Photo: Rick Diamond for Getty Images
Kenny Chesney Reflects On His Favorite Tour Moments & Teases Why Upcoming Here And Now Tour Is "A New Way Of Being Ready To Rock"
On April 23, Kenny Chesney will launch his 19th tour — the Here And Now Tour — at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla. The veteran country star looks back on the touring legacy he's built and details what makes his shows so special.
"I can't believe how long it's been since I felt the energy of @noshoesnation in my veins," Kenny Chesney captioned a social media post on April 19. Like many touring musicians, the country star has been off the road since the end of May 2019. But for someone like Chesney, that is a remarkably long time.
Since 1998, Chesney has toured 18 times, never having more than two years in between treks — and he's only done that twice. His extensive touring schedule has become the primary element of his career, making Chesney one of country music's leading road warriors.
Chesney kicks off his 19th tour in Tampa on April 23. Titled the Here and Now Tour — named after his (fittingly) 19th album — the trek has the singer hitting 21 stadiums and 20 amphitheaters across the United States. The roster is as stacked as the schedule: Fellow country hitmakers Dan + Shay, Old Dominion and Carly Pearce will support at the stadium shows (only Pearce will open at the amphitheaters).
Upon the tour's announcement in November, Pearce and Dan + Shay's reactions to being invited out with Chesney showed just how major his tours are. Pearce called it a "bucket list dream,"while Dan + Shay said they've been attending Chesney's tours as fans for more than a decade. "Look for us in the crowd every night singing every word to every song," they wrote.
With a record 31 No. 1s on Billboard's Country Airplay chart, it's no surprise Chesney's tours are so appealing to his fans (dubbed No Shoes Nation, as he referenced in his post) and his openers. And after nearly three years away from the stage, songs like "Beer In Mexico" and "Summertime" may be more impactful than they've ever been.
Ahead of the first Here and Now Tour date, Chesney took a break from rehearsals to chat with GRAMMY.com via email. He dropped some hints about this year's tour and shared some of his most cherished memories — but perhaps most notably, Chesney made it very clear that he's not letting another three years pass him by.
You've said "I was shocked to see how much more these songs could be" because of the power of this year's band. As you've been rehearsing, which songs feel the most elevated? And what's making them more impactful?
If you've been to one of my shows, you know what the power of the band has always been. People are swept up and "in" it. I've been really blessed with my players.
But when you change a few key people, everyone comes to the bandstand with a different charge, a different chemistry. We are all really listening to the songs, hearing them with fresh ears and understanding maybe things we've not heard before.
And after three years, the joy of being on that stage? Playing together? It's the best feeling in the world! We never take it for granted, that energy when we hit the stage. But when you step away for this long, you really feel what's missing.
2019's Songs for the Saints Tour was exclusively in arenas. What makes stadium shows particularly special?
All the shows are special. When we did the Songs for the Saints Tour, it was about recognizing those fans who don't live in stadium markets, who have to travel. I grew up outside Knoxville; I was one of those kids, and I don't forget that stuff. To me, any stage I get to walk out on? It's the best possible show I could do anywhere — and that's what we try to do.
Stadiums, though, have this massive energy. They're built for football games, fans who get loud! That's what they're for, and if you do your set list right, to have all those people together, well, we can lift each other up in ways you can't anywhere else. There's nothing like it: the sound, the staging, the momentum.
When you're really rocking, you can do three miles up there. People don't realize that [a stadium] stage is 220 feet wide, and then you have the strut off the front of it. We cover a lot of ground, see a lot of smiling faces. That's a big part of it: the faces, the voices singing. It's massive to experience.
A tour press release said "With some classics coming off the set list, Chesney's worked up several songs to possibly rotate in." What are some of the classics that will never leave your set list and why?
Never say never. I think that's a dangerous precedent. And the list can change from night to night, especially with the way the lighting's being done this year.
