Kenny Chesney was a big topic of red carpet conversation during CMA Awards week in Nashville. Within a 24-hour period, the East Tennessee native received both the BMI President’s Award and the CMA’s third Pinnacle Award for his significant contributions to music throughout his career.
At the 2016 BMI Country Awards, Frankie Ballard revealed that moving to Nashville for music wasn’t even a consideration until after he won Chesney’s Next Big Star competition in Michigan on 2008’s Poets and Pirates Tour. That summer, Chesney hosted a battle of the bands for unsigned acts on the eve of each stadium show, and the prize was opening for him the next night.
“At the time when that Big Star thing happened,” Ballard recalled, “I was just playing bars and honky-tonks and doing my thing. I wasn’t even thinking about Nashville or trying to take that step until that happened. Then I thought, ‘Maybe I really need to think about this. This is such a great opportunity.’ I’m hoping to tell him that and just thank him because I haven’t had much of a chance to do that. It was a big moment.”
Other stars who walked the red carpet that evening had at least one Chesney hit they wish they’d written.
Chase Bryant: “There Goes My Life”
The bridge of “There Goes My Life” was the best bridge that’s ever been written: “She had that Honda loaded down with Abercrombie clothes, 15 pairs of shoes and an American Express.” That was game over. His version of Mac McAnally’s “Back Where I Come From” is also a favorite.
Brooke Eden: “Come Over”
I think anyone who goes through a breakup goes through that awkward stage where you want to be together but you shouldn’t be together. I just think that it really captures the essence of that so well.
Chris Lane: “Anything but Mine”
I love that song. I actually won a “Sing Like Kenny Chesney” contest singing “Anything but Mine,” and it got me a free trip to the CMA Awards about six years ago. It was my first trip ever. Obviously, I was up in the nosebleeds, but it was still a really cool thing.
Dustin Lynch: “When the Sun Goes Down”
Brett James wrote “When the Sun Goes Down” by himself stuck in a traffic jam in Nashville, and that song is a worldwide smash.
Aubrie Sellers: “You and Tequila”
It’s a pretty amazing song. But the great thing about Kenny is he’s cut so many great songs over his career. It’s hard to pick one. Songs like that are the kind of thing you hear and you think, “Why didn’t I think of that?”
Granger Smith: “Don’t Blink”
I heard it on the radio the other day and I was thinking about how it tells a story and maybe the style has shifted away from that these days. I love his story songs.