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Interview With Mark Chesnutt: Musical Career Past and Present

Shannon is a passionate country fan who enjoys getting to know the artists and their music. She also loves spreading joy through interviews.

Mark Chesnutt, Live From The Honky Tonk (2019)

Mark Chesnutt, Live From The Honky Tonk (2019)

For anyone who is a fan of 1990s country music, Mark Chesnutt is a man who needs no introduction. Known for hits such as "I'll Think of Something," "Bubba Shot the Jukebox," "Almost Goodbye," "I Just Wanted You to Know," and a cover of Aerosmith's "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing,” Mark has had an impressive career.

Throughout almost three decades, he has landed eight No. 1 singles on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart and twelve more top 10 singles. Altogether, he has had 38 singles reach the top 100. In 1993, he received two CMA awards for Best New Artist and Vocal Event of the Year. By 2019, he has released a total of 18 albums, including the two-sided vinyl LP Live From the Honky Tonk, and his career is still going strong regardless of the lack of support from mainstream radio.

I recently had the pleasure of chatting with Mark about the new album release, his career, and what he thinks about the music coming out of Nashville today. He’s about as country as a person can ask for. Very pleasant natured, down to earth, and easy to chat with. Read about his very candid thoughts below while enjoying some of his best-loved hits and the never before released “Pride & Joy.”

The Interview

Shannon Henry: Please share more about this vinyl project.

Mark Chesnutt: They’re saying it’s the first vinyl I’ve ever released, but it’s really not. Too Cold at Home was, but it was when CDs were taking over. This is the first one since then. It's a live album recorded several years back. I don’t even remember the year. But it was recorded in Nashville at a place called The Trap, which is no longer there. We used to play there every year. The recordings were taken from several different performances.

SH: This is your 18th album release, crossing three decades. How was the making of this project different from any other?

MC: There was no difference for me. As I said, it was recorded years ago. When my management asked me about it, they wanted to know what I thought about putting something out on vinyl.

Vinyl tracklist for Live From the Honky Tonk

Vinyl tracklist for Live From the Honky Tonk

So they suggested putting out a remix version of some things we did years ago. And I thought it was a great idea since vinyl just made a huge comeback over the last couple of years. I read that they project vinyl to outsell CDs for the first time since the '80s. Turntables are making a comeback.

Everyone has one now. I have one, and I haven't had one since I was a kid. My wife bought me one last year for Christmas. Of course, it does Bluetooth and plays cassettes and such, too, which is good because the main thing I listen to is older stuff.

One thing I never liked about CDs and cassettes were the little bitty pictures. I think one of the mystiques of the vinyl albums was seeing the big pictures. I also liked the sound of them. So it's nostalgic and brings me back to the old age. Plus, it’s easier to sign the bigger album covers!

"I think one of the mystiques of the vinyl albums was seeing the big pictures."

— Mark Chesnutt on vinyl records making a comeback

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View of Contemporary Country Music

SH: This question is from my friend, Angie. What do you think about today's country music? With the exception of a few artists, it is anything but traditional.

MC: Yes, she’s correct. Everybody knows that. Anybody who listens to country music... Even kids (well, I say kids but I mean young people . . . teens and younger) have told me that they like the old country music better than what we have now because it has the old fiddles and steel guitars and it’s real, heartfelt songs about real life. Nowadays, they make records with machines and make it sound so close to pop and hip-hop. I’m personally not a big fan of that so my stuff will never sound that way.

Although, I’m going to be collaborating with a well-known new modern country act, but they're going back to my kind of music and asked me to be a part of it. People don't have to rely so much on the flavor of the minute right now because people can make their own kind of music and it can be heard all over the world.

You don’t have to have a record company dictating everything you do. We also have privately owned radio stations that play nothing but traditional music. Some artists are bowing up and doing what they want to do . . . real country music. And I think labels are starting to see that people want to hear the old sounding stuff.

There are not as many people buying the new stuff and there are a lot more young artists writing and recording the stuff that I do, and they're getting a lot of attention and radio stations are playing their stuff now because people demand it.

But if it hadn’t been for the internet, guys like me would’ve been out of business 20 years ago. I’m really glad for it because I’m still working on new stuff and touring as much as I ever did. So it just goes to show that there is still a huge market out there for traditional country music like it was back when I first started.