But what's amazing to me is, even taking some songs out of the basic set list, how many hits remain. I think Billboard has me at 30 or 31 No. 1s, the most on their current chart, and I've had almost as many songs land at No. 2. It's an absolute impossibility that they're all going to be in there. Some songs — and I can think of one [that] people will be surprised we're not doing — can be rested for a tour or two.
This year marks 20 years of No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems, which spawned the song of the same name that has now become one of your set staples. What does that song mean to you, in terms of both a career song and a live song?
Being free-spirited, carefree. Ocean life. Letting go of everything that stresses you. Sometimes you can't do anything about it, so let go.
As a career song, I think it's really the album. We'd been building towards or "collecting" the things that really mattered to me, that spoke to my way of living — and finally, there was an album that was absolutely me in that sense. We wanted hits — and "Young" really launched us hard, defined who I was making records for, "The Good Stuff" won the ACM Single of the Year — but it was also this larger picture.
What people didn't realize back then was how many young people were just like I was. I sang about our life, our escape, our dreams — and it deepened the connection. The fans knew I not only saw them; I was just like them. That authenticity, that bond matters.
When we sing it live, that's a moment where we all really see each other, let go. Every night, I tell No Shoes Nation, "Whatever problems you've got, tonight, just for this evening, leave them out there and come be with us." It's powerful.
Speaking of No Shoes Nation, "No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problem" inspired that name. You officially declared that name for your fans at Gillette Stadium 10 years ago this year. In the 10 years since, how have you seen No Shoes Nation come to life?
No Shoes Nation came to life long before it was named at Gillette Stadium, by my good friend and tour promoter Louis Messina. It came to life in the tailgates in the fields around Coral Sky Amphitheater in West Palm Beach; the Tiki Bars on flatbed trailers people would roll into the parking lots in Columbus, Ohio or around Soldier Field in Chicago or Texas Stadium in Dallas; the people driving tractors to the shows or making friends with the people hanging in the same places.
It was well-established before we ever thought to name it. But they are a country without borders that inspires me every day, especially during these years of so much uncertainty. Their passion for life and music is amazing. They are some of the best people in the world, they look after each other, and they really care. I can't wait to see all those faces this year.
What are some of your most memorable moments from touring — whether they were on or off stage?
That's like asking a parent "which child do you like best." I mean, how do you pick?
I remember a young woman getting on stage in a ball cap. I was going to give her the helmet I give someone every night, and she was shaking her head no, holding her hat on. Then I realized: she's got cancer; she's doing chemo. I got it, but I wanted to give her just as much heart back — and all I could think to do was pull off my hat, too.
So, there we were, with our hats off, no hair, smiling into each other's eyes. She was so beautiful, and so in the moment. I mean, you never forget that. I learned another lesson about the ways we support and live and inspire each other.
One year in Texas, we'd been watching the weather. Those fans are so alive, so at the moment, we didn't want to call the show. The weather report seemed okay. Then the biggest storm rolled in, just drenching us. It was terrible, and we made the decision to call it.
I walked out, wanting to keep people calm and even. I respect my audience, but it's a lot of people. Then I sang "Something Sexy About The Rain" from Be As You Are, my first island record. There's video of it. Talk about perfection in an absolute train wreck moment. But that's the thing about No Shoes Nation — they're so in the moment, too, they just sailed through it with us, went to their cars and got home safe.
Along with an amplified sound, what else is going to feel different about this year's stadium tour?
Just being out there again. We've been in rehearsals, and even more than how much I've missed the road and my road family, when we hear No Shoes Nation start to roar — the way our hearts pound is going to be a new way of being ready to rock.
Thomas Rhett's Road To 'Where We Started,' From Down-Home Roots To Country-Pop Stardom — And Back Again — Before Finding Middle Ground
Photo: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for The Recording Academy
Here's What Harry Styles, Brandi Carlile & More Had To Say Backstage At The 2023 GRAMMYs
Backstage at the 2023 GRAMMYs, established and emerging stars alike — from Harry Styles to Samara Joy — opened up about what Music’s Biggest Night meant to them.
