For the first time since 1993, Kenny Chesney isn't touring, but can he remain a country music superstar without that?
Witness his four nominations -- including entertainer of the year, which he could win for the fifth time -- in the 45th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards, which CBS airs Sunday, April 18.
Reba McEntire hosts the event at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, with scheduled performances by Chesney, McEntire, Carrie Underwood, Tim McGraw, Trace Adkins, Blake Shelton, Jason Aldean, Lady Antebellum and the soon-to-split duo Brooks & Dunn.
Last year's top country-tour attraction with a gross of more than $71 million, according to Pollstar, Chesney came in sixth on the all-genre list of 2009 tours that the rock band U2 topped. His fans obviously turned out in huge numbers, but he felt he needed 2010 for other projects ... one of which happened to be Chesney himself.
"I think some people have the idea that because I'm not touring, I'm not doing anything," says the artist, who is about to star in a 3-D concert movie and is making a new album for release this fall. "If I was in the months where I was putting a tour together and having to start that tour, I could not have done everything. One thing or the other was going to suffer, and mentally, I just did not have the capacity to do everything great.
"I was so exhausted in the last year, so mentally burnt, I focused my energy in some different directions," Chesney notes. "Nothing replaces the relationship I've had with the fans, which is like a 16-year love affair with a bunch of people. I love that, but I also love writing songs and getting into the studio. Something had to take a back seat, and it can't be the music."
With such hit albums as "No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems" and "When the Sun Goes Down" behind him, Chesney also is a current Academy of Country Music Awards nominee for top male vocalist of the year and -- as artist as well as producer -- vocal event of the year for his teaming with Dave Matthews on"I'm Alive."
Grateful as he is for every nomination he gets, Chesney maintains his work isn't about awards, and it's also not about keeping pace with other country stars and how they do what they do.
"I'm aware of what other people are doing, but I make the records that I make. I think our music reflects the really eclectic bunch of people who come see us play; it's very diverse."
"Any musician will tell you the music you make as an adult is a direct reflection of the music you took in as a kid, and I listened to everything. I also take that into the studio with me, but I don't base my records on what's successful for other people."
Lady Antebellum tops this year's ACM Awards nomination list with seven, followed by Underwood and Miranda Lambert with six each. Taylor Swift has five bids, while Brad Paisley and the Zac Brown Band also have four, along with Chesney.
Chesney enjoys being with his peers at award ceremonies. "It's probably the worst atmosphere to sing in," he allows of the related distractions, "but I love to get to see my friends. I think our genre maybe has more of a camaraderie than others, because we run in the same circles. It's the same way with the fans. I don't know this for a fact, but I feel there's more of a foundation of a fan base when you get them in this genre."
Though he's not on the road this year, Chesney is bringing a concert to more people than usual. The new feature film "Kenny Chesney: Summer in 3D" is a biography that captures performance in cities including Pittsburgh, Indianapolis and Seattle.
"Making this movie has so consumed my life," Chesney says, "I can't wait to go back out on the road to get some rest! I've had my hands on every single part of this.
"In an odd way (thanks to the film), we'll be as present as we ever are. We played the (New Orleans) Saints' Super Bowl party, and that was the first time we had made music since last September. It felt really good, and it kind of got us thinking we were missing it a little bit. That's what I wanted to know, whether I would miss it."
Academy of Country Music Awards: Kenny Chesney still a force, even without a tour
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