Country superstar Kenny Chesney has always been a road warrior, year in and year out selling as many or more tickets to his concerts than any other act in any genre, and he’s never been long off the radio dial since he surfaced in the early '90s.
But his output as a songwriter has been up and down since the 2005 annulment of his short-lived marriage to actress Renee Zellweger. For a while, Chesney turned exclusively to songs written by others, as if to make sure that gossip-hungry members of the media and the public couldn’t latch on to any of his own words and try extrapolating explanations for the nuptial meltdown.
His own words, along with his voice, began to resurface with 2008’s “Lucky Old Sun” album, for which he wrote or co-wrote nearly half the songs, then he pulled back again for 2010’s “Hemingway’s Whiskey,” co-writing just one song, “Reality.”
For his new album, “Welcome to the Fishbowl,” arriving June 19, the Luttrell, Tenn., musician has co-written three of the 11 new songs: the title track, “To Get to You (55th and 3rd),” and the song premiering exclusively now on Pop & Hiss, “Makes Me Wonder.”
In this pulsing country-rock power ballad, which he wrote with Wendell Mobley and Neil Thrasher, Chesney explores a reunion with an old flame that brings up fond feelings and raises the question of where things broke down. Unlike many country breakup songs that serve up variations on the “don’t get mad, get even” philosophy, “Makes Me Wonder” places no blame but is built on the equanimity that’s been a strong part of Chesney’s appeal as a writer, with strong empathy for the woman’s point of view.
Chesney is back on the road on his much-anticipated “Brothers of the Sun” tour with Tim McGraw, which began June 2 and makes its only Southland stop on July 14 at Angel Stadium in Anaheim.
He'll also be teaming up with acclaimed director Jonathan Demme, whose latest concert film "Neil Young Journeys" opens a limited run later this month, for a new installment of "American Express Unstaged" that premieres June 20.
Demme, the Academy Award-winning director of "Silence of the Lambs" and other feature films as well as the acclaimed 1984 Talking Heads concert documentary "Stop Making Sense," will direct a livestream performance by Chesney from New Jersey.
“I think it's a unique situation for both of us because odds are we never would have worked together without this thing, you know?” Chesney told the Associated Press. “And I think it's a good thing. I love meeting and working with people who can push me and inspire me creatively in a different way. And I think that all creative people look for inspiration. That's the thing I'm looking forward to the most about this, because it is left of center and it is combining two worlds.”
-- Randy Lewis