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Issue Date: August 2005 Issue


'Sun' Country


Lynne Thompson
editorial@clevelandmagazine.com

Kenny Chesney isn't keen on talking to the public about his personal life, especially his recent marriage to Oscar-winning actress Renee Zellweger. When asked, the Country Music Association and Academy of Country Music Entertainer of the Year briefly tells how he and his bride kept the guest list short for their very private May 9 wedding in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

"If the people I consider my family aren't at my grandmother's house on Christmas Eve," he says, "then they don't come to the wedding, either."

But the amiable 37-year-old superstar talks a blue streak when it comes to discussing his latest studio album, "Be As You Are: Songs From An Old Blue Chair," and his "Somewhere in the Sun Tour," which stops at Gund Arena Aug. 5. The album, hailed as Chesney's most personal to date, is what the singer-songwriter describes as a musical version of the journal he keeps in the Caribbean. His 60-foot Sea Ray boat has become a second home to Chesney, who has spent most of his nontouring time in the islands over the last 5 1/2 years.

"I never intended for anybody to hear these songs," he explains. "I was just writing songs about the people I met, the places I'd been to, the stories these people told me."

The island element has also found its way into Chesney's high-energy shows, most notably in the form of the "sand pit," which he describes as an area "right up in the middle of [the] stage" where 200 lucky concert-goers get to stand each night. And then there are his golf-cart forays into parking lots at outdoor venues. He says he spent about an hour before a recent show in San Diego just hanging out with tailgating fans.

"On the 'Margaritas & Senoritas Tour,' we used to go out and give everybody who was of age margaritas," he remembers. "I'm a huge Aerosmith fan. I saw them when I was in college, and I was out in the parking lot partying before their show. If Steven Tyler would have come out and given me a drink, I'd never have forgotten it."


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