Back when major labels and radio were promoting this kind of music. Nowadays, I can still walk out on stage and see little bitty kids all the way up to my age and older in the audience having a good time. I think it’s great. I’ve talked to teens that have said, "I just found you on the internet and now I’ve downloaded everything you ever recorded.”

Or they say things like, "I found this guy named Merle Haggard and downloaded all his music." That just proves to me there will always be an outlet for fans of our kind of music even if radio decides not to play it.

"If it hadn’t been for the internet guys like me would’ve been out of business 20 years ago. I’m really glad for it because I’m still working on new stuff and touring as much as I ever did. So it just goes to show that there is still a huge market out there for traditional country music like it was back when I first started."

— Mark Chesnutt talking about what comes out of Nashville today.

"I Don't Want Want to Miss a Thing"

SH: Is there a song you recorded that turned out to be a surprise hit?

MC: [Laughs] Oh yeah . . . all of them. Back in the day when I did MCA . . . they would have labels and argue over what I would record or what would be the next single if I’d already recorded it. A lot of them were a surprise. But I wanted to record “I Just Wanted You to Know” really bad for several years and knew it would be a hit, but my label didn’t agree so my producer wouldn’t let me record it.

Back in those days, you had to fight for it. But they told you if you fought for it, you got a reputation of being hard to work with and they'd put you on the back burner. Finally, I went in and said that I was recording it anyway . . . but of course, I had to have a platinum and several number ones before I had the power to argue anything.

My biggest surprise was the Aerosmith song ["I Don't Want to Miss a Thing"]. I didn’t want to record it. I’m a big Aerosmith fan, but I thought it was already too big of a hit. However, my producer said we needed a big power ballad. He said, “Man, we can just do it your style.”

So I talked to Waylon Jennings because I knew he’d recorded several pop hits. He told me, "You can sing the phone book if you want to. Just go in there and do it the way you want to. Quit listening to Steven Tyler singing it in your head. Just go in there and do it your way."

So I did and radio loved it. And it went to #1 for four weeks, but what's funny about that is that it didn't sell any albums. Radio played the hell out of it and it didn’t sell any albums. It turned out to be kind of a weird deal for me. I don’t play it live anymore because it doesn't fit the rest of my set.

Career and Family Life

SH: How do you balance your career with your family life?

MC: It's a lot easier than it used to be. I was on the road 200 days a year. Then I got married and after I knew that I could support a family doing this I slowed down. After several years of missing my wife and kids, it started affecting my shows. And then I had a third child and put the breaks on. I started staying closer to home more.

I'm still working more than I want to, though, even though I do love what I do. I just don't like the traveling part. Back in my 30s, it was fun. But I'm 56 now and I like to be home. If I could just blink to get to my next show, that would be good.

My band lives in Nashville, though. If I have to go on the road somewhere with them I have to first drive to the airport in Houston and then fly to Nashville just to get on a bus. But I suppose it is better than some of the jobs I just know I never liked doing, like roofing.

Thoughts About Texas

SH: Do you still live in southeast Texas? My daughter was born in Jasper, so I've got to ask, what’s your favorite thing about the region?

MC: I was born and raised here, so I love the fact that I can hear a lot of water. I love to fish every chance I get—I love to fish—saltwater or freshwater. I can do it all within 10 miles of home.

I love the food down here. We have everything: Mexican, Cajun, soul-food, and down-home cooking food. You can go to restaurants and get whatever you want. We’ve got the best food in the world here. And I can say that because I’ve been all over the world. [laughter]

People are laid back and down to earth. I like the mild weather, no cold weather even though it gets hotter than hell down here. We wear shorts and flip-flops on Christmas day. I kinda like that.

Just for Fun

SH: Given that I’m pretty much a Texan now myself since I’ve lived here over half my life now, I have to ask: what is the most Texas thing you can think of?

MC: [laughs] What?

SH: There are so many funny stereotypes from this state and other oddities that are funny because they’re true.

MC: George Strait is the first thing I think of other than home. He’s the king of country music, as far as I’m concerned. He is the symbol of Texas in my eyes. He never changed his music or moved to Nashville. It’s who we all want to be like, the biggest star there is.

SH: What’s the dumbest thing you’ve done that actually turned out pretty well?

MC: [laughs] When I recorded "I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing." You know, George Jones actually got mad at me for that. I knew him way before I had a record deal or a hit record. We were friends to the end of his life . . . hung out a lot and on the phone . . . toured together.

