Kenny Chesney Reveals Why Boston Means So Much To Him

Kenny ChesneyPhoto Credit: Jill Trunnell

It’s no secret how much Kenny Chesney loves Boston, but if there was any doubt, he showed us just how much this summer. Despite taking 2017 off from his summer touring schedule, he knew he couldn’t miss a stop Boston, so the eight-time Entertainer of the Year agreed to play two record-breaking stadium shows to 121,624 people over two nights at Gillette Stadium (the home of the New England Patriots) where No Shoes Nation was named.

Coming off the recent release (on October 27) of Live from No Shoes Nation, the 30-song live recording celebrating the million+ fans who come out each summer to see the country singer perform live, Chesney also just released dates for his 2018 Trip Around The Sun Tour, which will finish off at Gillette once again next summer on August 24.

Kenny ChesneyPhoto Credit: Allister Ann

We caught up recently with the songwriter from East Tennessee to find out why his latest album is so special, which songs were captured at Gillette Stadium and what it is about Boston that he loves so much.

What makes “Live in No Shoes Nation” different from all of your other albums?

The fans. It’s a snapshot of 10 years of my life, our life… and the way No Shoes Nation sounds.  When we closed down 2016, I was taking a year off. I was exhausted, and we had another project we were working on. But I started taping shows in 2007, just to have a record, to – you know – remember what all this sounds like. When I started listening, what struck me was the passion you could hear coming back at us.

I’ve always said the energy No Shoes Nation throws at the stage: there’s nothing like it. That feeling overwhelms us, pushes us, and in the throes of the show, we can’t take it in. Listening to all the tapes, I went, “Well, the people who’ve come to these shows don’t know how amazing they sound either. Let’s release this! Let’s share a document of how incredible what these nights really are.”

And it is capturing 10 years! This isn’t a night or two, or even a tour or two. This is me and Dave Matthews in Atlanta on the last night of the Flip Flop Summer Tour; this is us on the Florida/Alabama state line doing a free spur-of-the-moment concert for 45,000 people; this is a very unplugged moment in Asbury Park, New Jersey… and three nights at Red Rocks, this natural amphitheater outside Denver. Not to mention a whole lot of Gillette Stadium (in Foxboro, Massachusetts).

Tell me a little about this exhaustive process for the 30-song live album, what fans can expect and which songs were captured in Boston?

A lot of listening. And dreaming. And remembering.

What fans can expect are moments that stood out, for whatever reason. They’re going to get hits – like “American Kids,” “Boys of Fall,” but they’re also going to get things we rarely do. Guy Clark is one of America’s great songwriters, and in Austin, we did “Hemingway’s Whiskey.” In Boston, I remember playing “Boston” and “Happy on the Hey Now,” both because, in that moment, they weren’t just local songs, but absolutely the right song for the people who were there.

Why did you decide to include some of your friends in this 30-song set?

If it felt right… and the performance was there. Taylor Swift just killed “Big Star,” and when she walked out on my birthday, it was an amazing surprise. Grace Potter’s version of “You & Tequila” at Red Rocks was just stunning; in a sea of amazing versions of us singing that song, there was something magic about that one. And you take David Lee Murphy, who I call the original Hillbilly Rock Star, and you put him on the stage at FloraBama – and the youngest kids have no idea who he is, but you kick into his “Dust on the Bottle,” and you’ve got’em in the palm of your hand.

What are a few of your favorite moments on this album?

That’s not a fair question. Every moment is a favorite. In all the miles, the shows, the faces and places, there were so many special moments that didn’t make it on here. So, the ones that did? Well, they’re all beyond favorites.

And if you listen to what I’m saying, that pulls you into the songs, too. I don’t want to over-explain. I want people who’ve been there – or who’ve never bothered to come out – to put this on, close their eyes and be there. Feel the energy, the fun, the heart.

How did it feel setting a new record when you were here in Boston this summer at Gillette Stadium for two sold-out shows?

I don’t think like that. My relationship with Boston is in the soul, not the records.

Every year, even this year when I wasn’t touring, the energy at Gillette is something so special. It’s why on a year “off,” I came up and played two shows. We have had so much fun at Gillette. All my island friends come, all their friends and family from New England. We’ve had so many friends from the Patriots and Red Sox be at the shows, other athletes and coaches, my parents…

We named the No Shoes Nation there, and when the on-sales for 2018 happened, we just sold our millionth ticket! Think about that: since 2005, when you were one of three stadium shows I played, until now… with three years off… over a million people have come out and rocked with us!

Your fondness of Boston is no secret to fans of No Shoes Nation. What is it about Boston that you love so much?

The heart. Passionate people who really care, who really dig in. Everyone I’ve ever met works hard, takes real pride in what they do and plays with the same kind of passion. The Kraft family, right down to the people selling concessions at the shows: I’ve met so many really fine people. It’s a lot like where I come from, and that’s saying something.