"We had a dog named Bocephus living in the front yard/ he liked sleeping out on top of the car/ he drank beer out of a mason jar." - Keg In The Closet - Kenny Chesney.

It's no surprise expatriate Australasian guitar slinger Keith Urban maximises high profile by touring with chart topping Tennessee troubadour Kenny Chesney.

Chesney, 36, was the biggest grossing country act of 2003 and topped Billboard rock and country charts with 500,000 plus sales in his first week with eighth album, When The Sun Goes Down.

The singer from Luttrell - hometown of late Chet Atkins - borrows from Jimmy Buffett's hedonism in his populist music.

It worked for Georgian superstar Alan Jackson when Buffett joined him for their huge hit It's 5 0' Clock Somewhere.

Chesney milks cross genre marketing by duetting with Uncle Kracker on the Brett James penned title track.

''He's one of the funniest people I've ever met," says Chesney of the rapper.

Hell, if Billy Joe Shaver can join Hank Jr as a duet partner of Kid Rock, why not.

Chesney retreated to the Caribbean to fuel his new disc.

"I headed down to the islands, to a boat I have in the Caribbean," says Chesney.
"I was going to take a two-month vacation, and didn't want to hear any music besides Bob Marley. When I got down there, I pulled out this old guitar that I had in a closet, started playing it and all of a sudden began one of the most creative times of my life.''

Chesney penned four tunes on the disc he co-produced with Buddy Cannon.

They include poignant Old Blue Chair, Being Drunk's A Lot Like Loving You and I Go Back - a reflection on his musical rites of passage.

"I go back to a two toned short bed Chevy/ drivin my first love out to the levee."

So why is Chesney the hottest country act of the year?

Well, his nostalgia-primed music is aimed directly at radio backed with intensive touring.

And, like Garth Brooks, he has a degree in advertising and targets college audiences.

''These kids aren't just into country,'' he says. ''I can play the Violent Femmes or Hank Williams Jr.'s A Country Boy Can Survive or one of my songs, and they'll sing along to all of it. That's how I grew up listening to music, and a lot of my audience is listening to music just like I did, and just like I do.''

That hedonism peaks in Keg In The Closet.

''In the song, it says, 'We didn't think it could ever end,' '' Chesney recalled, ''when it did end. Wow, it was scary. Life's not a keg party. Sometimes it looks like a keg party out here, but it's not.''

Not a keg party but a genre long laced with booze - he has tour sponsorship from Cruzan (pronounced ''cruisin''') - the rum of choice for tropical country fans.

''It's not a sponsorship, it's a way of life,'' says Chesney, ''and I'm getting paid for it.''
But life is not all rum, roses and vittles.

Chesney cut Michael Dulaney-Jason Sellers-Neil Thrasher penned Some People Change - a new south reflection.

"His old man was a rebel yeller, bad boy to the bone/ he'd say 'can't trust a coloured feller'/ he'd judge em by the tone of their skin/ he was raised to think like his dad, narrow minded, full of hate/ on the road that nowhere faced, till the grace of God got in the way/
then he saw the light and hit his knees and cried and said a prayer/ rose up a brand new man and left the old one right there."

Not dramatic as Mark David Manders Klan parody Three Sheets To The Wind but likely to be heard by millions more.

Chesney is likely to be known for songs such as Jose Leo's escapist Outta Here - "south of the border there's a place I know/ where James Taylor sang about Mexico."

top / back to diary