Part way through Kenny Chesney’s sold-out second night at Boston’s Gillette Stadium, he brought Karen Duggan, who’d purchased the millionth ticket sold for Chesney’s almost annual shows at the home of the New England Patriots, onstage and told the assembled crowd, “Karen is every single one of you. Each of you is a part of selling a million tickets; you are all one in a million – and I want to thank you for loving life and loving music.”
At the end of a tour that sold just under 1.3 million tickets, where the songwriter/superstar from East Tennessee saw his 18th and 19th Gillette Stadium show total 1,090,326 fans, the man the Los Angeles Times called, “The People’s Superstar” wanted to make sure No Shoes Nation wasn’t taking their passion lightly. Beyond naming the loyal fans at the stadium, he has enjoyed a special relationship with the market since his first stadium run in 2005.
“Maybe it’s the winter… maybe it’s the diversity of the people in that part of the country… maybe it’s the fact that they work hard, live strong and play harder, but from the very first year we started playing stadiums, long before it was called No Shoes Nation, the people coming to our Gillette shows had a whole different kind of passion. We could feel it, and that’s why I like to tell them, ‘This is a love affair…,’ because in a lot of ways, for me, it truly is.”
Duggan, an emergency room nurse, is being given her very own trip around the sun – to anywhere in the world she wants to go – and season tickets to see the Patriots play. But more importantly, she shared some quality time with the artist she’s seen at Gillette 15 times out of the 19 total plays.
For Chesney, that commitment to the music and way it colors people’s lives is everything.
“I’ve always tried to cut songs that reflect life as I’ve lived it, or seen people around me live it,” he explains. “If I can see it, feel it, know that it’s real, I know it’s real for others, too, and that’s where music’s real power lies. Give people their life, lift them up or give them clarity, and you’d be amazed what can happen. Not just when songs capture someone’s life, but when they tell you how their life changed because of one of the songs you’ve written or recorded.”
To that end, Chesney’s second single from the No. 1 best-selling debut and No. 1 Country Album, Songs for the Saints, is the week’s most added single at Country radio. Fresh on the heels of his record-breaking 30th No. 1 “Get Along,” “Better Boat” considers major life changes, acceptance, grace, hope and the ability to survive the worst, embrace patience and find a better way to live.
“When I heard ‘Better Boat,’ it took my breath away,” Chesney remembers. “Every single person in the world has been there: frustrated, sad, overwhelmed. This song is the moment of realizing you will get through it. You won’t know what’s coming, how bad it’s going to be, but you know with a deep breath, it’s going to be okay. And I love that.”
“There’s a line, ‘I ride the waves I can’t control,’ it reverberates with everything the people in the islands are facing, trying to rebuild their homes. It’s not easy. It’s slow going. But they have this beautiful resilience. Those island friends and this song remind me to exhale and embrace life.”
With “Get Along” still in the Top 5, Songs for the Saints is going strong. Benefitting the Love for Love City Fund for the rebuilding of the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, the project is a personal love song to Chesney’s longtime refuge and a reminder of the power of music to lift people up.