Like every edition of Music’s Biggest Night, the 2023 GRAMMYs featured a wealth of funny, touching and inspiring onstage speeches — both at the Premiere Ceremony and the main telecast.
But artists tend to express themselves differently, more intimately, backstage — and this certainly applied to GRAMMY winners and nominees at this year’s ceremony.
In the litany of videos below, see and hear stirring, extemporaneous statements from artists all over the 2023 GRAMMYs winners and nominees list, from Album Of The Year winner Harry Styles to Americana star-turned-rocker Brandi Carlile to Best Global Music Performance nominee Anoushka Shankar and beyond.
Throughout, you’ll get a better sense of the good jitters backstage at Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles on Feb. 5, and hear exactly what the golden gramophone means to this crop of musical visionaries.
The list of videos begins below.
Photo: Alberto E. Rodriguez / Stringer / Getty Images
Watch Kim Petras, Muni Long, Steve Lacy & More React To Winning Their First GRAMMY
Many first-time GRAMMY-nominees became first-time GRAMMY-winners on Sun. Feb. 5 at the 2023 GRAMMYs. Hear the first-time winners react after their GRAMMY-winning moments.
Many first-time GRAMMY-nominees struck gold at the 2023 GRAMMYs on Sunday, Feb. 5, where they received their very first golden gramophones.
Among the first-time nominees to become GRAMMY-winners were Samara Joy, winner of two GRAMMYs for Best New Artist and Best Jazz Vocal Album; Steve Lacy, who secured the GRAMMY for Best Progressive R&B Album for Gemini Rights; Kim Petras winning alongside Sam Smith for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance with "Unholy", and Germaine Franco of Encanto. Hear what these winners and many more had to say when they spoke with The Recording Academy and press after their GRAMMY-winning moments.
Head to live.GRAMMY.com all year long to watch all the GRAMMY performances, acceptance speeches, the GRAMMY Live From The Red Carpet livestream special, the full Premiere Ceremony livestream, and even more exclusive, never-before-seen content from the 2023 GRAMMYs.
Samara Joy, GRAMMY-winner for Best New Artist and Best Jazz Vocal Album - Linger Awhile
Steve Lacy, GRAMMY-winner for Best Progressive R&B Album - Gemini Rights
Muni Long, GRAMMY-winner for Best R&B Performance - "Hrs & Hrs"
Kim Petras, GRAMMY-winner for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance - "Unholy" with Sam Smith
Ashley McBryde, GRAMMY-winner for Best Country Duo/Group Performance - "Never Wanted To Be That Girl"
Carly Pearce, GRAMMY-winner for Best Country Duo/Group Performance - "Never Wanted To Be That Girl"
Masa Takumi, GRAMMY-winner for Best Global Music Album - Sakura
Kabaka Pyramid, GRAMMY-winner for Best Reggae Album - The Kalling
Stephanie Economou, GRAMMY-winner for Best Score Soundtrack for Video Games and Other Interactive Media - Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: Dawn Of Ragnarok
White Sun, GRAMMY-winner for Best New Age, Ambient, or Chant Album - Mystic Mirror
Photo: Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for The Recording Academy
20 Artists Who Made History At The 2023 GRAMMYs Other Than Beyoncé: Taylor Swift, Kim Petras, Viola Davis & More
As Queen Bey takes her throne as the artist with the most GRAMMYs of all time, take a look at some of the other 2023 GRAMMY winners who joined her in celebrating momentous achievements.
In the win heard around the world, Beyoncé became the person with the most GRAMMYs of all time at the 2023 GRAMMYs. Her win for Best Dance/Electronic Music Album for RENAISSANCE put her at 32 golden gramophones — and in host Trevor Noah's eyes, that solidified her title as the GRAMMY GOAT.
But while Beyoncé's latest GRAMMY feat is unquestionably impressive, the "BREAK MY SOUL" singer wasn't the only artist who experienced a piece of GRAMMY history at the 65th GRAMMY Awards.
