ET native in town today for benefit movie premiere

Kenny Chesney

Kenny Chesney

Kenny Chesney

Kenny Chesney

Kenny Chesney admits that when you're used to moving all the time, it's hard to stay still.

"It's like a shark," says Chesney. "If a shark stays still long enough, he'll die. A shark is sleeping and it moves. I feel like that sometimes."

The East Tennessee native (Chesney grew up in Gibbs and Luttrell) has spent the past 20 years or so becoming the most popular country star in modern music. In the past decade, he 's sold more concert tickets than any other artist, regardless of genre. His hits range from the goofy, good-time number "She Thinks My Tractor's Sexy" to serious ballads, including "There Goes My Life" and "The Good Stuff." Yet the always-moving Chesney, 42, was determined to take 2010 off - and to let his document of six 2009 shows, "Kenny Chesney: Summer in 3D," fill in for an actual tour.

Chesney will be appearing today at the Regal Cinemas Pinnacle Stadium 18 in a special premiere of the film that benefits the charitable organization Variety - The Children's Charity of Eastern Tennessee.

Chesney says the decision to take time off was tough, but necessary.

"I was completely depleted at the end of last year," says Chesney. "I was exhausted."

He also felt like he wasn't always giving audiences what they deserved, because sometimes his performances felt "mechanical."

It was a visit from Bruce Springsteen that brought it home.

"He came to see us in Holmdel, N.J., which is about 10 minutes from his house," says Chesney. "He rolls up on a motorcycle, no entourage whatsoever, just pulls up beside the bus, goes on stage and watches our show."

Afterward, Springsteen visited with Chesney on Chesney's tour bus.

"We're sitting there and he could tell. I think it was something that looked familiar to him. I was almost out to lunch. And I talked to him a lot about just living life out there and what I was feeling and just stuff. And that's when he said, 'Look, you can write half a song and you can put it in a drawer and you can go back to it in five years and that song will still be there.' He told me it took him a long time to figure out that life isn't like that. And that really hit home for me in a lot of ways."

Chesney recently appeared on "The Oprah Winfrey Show." Winfrey asked Chesney to think of something he'd never gotten to do that he'd always wanted to do. It took him a while to think of something.

"My grandmother is 85 years old and she had never been in an airplane in her entire life," says Chesney. "I told them that I wanted to pick her up in an airplane, have lunch in the Florida Keys and bring her back. And we did it. And it was special for me and my mom. My Aunt Sharon went with us, too, and they got to see her get that life experience that she would've never have taken the time to do for herself. And if I had've been busy, if I were preparing to go on tour, I wouldn't have taken time to do it either."

Chesney says these are things he "needs to do."

And there may be a shift in focus in Chesney's future as an artist. He says producing Willie Nelson's 2008 album "Moment of Forever" gave him something to think about.

"When I produced that record on Willie I was probably the most uninspired person, not just as a musician, but as an artist," says Chesney. "I was looking for inspiration. Hanging out with Willie for three months was the most inspiring thing, ever. Here's a guy in his 70s, and he (is) still writing great songs and looking forward to writing great songs. He's not really worried about commercial success anymore. I want to slide into that place one day."

Chesney laughs, adding: "I don't want to do that right this second! I'm still competitive. I still got a fire burning in my gut where I want to go out there and put on a great show."

Chesney says while he's glad he's not embarking on a major tour, he does miss it. And there are those 10 concerts he has scattered through the year, but those are shows with a different attitude.

"I kind of like to call it 'Plug in and Play,' because that's all we're going to do," says Chesney. "We're not going to practice. We're not going to prepare. We're just going to set up our amps and plug in and play. We did the Houston Rodeo last month, and I hadn't seen the (band) at all since that last show in Indianapolis last year. We plugged in and played, and it felt great. I'm doing, like, one show a month. I'm gonna just relax. I'm going to try and turn myself off. I'm going to try and turn my mind off. I'm going to really try to relax for just a minute without thinking about 2011, because it's going to be here before you know it."

Wayne Bledsoe may be reached at 865-342-6444.

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Comments » 2

spoonerism writes:

I just can't figure this Kenny Chesney guy out. What is he looking for in life? First - everything's in a box, now he's like a shark. WTF? He's gone off the deep end with these "life" analogies. You sing on stage, people pay. That's it. Quit being such an egomaniac!

TNgirlygirl writes:

He's promoting a movie give him a break!

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