CMT Insider Interview: Kenny Chesney

His Flip Flop Summer Tour Launches Thursday in Omaha

The temperature outside the Qwest Center in Omaha, Neb., isn’t predicted to climb beyond 47 degrees Thursday (April 12), but it’s likely to feel like summertime inside the arena when Kenny Chesney kicks off his Flip Flop Summer Tour 2007.

Traveling with more than 90 band and crew members, 16 trucks and 12 tons of speaker cabinets for the indoor shows, it’s Chesney’s biggest production yet. In addition to a larger stage, the concerts will feature a massive video screen that extends the length of the stage. Ten smaller video screens are located above and below the primary screen.

Chesney’s tour of arenas and amphitheaters also features Sugarland and Pat Green. Brooks & Dunn and Sara Evans will provide additional star power for Chesney’s stadium shows taking place in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Cleveland, Seattle and Boston.

CMT Insider’s Katie Cook recently visited with Chesney during his tour rehearsals at Nashville’s Gaylord Entertainment Center.

CMT Insider: You’re rehearsing for the tour, and there’s a lot going on. Walk us through exactly what’s happening here.

Chesney: We do have a lot going on. … We’re in the process right now of dialing in all these lights that you see, dialing in all the video you see, dialing all the music that people are going to hear when we’re on stage.

Our stage is just a touch bigger this year. … We’ve got a little more room this year, and everybody is trying to decide where they’re gonna go because you feel like a bird out of a cage. Last year, we didn’t have that much room up there, actually, so this year we’ve got a little more.

It looked like you had a lot of room. You were running all over the place at these shows.

Well, I do, but I ran into the guys a couple of times. Hopefully, this year we’re not going to run into each other.

The equipment is pretty hot, too, I’ve got to tell you.

Well, it’s going to be a hot summer. (laughs)

Are you sure it’s not something like tanning bed technology?

All these video screens that we have are really, really hot. … And we have a lot more moving lights than we had last year, so they’re right down on us. … But we’re all going to be really skinny by the end of the tour.

Now you’ve played hundreds — if not thousands — of shows with this band, couldn’t you just go out and wing it?

We probably could. We do go out and wing it when we do our Keg in the Closet shows when we go and play these small bars. … We definitely wing it then but not really. When we’ve got as many things going at once as we have out here — and the show that we’re bringing to all these towns this year — it’s got to be right. It’s got to be memorable, and it’s got to be worth it for the fans.

So, yeah, we could probably go and wing it, but it might take us a little while to catch up to get to where it’s going to be when we actually leave town for the first time. As far as the band’s concerned and we’re concerned musically, we’re ready to go. And that’s exciting. We’re farther along than we’ve been in a couple years.

So musically, that doesn’t take quite as long to work out. Then it’s just all the technical stuff?

Yeah, right. It’s all the technical stuff, and I have my little handprints on everything. That’s the most challenging part for me because when I’m done with rehearsals, another rehearsal starts and it’s just the way it is. I mean, that’s the way it’s been for years.

I can’t go out on the road at the beginning of the tour not knowing that every “t” is crossed and every “i” is dotted. … I’m not a control freak, but I do want to have a little twist on it.

It’s called the Flip Flop Summer Tour 2007. That definitely fits your whole philosophy and personality.

I have a friend that lives down in the islands. He’s 60 years old and has never worn a pair of shoes in his whole life. He’s either been barefoot or wearing flip-flops, and I thought, “I wish I could live like that.” And then I thought for a second, “Well, you kind of do live like that.” (laughs) … It just creates a great atmosphere, and so I try really hard to bring a lot of the way I live my life into my music and especially into my tour. It’s just another example.

It’s got to be great to know you’re such a big part of people’s summer memories.

It seems that it’s kind of evolved into that. I’ve had a lot of fans and a lot of people tell me every year that it just wouldn’t be summer unless we came and played, so that means a lot, and hopefully they’ll feel that way for a long time. (laughs)

Are you going to have any new music to play for the fans on this tour?

Yeah, a couple of things. I’m not a real big believer in singing songs on a tour that people really don’t know. I mean, I’m going to sing a couple of new things, but I just kind of take my own philosophy of what I want to see when I go to a concert. I want to hear the songs that I’m used to hearing, and I want to hear the songs that I’ve listened to on the radio all the time and lived my life with and partied with.

I’ve been to a lot of concerts where an act would play a brand new song, and I just kind of tuned out for a minute. I don’t want anybody to tune out. I like for everybody to stay right there. So there’ll be some new music but not a lot, though. But it will be loud, and it will be fun.