There were several special moments at the Premiere Ceremony, including the first-ever GRAMMY Awards for Songwriter Of The Year, Non-Classical (Tobias Jesso Jr.) and Best Score Soundtrack for Video Games and Other Interactive Media ("Assassin's Creed Valhalla: Dawn Of Ragnarok"). At the Telecast, Kim Petras scored a major win for the transgender community with her Best Pop Duo/Group Performance victory, and Dr. Dre was the inaugural recipient of his namesake Dr. Dre Global Impact Award.
Below, take a look at some of the history-making feats from the 2023 GRAMMYs.
As Kim Petras and Sam Smith accepted the GRAMMY for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance for their risqué collaboration, "Unholy," Smith let Petras do the talking because of a very special feat: She was the first trans woman to win in the category.
Earlier at the Premiere Ceremony, Germaine Franco became the first woman of color to win Best Score Soundtrack For Visual Media, which she won for composing the Disney animated film Encanto. (Notably, Encanto swept all three of the categories for which it was nominated, also winning Best Song Written For Visual Media for "We Don't Talk About Bruno" and Best Compilation Soundtrack For Visual Media.)
Carly Pearce and Ashley McBryde rang in a country first, as their win for Best Country Duo/Group Performance (for "Never Wanted to Be That Girl") marked the first female pairing to win the category — and the first GRAMMY win for both artists!
There were seven new awards given at the 2023 GRAMMYs, making those seven recipients the first to receive their respective honors. These were the first-time winners at the Premiere Ceremony: Tobias Jesso Jr. (Songwriter Of The Year, Non-Classical), "Assassin's Creed Valhalla: Dawn Of Ragnarok" (Best Score Soundtrack For Video Games And Other Interactive Media), Wet Leg (Best Alternative Music Performance for "Chaise Longue"), Bonnie Raitt (Best Americana Performance for "Made Up Mind") and J. Ivy (Best Spoken Word Poetry Album for The Poet Who Sat By The Door).
At the Telecast, Dr. Dre became the first recipient of the Dr. Dre Global Impact Award; shortly after, Iranian singer/songwriter Shervin Hajipour and his song "Baraye" received the first Special Merit Award for Best Song For Social Change.
There were a few other notable firsts at the Premiere Ceremony. Taylor Swift's Best Music Video win for "All Too Well: The Short Film" was the first time an artist won the category for a video directed by the artist themselves.
When jazz favorite Robert Glasper's Black Radio III won Best R&B Album, it marked his second win in the category — and an interesting one at that. His first win came in 2013 thanks to the original album in the trilogy, Black Radio, meaning his 2023 win was the first time an album and its sequel album have won in the category.
Elsewhere, two student groups celebrated some historic GRAMMY firsts: The Tennessee State University Marching Band became the first collegiate band to win a GRAMMY after receiving the golden gramophone for Best Roots Gospel Album, and the New York Youth Symphony became the first youth orchestra to win Best Orchestral Performance.
Viola Davis added a GRAMMY to her ever-impressive empire, which meant she is now officially an EGOT (Emmy, GRAMMY, Oscar, Tony) winner. Her GRAMMY win for Best Audio Book, Narration, and Storytelling Recording helped her become the third Black woman to earn an EGOT, and the first to secure the status at the GRAMMY Awards, following Whoopi Goldberg and Jennifer Hudson.
Bronx-born jazz singer Samara Joy was awarded the GRAMMY for Best New Artist — only the second time a jazz artist has won the award, and the first since Esperanza Spalding's win in 2011.
Jack Antonoff became the third producer to win Producer Of The Year, Non-Classical winner in consecutive years; Babyface did so in 1996 and 1997, and Greg Kurstin achieved the feat in 2016 and 2017.
