking at more than just his singing talents and potential but more of who he is as a person. I also liked how you mentioned about how he has been able to adjust to the changing sounds of country music as his career has gone along.

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