He’s from here, too. We used to talk about Beaumont a lot. He used to say, “You remind me a lot of myself when I was younger." When I messed around and recorded a pop hit he didn’t like that very much. He told me, "I don’t know what you were thinking recording that pop shit.”

But it turned out pretty good for me for a little while even though he told me, he knew, “Your fans ain’t gonna buy that shit.” I told him, "Waylon thought I should record it.” [laughs] It turned out good for a little while even though it didn’t turn out the way I thought it would.

SH: Here's a fun one. You wake up after being cryogenically frozen for 100 years. What’s the first thing you say.

MC: I’d probably say, “Where the hell am I at?" That’s a really weird question.

SH: Yes, it is. But some of the responses to this one are kind of hilarious.

MC: I'd say, "Where the hell am I?" [laughs] But I say that every day when I wake up, anyway.

"He is the symbol of Texas in my eyes. He never changed his music or moved to Nashville. It’s who we all want to be like, the biggest star there is."

— Mark Chesnutt talking about George Strait

Further Reading

    Official Website for Country Singer Mark Chesnutt features Tour Dates, Fan Club, Web Store, Digital Downloads and more!
  • Mark Chesnutt - YouTube
    This is the Official YouTube page for Country Music Star Mark Chesnutt.


Shannon Henry (author) from Texas on September 01, 2020:

Thank you, Maudina. I'm glad that you enjoy his music, too.

maudina shepard on September 01, 2020:

love Mark Chesnut my favorite is When Country Comes To Town

Shannon Henry (author) from Texas on January 11, 2020:

Yes, it was fun. His music is classic and still easy to love. I miss the country music sound of the 90s. It's still around, but not so much on the mainstream radio.

FlourishAnyway from USA on January 11, 2020:

What a fun interview with an awesome star. I love his music. I agree with the sentiments that country music isn't what it once was. He represents it at its best back in the day.

Shannon Henry (author) from Texas on December 02, 2019:

Thanks, Patricia! That's one of the best compliments I've received regarding an interview. He is quite a character. Very amiable and down to earth, too.

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on December 02, 2019:

The interview was like peeking into a private conversation. He is quite a character and I DO adore his music. His voice just carries me away for a minute. thank you for sharing. Angels are headed your way this afternoon ps

Shannon Henry (author) from Texas on December 02, 2019:

I did not know that, Devika. You taught me something, too. I'm glad you've been enjoying them.

Devika Primic on December 02, 2019:

Your interviews are interesting you have taught me a lot through these interviews. Country singers are not popular in Croatia,

Shannon Henry (author) from Texas on October 30, 2019:

I have so many typos in that last comment. Too bad for the five-minute edit window.

Thanks again for your support!

Faith Reaper from southern USA on October 30, 2019:

Hahaha ... you are too funny in that last comment here. I still think you would do just fine in a live interview scenario though.

What you’ve described about that area of Texas actually reminds me of where I grew up in Georgia. We had beautiful dogwoods and azaleas everywhere in our yard ... not a ranch though. That would have been a dream!

Keep up the great job of these types of interviews, and we’ll see where it goes from here.

Shannon Henry (author) from Texas on October 30, 2019:

Thanks, Theresa. My husband is from the general area in which Mark lives and my daughter was born in the town he lives in, so I was curious about his perspective. Mine was sort of like, "I can't' believe you moved me to the middle of nowhere, where I can't even get a pizza delivered and everything shuts down at 9pm!". ..But it also has its good points and it's starting to grow, like many other towns in TX. That particular area is in the Piney Woods and has swamplands, wisteria vines, and dogwood and azealas every spring. it's really pretty. I'd own a ranch there if I could. Of course, I'd own a ranch just about anywhere in TX. Or any other state, for that matter. I love the open spaces. LOL

Wouldn't that be a dream job? But interviewing by phone, as I did with Mark, or by sending questions via email is so much different than live and on the spot. Have you seen my photos? I'm so unphotogenic, it's not funny. Always making weird faces or looking angry or something. I wonder if I could pull of video footage? LOL

Faith Reaper from southern USA on October 30, 2019:

Another excellent interview, Shan. You’re a natural at this. Wow, Mark Chesnutt! We all know him as a great artist and love his songs, but what I found most interesting about this interview is learning his thoughts about where he’s from, Texas, which all came out from your choice of great questions posed. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Entertainment Tonight tried to snag you up or some other popular entertainment medium out there today. Keep up the good work.

Shannon Henry (author) from Texas on October 28, 2019:

Update: I've received an answer to the inquiry about the "newer" artist that wanted to team up with Mark Chesnutt.

