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Q&A: Kenny Chesney

Despite his recent surprise marriage to one of Hollywood’s A-list actresses, it’s unlikely that country music superstar Kenny Chesney will ever be referred to as “Mr. Zellweger,” with the treasure trove of trophies and unparalleled achievements he’s racked up in recent years. Just a few days after his unexpected nuptials with Renee, Hollywood.com caught up with Kenny backstage at the annual Academy of Country Music Awards, where he entered the room carried his just-won Entertainer of the Year statuette.

Of course, while everyone was excited about his victory, they were equally obsessed with learning about the new missus–As Chesney entered a room amid a sea of photographers and cameramen, Dr. Phil McGraw suddenly appeared and bellowed to the swarming media, “I’LL tell you all about Kenny and Renee!” Fortunately, Chesney had a few thoughts of his own to share.

We understand you’ve earned a very special place among the ACM winners.

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Chesney: “Barbara Mandrell told me when I came offstage–I knew winning there was some significance of winning it this year–there’s only been six people in the history of the ACM to win Top New Artist of the Year Male or Female, and to win Male or Female Vocalist of the Year, and to win Entertainer of Year: Me, and Reba [McEntyre] and Merle [Haggard] and George Straight. So I’m blown away, that I get to be in the same sentence as George Straight and Reba–It’s overwhelming. I remember sitting on a stool not that long ago playing music for tips, and this is very special, no doubt about it. The magnitude of it, I’m sure, is going to hit me at two o’clock in the morning after a few drinks. But this is really, really a neat thing to have happen.”

Are you going to celebrate tonight?

Chesney: “I’ll just go to the label party for a little bit, and then I believe I’m going to go gamble a little bit. I’ve got to save my voice – I’m going to sing in Marina del Rey tomorrow night in front of George Straight, so that’s going to be pretty nerve-wracking.”

With this award and all the new changes in your personal life, how different do you feel right now than you felt two weeks ago? Do you feel like a different guy?

Chesney: “To be honest with you, it’s not that different. It’s just that I’m a little more at ease. I’m not searching. And that’s what’s great about her. She’s a great girl. And she’s got a movie coming out, or she’d be here tonight. But she’s wonderful. I really don’t feel like my life has changed, I don’t feel like a changed guy.”

Where is Renee tonight?

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Chesney: “She’s working.”

How will the two of you celebrate when you see each other?

Chesney: “Well, we even had our honeymoon in Little Rock at a show [laughs]. I had to go right back on the road, so we went to Little Rock, Oklahoma City and Dallas, and then San Antonio and then I flew here. It wasn’t that great of a honeymoon. [laughs]”

Was she with you at all the shows?

Chesney: “She was at a couple of them.”

How did you propose?

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Chesney: “She wouldn’t let me, really. She just told me to name the time and place and she’d be there.”

[At this point, a publicist suggests that questions should veer away from Chesney’s personal life and focus on the awards show. There is a long silence]

Chesney: “Nothing interesting, is there?”

[His quip prompts a huge laugh from the room]

Were you at all nervous about competing for this award tonight?

Chesney: “I don’t know. I’ve learned throughout the years that you can never count on anything. These awards shows are really out of your hands and you just do the best you can possibly do. I didn’t know – They might have voted for Tim [McGraw] because he did a movie, or did this or did that. I’d won two of them in a row, so I felt like we had a chance, because it did feel like we worked as hard as anybody on the road. For me, I feel like Entertainer of the Year should bring more people into our format, and I really feel like the people who come to our shows, they like country music but maybe they didn’t grow up on it. And maybe because of me, they went and bought a country record, and then heard my record and bought somebody else’s. And so I think that’s happening a lot with my crowd. I can see it in the audience. There’s a lot of people coming to my shows that maybe didn’t necessarily listen to country music a couple years ago.”

In your videos we see you in bars, we see you relaxing – Is there a there a difference in your video image and your personal life?

Chesney: “Not really. one thing, I think that allowed me to enjoy my success – I think over the years I’ve allowed a lot of myself into my music, and allowed of my lifestyle into my songwriting, so it goes my songwriting into the studio, and the studio in our record, and the record into the radio, and the radio into my show. Early on, I really felt like the audience didn’t have anything to grab onto, just a song they heard on the radio. And I really felt like once I was able to let people see inside here and see how I live my life and how I walk through the world, and I was really able to put that into my music. And all of sudden they had something more to grab onto than what they heard on the radio. They had a lifestyle – they could see how I live my life. And it’s fun to watch that on stage. So no, what you see on the video is very much how I live my life, and what you see in the stage show.”

Kenny, everyone says how hard you work – Will you keep going at the same pace now with all that’s happened in the last few weeks, or will you take some time to relax and breathe and enjoy life?

Chesney: “Well, if Keith Urban keeps winning more awards, I don’t know if I’m going to be able to do it, to relax! [laughs] I’m proud of him. He’s one of my best friends. I can’t relax. I sit home and I’m constantly thinking of ways to make my show better, and to make myself better. Constantly thinking of ways–You know, Peyton Manning is a very good friend of mine, and I’ve learned a lot from his work ethic. He drives himself crazy thinking of how to do better. And I do the same thing. Yeah, I could take some time off–and I do take some time off–but the whole time I’m taking time off, I’m thinking ‘What am I gonna do for the opening of my show this year?’ So that’s kind of the way I work, and it’s exhausting sometimes, but [Kenny holds up award] it pays off.”

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