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Exclusive Interview: Kenny Chesney Talks Touring, Living In A ‘Fishbowl,’ And Baseball

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What with all the milestones and success Kenny Chesney has achieved over the past two decades, it seems hard to believe there's one thing he hasn't tackled yet in his career.

But there is. He's doing it now, and he's just a bit overwhelmed by it.

So, what could it be? "In all the years that I've been doing this, I've never launched a tour and launched an album at basically the same time," Chesney admits--adding with a laugh, "Doing one of those things is enough!"

He's speaking the truth, and then some. His 2012 Brothers of the Sun tour, which kicks off June 2, is no ordinary tour, being his first with fellow megastar Tim McGraw in a decade. And, his new record Welcome To The Fishbowl, which hits stores just a couple weeks after the tour starts, is poised to be his biggest release yet.

The idea of handling both near-simultaneously is daunting, to say the least.  "It's been an interesting month for me," Chesney deadpans. "I love it. It's a challenge."

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Kenny Chesney

The singer is so busy, as a matter of fact, that he is squeezing in interviews while driving to rehearsal. He sounds laid-back over the phone, but admits that he's in the middle of what he terms a "very stressful time" concentrating on his part of the upcoming tour. However, he assures that it's also an extremely creative and exciting time as well.

"The more we do now and the harder we work, the better it's going to be," he notes of the show. "That's the interesting part about it--we can do all the songs we think we're going to do, in the sequence we think we're going to do it, and what we think will work. But we don't actually know until we get in front of people and feel the energy and exchange that energy with the crowd. So it's interesting right now. Every year is different."

There's a couple things that fans can count on that will be definitely different this summer. Number one, Chesney will be playing some tunes off his upcoming new album. "Obviously we're going to do the song with Tim [current duet hit 'Feel Like A Rock Star'], and the new song 'Come Over.' We may do another song," he says. "But when I'm a fan and I go to a concert, I don't want to hear new songs. And I kinda keep that in mind, so I won't do a lot of 'previewing' on stage."

What he will do is the other different thing promised, which will no doubt thrill his longtime show attendees. "We're going to bring some songs back that we haven't done in a few years. We're still figuring all that out right now as a band--but yeah, three or four songs that we haven't done in a while." (Note for the gambling fans out there: Chesney gave no clue as to which songs he has in mind--just laughed when told everyone out there would probably be dying to know--so all bets are on!)

Those who were hoping to hear more of the new album revealed on stage needn't be disappointed, as Welcome To The Fishbowl will be available June 19. Chesney explains that the album's wry title is not about his own experience as a public figure, as some fans have interpreted.

"I thought that the title would make people curious about what it meant. But I can see where somebody might think I'm writing about the negativity of a certain level of celebrity," he said. "But it's not about celebrity at all. It's about how our world is shrinking every day, and the technology we have today allowing us to do so. You don't have to be in the public eye like me to experience the positive and negative of 'living in a fishbowl.' Because now our society is living in it."

"I grew up in east Tennessee, and everybody knew everybody's business," Chesney continues. "Because I lived in such a small town, eventually you heard all the gossip--you heard it at church, or you heard it at school, or whatever. It eventually got to you."

"Now, everybody knows everyone's business--and it's instant. Global!" He pauses to laugh for a minute. "So, we're all here together. It's not just in my industry...everything is so sensationalized that there's not a lot of heart and soul in a lot of things there used to be heart and soul in."

When asked if this sort of intense focus on information is a hindrance to his career--after all, Chesney was making hits way before social media existed to report on his every move--the singer is pragmatic. "That comes with the territory, it really really does," he says. "It's been interesting to see that change, because it's changed a lot just over the past few years. This hunger for information, it's a lot different than it was just a couple years ago."

Chesney does understand his fans' impulse to know everything they can about him--because after all, he's a super-fan himself, most markedly of megastars in the sports world, many of whom he's had the opportunity to hang out with over the duration of his career. "Throughout the years I've been lucky enough to not only have met some of my heroes in the sports world, but become friends with them," he says. "I've gotten to meet so many people who've inspired me as a human being. I really was consumed by sports as a kid, and I've tried to apply the lessons I've learned playing sports to everything I do in business and how I run everything day to day out on the road."

Okay, speaking of sports, everyone knows by now that Chesney is a football fan (he's made two football-related documentaries for ESPN, and says he may do another if he finds a particularly "authentic" and "human" story he feels attracted to). But did you know he's also a baseball fan?

Yep, he sure is--in fact, he played as a kid. So, the natural question is--which "boys of summer" will he be rooting for this season? "I don't really have a team. I've got a lot of buddies that play," he notes. "I grew up loving the Red Sox."

Why Boston? "We didn't have a pro sports team and we still don't in Knoxville, Tennessee," Chesney explains. "So there was really no allegiance to a major-league baseball team. We just kind of pulled for who we saw on TV. And when I was a kid, the Cinncinati Reds were on; the Atlanta Braves; and they had the Red Sox on a lot for some reason. And I just remember always loving them. There's no other rhyme or reason to it other than that!"

Chesney will be on the road with McGraw for most of the summer. You can keep up with his schedule here.

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