Last but certainly not least, "Into The Woods" joined elite ranks by winning the GRAMMY for Best Musical Theater Album. Stephen Sondheim's 1987 original won the category in 1989, making it only the fourth Broadway show to earn two Best Musical Theater Album GRAMMYs alongside "Gypsy," "Les Miserables" and "West Side Story." It's also the second year in a row a piece of GRAMMY history was born from the category, as "The Unofficial Bridgerton Musical" creators Abigail Barlow and Emily Bear became the youngest winners in 2022.
10 Must-See Moments From The 2023 GRAMMYs: Beyoncé Makes History, Hip-Hop Receives An Epic Tribute, Bad Bunny Brings The Puerto Rican Heat
Photo: Allister Ann
Meet The First-Time GRAMMY Nominee: How Carly Pearce's Darkest Personal Moments Helped Her Reach Milestones
Blending her personal story of heartbreak with her passion for traditional country storytelling, Pearce’s "Never Wanted to Be That Girl" earned her new career highs — including her very first GRAMMY nod.
Carly Pearce and Ashley McBryde may reflect different corners of the country music spectrum, but they share a reverence for tradition and a penchant for heartbreak songs. The singers explore their stylistic common ground in “Never Wanted to Be That Girl,” a duet that tells the story of two women who have been cheated by the same man.
The country ballad resonated deeply with audiences, both because of its traditional leanings and its gripping personal narrative. At a spring 2022 show in Albany, N.Y., Pearce even saw two fans holding a sign saying that the song told their story of being romantically entangled with the same unfaithful man. The experience brought them together, and they wound up becoming friends.
"Never Wanted to Be That Girl" reached the top of the country radio chart — one of only three female-female duets to do so since 1993. One of those, Reba McEntire and Linda Davis’ “Does He Love You,” specifically influenced Pearce and McBryde. In addition to its chart success, "Never Wanted to Be That Girl" won Musical Event of the Year at the 2022 CMA Awards, and earned Pearce her first GRAMMY nomination, for Best Country Duo/Group Performance.
Pearce’s personal missive is at the center of a breakthrough personal and musical era ushered in by two enormous heartbreaks: Her highly public divorce from fellow artist Michael Ray and the untimely death of her producer, Busbee. Rather than retreat from the spotlight, Pearce used her grief and trauma to create 29: Written in Stone, a grippingly personal artistic statement. The singer’s authenticity paid dividends: She started seeing more commercial success, more critical recognition and extra passion from her fans.
Ahead of the 2023 GRAMMY Awards, Pearce caught up with GRAMMY.com to discuss her first nomination, her powerful musical friendship with McBryde, and why she considers 29 to be the album that changed everything.
After you learned you were nominated, what was the first thing you said to Ashley McBryde?
You know, this isn’t her first GRAMMY nomination, but it is her first No. 1 song, and so we’ve kind of had this thing where we’ve given each other firsts. It wasn’t my first No. 1 song, but it was my first GRAMMY nomination. So we were just texting, and I said thank you.
I wanted so badly to collaborate with her — and I knew that it was an unlikely pairing — but I knew that if we really tried to write a song together we could do something really special. And we did.
Take me back to the day you wrote the song.
I feel like this song in particular wasn’t written like any other song I’ve been a part of. We were in the room and we had zero ideas of what we were gonna write. No riffs, no hooks, no musical hints at all. We just started talking. She was privy to what was happening in my life, and obviously [co-writer and 29 producer] Shane [McAnally] was too, so when we wrote that song, we started a story. We had no idea where it was gonna land.
We wrote this song in top to bottom chronological order. But we wanted to make sure that the choruses were the same, even though the women were experiencing different perspectives. I think we very carefully wanted to not pit the women against each other, but to show that you can both be burned by the same man.
You and Ashley have known each other since early on in your time in Nashville, just from being at the same songwriter’s nights and shows. How has your relationship evolved?
