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Keeping it country

Mark Chesnutt brings his honky-tonk sound to the Fair

Keeping it country

Mark Chesnutt will be performing at 8:30 p.m. Saturday on the Budweiser Variety Free Stage at the Stanislaus County Fair.


POSTED July 28, 2009 7:09 p.m.
For more than 20 years country music singer Mark Chesnutt has been taking the stage and crooning out tunes in his distinctively classic country style. Over the decades he has amassed 14 No. 1 hits, 23 top ten singles, four platinum albums, and five gold records. His newest CD is titled “Rollin’ with the Flow.”
Chesnutt will be bringing his honky-tonk music to the Stanislaus County Fairgrounds at 8:30 p.m. Saturday on the Budweiser Variety Free Stage. Chesnutt took some time out of his busy schedule to speak with the Journal about the role music has played in his past and what he’s doing now.

What role did music play in your childhood?
MC: There was always music playing in our house and it was always a part of our lives. My daddy was a singer and he liked to listen and sing along with Hank Williams, George Jones and Merle Haggard. My mom was always playing Elvis Presley and Fats Domino and my brother listened to ZZ Top and Aerosmith. And we always watched “Hee Haw.”

What was it like for you the first time you heard one of your songs on the radio?
MC: It was so thrilling. I was 17 and in San Antonio when a local station picked up one of my songs. I couldn’t believe it was my voice coming out of the radio. It’s still an experience that never gets old.

You’ve been touring for almost 20 years. What keeps you going and what do you enjoy the most about doing a live show?
MC: I just love the lifestyle of the road. For me the best part is that moment just before you go on stage. You’re excited, nervous and you feel this rush of emotion and energy as you get up on the stage. It is the best feeling and I feel blessed that I get to do this for a living.

As a genre, how has country music changed over the years that you’ve been performing?
MC: There have been a lot of changes to country music in the past 20 years. When I was first starting out it was more of the traditional country sound. Now, it seems to have more of a pop and rock influence, but there are still some of us that sing that traditional style. The country music genre has grown so much that there’s enough room for all of us.

Who influences you musically?
MC: I’m still inspired by the music from all my old heroes like George Jones, Waylon Jennings, and Merle Haggard. I also still listen to a lot of hard rock artists like Aerosmith and ZZ Top.

You’ve played in all types of venues. Do you have a particular favorite?
MC: Oh, they’re all fun and no matter where we are, it always seems like everywhere we play turns into a honky tonk.

One of your biggest hits was a cover of Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing.” What was that experience like for you?
MC: Well, it turned out to be a great thrill, but initially when the record company came to me with the idea of recording this song, I didn’t want to do it. I didn’t think it could be pulled off, but I didn’t want to make waves, so we went about recording it. I was having a really hard time with it and I talked to Waylon Jennings about it and he said whatever I sang was going to come out sounding country, so I should just get in there and sing it. He even came into the studio to cheer me on. In the end it was a different type of song for me, but one that I was pleased with. I even got to meet Steven Tyler, which was a real thrill. He said he even had a hard time with that song.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to go into the music business?
MC: (Laughing) Stay in school. No really, it is a business that has a lot of ups and downs and when you’re not on one of those ups, it can be really tough. It can be extremely hard and a lot of people end up chasing a dream that never happens. I’ve been very fortunate to have a career in music for as long as I have. I tell my own kids to go to college and get a career going and then mess with music on the side.

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