Interview: Kenny Chesney
For his first studio album since 2009s Hemingways Whiskey, Kenny Chesney wasnt content to rest on his laurels, the superstar decided to challenge himself. The result is Welcome to the Fishbowl, an album that finds Kenny diving head first into some deep song material ranging from losing loved ones to navigating the sometimes choppy waters of relationships.
Prior to the launch of his Brothers of the Sun Tour, which kicked off on June 2nd, we caught up with Kenny to talk music and more. He shared his insights on creating Welcome to the Fishbowl and teaming up with his buddy Tim McGraw on the projects debut single Feel Like a Rock Star and the tour. Plus, the superstar, who snagged the cover of the June issue of Mens Health magazine, explained his view on health and fitness.
Welcome to the Fishbowl is your 13th studio album. Does it get harder or does it get easier in some ways to make these records?
I would say a little bit of both. It gets harder in the sense that I feel like, as many songs as Ive been blessed to have on the radio, I do feel like theres an element of me trying to push my audience and push myself as an artist and pushing [my audience] but not alienating them at the same time, and staying within my true self as an artist and a songwriter - that gets tougher and tougher to do for me only because I put a lot of pressure on myself, so thats hard.
The easy I want to say its easy but, [co-producer] Buddy Cannon and I feel pretty comfortable in our skin when we walk into the studio, especially if we know for sure the songs that we're going to record. Now, getting those to the point where everybody hears them is not the easy part, but, you know, just the whole process I shouldnt say easy, but Im more comfortable in that process than I think Ive ever been, and I think that shows up [in] the work that Buddy Cannon and I put into Welcome to the Fishbowl. I think that shows up. I hope it does anyway when people hear it.
When I listened to the record, one of the things I noticed is that it is a very emotional album. There are some good times, fun stuff, but there are also some deep emotions running through the project.
Yeah, no doubt... I think every album, especially when youve been making records for a little while every album has these twists and turns to get it to where it finally ends up. This one definitely had that. This is probably the biggest emotional journey that Ive ever been on in making a record. I think that shows up with the song selections and some of the writing on this record that I did
I dont know if I would have been able to emotionally make these songs as real as they sound - I believe they sound now - four or five years ago. I just wasnt ready to be that completely honest [laughs] and it takes a while to get there. It really does. But, I do believe that the people [who] listen to your music and love your music and live with your music, all they really want is the truth.
People have asked me whats different about the songs on Welcome to the Fishbowl than maybe even Hemingways Whiskey, the prior record, or a few of the previous ones and this is a very truthful record. Its a very emotionally honest record and a very emotionally raw record. Yeah, weve got a lot of things on there like "Rock Star" with Tim McGraw that people are gonna know were gonna do that live in the show, but theres a whole other side of this album other than that song. The thing that Im proud of is that it does take you on a lot of journeys emotionally. Yeah, theres having fun on this record and theres a little bit of lovin on this record. Theres a little bit of leavin. Theres a whole lot it seems of longing and searching on this record especially with "El Cerrito Place" and with "Always Gonna Be You." Theres several songs that have that thread in them. Im proud of that.
Im proud of the fact that somebody can listen to this album be taken to different places and be pushed like I said earlier. I think theyre gonna hear that I have pushed myself as an artist, as a record producer, as a person, as a songwriter. I feel like if they invest in it, theyre gonna be pushed too, but not too far which is good.
I love the name of the album Welcome to the Fishbowl. What made you decide to go with that for the title?
Well, I just felt like the title Welcome to the Fishbowl was just a curious title. You see that phrase and you go, "Whats that about? I think it would have been really easy for somebody to think that especially coming from someone who has been doing this in the public eye for a while it would be really easy for someone to sit there and go, "Well, hes just talking about all the negativity that comes along with a certain level of celebrity," but thats not the case at all. Theres not a thread of that through this song at all. What its about and why I think it is relevant is that its just the way we all live our lives today.
With all these phones that weve got where we can do anything on them, our window of the world is shrinking every single day... I know [with] what I do a certain amount of my privacy [is gone]...thats part of the price that I pay for doing what I do and being who I am, but now more than ever, everybodys life is exposed. You dont have to be in the public eye to feel like your life is exposed and that people take certain liberties [to] know whatever they want to know. Now, its that way for everyone. Were all living in this fishbowl thats getting smaller and smaller every day.
Theres a line in the song that says, "You dont have to be famous now to be a star, just get caught on video and there you are." Its true. With all the different avenues we have now on the internet and with our phones, information is instant. I grew up in East Tennessee and everybody knew everybodys business through gossip and word spread over time, you know? But now, everybody knows everybodys business and its instant, and its global, and its scary. [laughs] So, all youve gotta do now is lie. You dont have to be famous. Youve just gotta lie and youre gonna get caught. I dont care if youre 007, youre gonna get caught. Thats where the song came from and why I think the title is fairly relevant because were all trying to navigate our way through it and find our place in the world in the middle of all this craziness.
Come Over is your new single. You had mentioned this earlier the whole searching thing - I felt that in this song and you captured that feeling so well.
"Come Over" is a very real song for me. I have been the person in this song that was technically not in a relationship. You knew it was over. You knew that the relationship with that person had run its course, but there you are still in your house, your bedroom, watching the fan turn around, watching TV and so is she. Youre not together and youre alone, but then again, youre still hanging onto what was good about that relationship for some reason, and because youre doing that you dont want to mentally, emotionally and especially physically, move on to someone else, or even try someone else. So, what do we do? We have that weak moment and [laughs] we go back to one night or two or whatever it is to whats comfortable. This is a classy booty call, you know? [laughs] That's what this is, if thats possible [laughs]
Its a familiar and a comfortable booty call, let me just say that, with someone that you had a lot of emotional investment with but you know youre not gonna be with anymore. I think theres a lot of people out there that if theyre not in that situation right now, they know somebody that has been or have been in that situation. Its not a fun spot to be in. Thats what the song "Come Over" is all about.
A classy booty call I actually thought that when I was listening to the song. [laughs].
Its comfortable sex. The song is about comfortable sex, period.