I’ve always loved her. We did kind of come up together in a lot of ways. We would play shows together and sing each other’s songs, and I just felt like she understood my voice and I understood hers. I was making this album and brainstorming with one of the members of my team, and he said, "Wouldn’t it be so awesome if you had a collaboration with Ashley? She’s so different from you, but we miss those female-female duets. There haven’t really been any since the ‘90s." So I just texted her and asked, "I don’t know if this would ever interest you, but would you write a song with me for my record?" And she was in, immediately. It just felt like it was always destined to happen.
Speaking of female-female ‘90s duets, one of your fellow nominees in this category is Reba McEntire’s new version of "Does He Love You" with Dolly Parton. I know the original version of this song with Linda Davis, in 1993 helped inspire "Never Wanted to Be That Girl."
We definitely referenced "Does He Love You" that day in the write. We knew we couldn’t touch that, but we were striving to make something as impactful. So it feels very full circle to have watched this song climb the charts, and watch it win all these different awards, and now be nominated in a category with the same woman that inspired us to even sing that song.
Have you talked to Reba about your song’s connection to "Does He Love You"?
I haven’t seen her, but I’m hoping to get to do that. Maybe at the GRAMMYs! Not that she needs any other women to tell her she’s a trailblazer, but certainly, she inspired us to double down.
When you think back to the beginnings of 29, when you were preparing to release all these personal songs. What were some of your biggest questions or fears, and how have they been resolved?
I remember turning in the first half of my album and wondering if my record label would even put it out, because it felt so personal — almost to a fault. And I remember thinking the production on it was so country that I wondered if it was going to be commercially accepted. I actually have a distinct memory of playing my song "29" for a group of friends and none of them were divorced, but they were crying, because they were inserting their own story into it.
I think this is the album that I will look back on in my life and say it was the one that changed everything for me in my career. It gave me such direction. It gave me hope that I’m not alone. That’s been the most amazing thing; when I look at it now, I go, Gosh, this album brought so many people to a place of feeling not alone, and in return, through their stories and their showing up for me when I needed it, they made me feel not alone. That’s all you ever want, when you’re an artist, to have that kind of connection.
Do you feel like people, even outside of country fans, are connecting with your story and responding to your music?
I’ve had a few albums out — this is my third — but I feel like in a lot of ways it was my first. I think we all go through the same struggles in life, and I think that people really resonated with me on a human level with this record. Everybody’s experienced heartache. And sometimes people need to feel hope, and that they’re not alone. So yes, I feel that very much.
You’re in the middle of making a new album now. What can you share about that process?
As a writer, I wish I could go through a divorce every time I make a new album, because it makes you feel so inspired. But I think what I learned through making that record is, people wanna hear how I see the world. They wanna hear what I’m going through. From [age] 29 to 32, almost 33, there’s been a lot of life that I’ve intentionally kept more private. [Now], people say to me, "Oh my gosh, you’re so happy, but we’re not gonna get those Carly Pearce heartbreak songs."
Honestly, yes, you can be happy and struggle to get there. I think there are songs that are reflective, there are songs that are nostalgic, there are songs that are in love and happy. But you don’t realize how much you’ve been affected until you try to love somebody else. I don’t think that’s a topic that’s really talked about, but it’s something that I think a lot of people go through, and I kind of share my take on that.
You’ve teased a little bit of a song called "Trust Issues." How does that song fit into your new music?
I felt very overwhelmed when I first started writing — just, you know, what this direction was. And I wrote in my phone, "trust issues." That’s kind of on the theme of, you never know how hurt you are until you try to love somebody else. But I wanted to spin it into a hopeful and happy thing, because I love titles where you look at them and you think it’s gonna be one thing, but it’s a totally different thing.
So I got in the room with two of my favorite people, [songwriters] Nicolle Galyon and Jordan Reynolds, and we crafted this song that felt so hopeful. It’s a love song, but it’s a love song out of pain. And I remember when we wrote it — I see my albums in pictures, and I thought this was such an important facet to this transitional period of my life —of moving on.
Meet The First-Time GRAMMY Nominee: Måneskin On Redefining Success, Staying Inspired & Honoring Italy