It turns out that Mark received an invitation from Shawna Thompson of Thompson Square to collaborate with them on a project. However, Mark's schedule does not fit with theirs.

That would be an interesting collaboration, I think. Here's to hoping that maybe they can find something else to work on together in the future.

Shannon Henry (author) from Texas on October 27, 2019:

Hi Liam,

Australia has some excellent country singers as well. It's a thrill to discover someone new, so I know the feeling. "Going Through the Big D" is another classic. Country music is a genre full of fun wordplay. Thanks for leaving your thoughts and menitoning another hit.

Liam on October 27, 2019:

I'm from Australia and the first Mark Chesnutt song i can remember hearing when i was younger was Going Through The Big D. I had since bought his greatest hits CD and he has some pretty great songs!

Shannon Henry (author) from Texas on October 27, 2019:

Hi Karen,

Thanks so much for sharing your favorite Mark Chesnutt songs.

Karen Durdin on October 27, 2019:

I love them all, but i think, " ill think of something" is my absolute most favorite followed by almost goodbye and. It sure is Monday

Shannon Henry (author) from Texas on October 27, 2019:

Hi Anna,

Thanks for leaving a comment. I agree that it's hard to choose just one!

Anna Queen on October 27, 2019:

All of Mark Chesnutts songs are my favorite. Cant pick just one. He's the best!

Shannon Henry (author) from Texas on October 27, 2019:

Hi Angie,

Good to know I'm not the only one who loves a good ballad, especially since Mark is also well-known for his dance hall hits, like the ones on included on the new album. I tried to include some songs from the album here with the interview as well as some of the other songs he is known for.

I'm glad you asked me to ask that question, considering it is somewhat of a controversy among fans and artists alike. I didn't ask him everything I had prepared to ask. But that's only because he was so pleasant to talk to and so forthcoming that I didn't want to take up any more of his time. If you think I'm chatty in writing, you should talk to me in person sometime! I can be really quiet or super chatty. Seems like there is no in between. LOL

A B Williams from Central Florida, USA on October 27, 2019:

Shannon, SCORE, great job!

I too am a sucker for the ballads.

Thanks for asking my question. I figured he would agree with me. ;) Country music has definitely lost its way and much of its magic. Sadly!!

Some of these songs I had completely forgotten about, thanks for sharing such a nice mix.

Shannon Henry (author) from Texas on October 27, 2019:

Hi Marc,

Unfortunately, I did not. I meant to ask that. But then the conversation turned to something else. I'll reach out to his PR agent and see if she is able to give me an answer.

marc on October 27, 2019:

Did you ever find out who they younger artist he will be collaborating with is?

Shannon Henry (author) from Texas on October 27, 2019:

I added "She Was" to the videos here, Ruby, if you want to listen to it, too. I'll think you'll see what I mean by it. :)

Shannon Henry (author) from Texas on October 27, 2019:

Hi Ruby! Although that particular song has never made me tear up, I can believe that it makes you do that. I miss the older country as well. But I think that Mark is right when he says there are some really great artists from the new generation who still have that sound. Stay tuned and I'll bring you some interviews from some of them!

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on October 27, 2019:

I just listened to " Too Cold At Home " and can you believe it, it made me tear up. Mark is a true country singer. Everyone who knows me is aware that George Jones is my all time favorite, but Mark Chesnutt is right beside him. As far as I'm concerned real country has lost something. It doesn't pull on your heartstrings. I will be here for awhile listening to the great videos. You did a great job with this interview!

Shannon Henry (author) from Texas on October 27, 2019:

Thank you, Pamela. It was a blast! He has so many good ones, but I think my personal favorite is "She Was." I am a sucker for the sappy ballads that bring a tear to the eye. I also think his version of the Aerosmith song is way better than the original.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on October 27, 2019:

Interviewing Mark Chesnut must have been so much fun. It was an excellent interview. I like his music and it is very difficult to even pick a favorite. I really enjoyed this excellent article.

Shannon Henry (author) from Texas on October 27, 2019:

Thanks, Bill. I am on his PR agent's email list, so whenever a press release is issued for their clients I get it emailed to me. I requested an interview and she arranged it. It's safe to say I was a little more nervous than usual beforehand, but he quickly put me at ease because he was so easy to talk to.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on October 27, 2019:

Well done, you? How did you get a big star to agree to an interview? I am appropriately impressed!

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