‘There’s a piece of me in all of these songs’

YOU COULD say that Kenny Chesney, with a top tour, hit after hit and another multiplatinum album, enjoyed an amazing last couple of years - but you’d be wrong. Yes, he accomplished all that. But, enjoy it? That’s another matter.

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Published: Tue 18 Sep 2007, 11:17 AM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 8:49 PM

The year 2006 was another pinnacle in the seemingly unstoppable career of the country superstar, but it also may have been his most frustrating time as an artist - and a person.

Chesney was still reeling from his very public breakup of his brief marriage to Academy Award-winner Renee Zellweger, and felt particularly uninspired, even when it came to what he loved most - touring.

“I wasn’t mentally ready to go on the road, after all the media stuff that happened with the breakup with Renee, I just mentally wasn’t ready to go, so all last year, even though I had fun and the whole tour was amazing ... mentally I just wasn’t 100 percent there,” he admits.

He was even reluctant to work on a follow-up to his multiplatinum 2005 album, The Road and the Radio, which featured such hits as Beer in Mexico.

Chesney, who has written or co-written tunes for all of his previous albums, found the most personal and profound songs for his new disc, Just Who I Am: Poets and Pirates, from the pens of others. The album, on sale Tuesday, doesn’t contain one song written by Chesney. Even so, he considers it perhaps the one that reveals his true emotions more than any other, especially with songs like Wife and Kids, where he wistfully yearns for the perfect family life that now eludes him, and Better as a Memory, in which he lists his own shortcomings as a mate.

“This record opens me up a little bit more, and I’m letting that happen more and more, and that’s tough for a guy like me, who’s constantly got a wall up,” says the congenial Chesney, relaxing at a Manhattan studio a few hours before a concert at Madison Square Garden.

“There’s a piece of me in all of these songs, there’s a whole lot of me in the majority of them,” he continues. “‘Better as a Memory,’ that’s probably one of the most brutally honest songs that I’ve ever recorded about me, and it’s a letter that I’ve probably written to a lot of girls before.”

Still, he’s not quite ready to reveal just everything. While he may have been frustrated during and after the breakup of his marriage, that doesn’t mean he had writer’s block: the difficulties actually made him pretty prolific.

“I’ve got a lot of great songs!” he says, laughing. “You won’t hear any on this record - maybe in ten years from now.”

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