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Mark Chesnutt Interview: Tradition Lives On

Mark Chesnutt Interview: Tradition Lives On
Mark Chesnutt could not have picked a more
apropos title for his latest album, which happens to be called Tradition
Because if you’re wondering where traditional country music sailed
off to, it’s in the hands of the 52-year-old skipper from Texas, who adamantly
refuses to bow to current trends in order to stay relevant.
Mark proves that notion on Tradition
12 tunes (with a bonus track included) that travel the familiar
roads of heartbreak, cheating lovers and other hard-core country themes.
There’s even a swipe at Music Row with a song that Mark co-wrote, “Never Been
to Texas.” And as a nice bonus, fans will hear traditional instruments like
steel guitar, dobro and fiddle out front, not buried somewhere in the mix.
Tradition Lives, due to hit stores and online outlets July 8, was a few years in
the making, as Mark describes. Mark, whose No. 1 hits include “Brother
Jukebox,” “It Sure Is Monday” and “I Just Wanted You to Know,” is releasing the
record as he celebrates more than 25 years in the music business (he made his
chart debut in 1990). He talked about that milestone, the new album and other
topics in a recent interview in Nashville.
Q: This is your first new album in several
years. How long did it take to put this together?
M: We’ve been working on this for about
three years. It actually started when we recorded four songs and we weren’t
real happy with them. So, it took a little longer to find songs that were real
country songs. We found the next batch of songs, but then I started having
trouble with my throat. I got all that straightened out. I didn’t need surgery
or anything. But I listened to songs for years. Some of them had been laying
around for a long time and never been recorded. I think it’s the strongest
batch of country songs I’ve ever had. I have one, “Is It Still Cheating,” that
was written by Jamey Johnson, Randy Houser and Jerrod Niemann. I remember when
Jamey pitched that to me. I thought right then that it was my kind of song.
Q: There are no what people would call
“bro-country” songs on the album. And you didn’t try to rap either. Is it good
to be in a position where you don’t have to bend to trends?
M: Did you really expect me to rap? (Laughs).
But yes, it’s nice to be at this point in my career. I’ve been around so
long that I have a core audience. They love what we’re playing. If I had come
out rapping or singing bro-country, I think that would kill my career. My fans
wouldn’t accept that.
Q: The song on the album “Never Been to
Texas” sounds like a little slap at current country music.
M: That’s kind of a dig at Music Row
(Nashville). I co-wrote that a few years ago and I never cut it. Now is the
perfect time to come out with it.
Q: Do you have any particular thoughts
about what’s going on in country music today?
M: It’s not my thing and that’s really all
I have to say about that. It’s just not the country music that I grew up with.
There are people who like the new stuff and that’s fine. But I have people ask
me, when is country music going to come back around? I’m not sure I know. But
there are still a lot of fans who like traditional country, thank goodness.
They come to our shows every night.
Q: After 25 years, do you feel fortunate to
still be able to do this?
M: Oh, yeah, it’s great. I’m still pretty
busy on the road and I hope I can get more dates on the strength of this new
album. And I am really proud of this album. I believe it’s the favorite one
I’ve ever done because I got to pick every song. I had so much fun recording
 Bob Paxman for Country Music News International


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