By Donna Hill
For the Fort Bend Star
On “Tradition Lives,” the new CD from Mark Chesnutt, Texas fans will relate to songs like “They’ve Never Been to Texas” and “Hot” when he performs at the Redneck Country Club on June 16.
Chesnutt still sounds like he did back in the ’90s, the traditional country sound where honky tonk meets dancehall ready. His new CD also has the kind of music Chesnutt does best – country songs that stand the test of time.
One listen to ‘‘Tradition Lives” lets one know traditional country music is alive and well.
As much as Chesnutt stays true to his musical roots, he stays true to his Texas roots as well. He still lives in Beaumont instead of Nashville. Even though it’s the Beaumont native’s first CD in eight years, you won’t see him uprooting and moving to Tennessee anytime soon.
“I was born and raised in Texas, and my family is all here. When you’re born and raised in Texas, it’s a special place and there’s nowhere like Texas anywhere. And I’ve been all over the world, so I know. When I got into the music business, and had to make trips to Nashville, to try and meet people and make connections, I’d go. But never had any intentions to live in Nashville. Ever. I only go to when I need to.”
It’s easy to see his heart is in Beaumont. Long before the ’90s hits, long before Music Row, Chestnutt was singing in clubs in his hometown at the young age of 16.
“My mom and dad took me around to bands that they knew. My dad (Bob Chesnutt) played in bands around Beaumont. There’s always been a good live music scene here. A lot of great of music history here, not just country. Rock and roll (Johnny Winter, also from Beaumont), blues and Cajun music. All of it was just a part of growing up for me,” he said.
“My dad had given up on music after a while; he had a family. But he took me to where I could perform with people he knew. Not only Beaumont, but in Houston, in San Antonio.”
Eventually he got to Nashville, and made songs like “Too Cold At Home,” “Brother Jukebox” and “I’ll Think of Something,” regulars on the country radio airwaves.
His influences are many.
“My dad – first singer I ever heard. He loved Hank Williams Sr. and I got know every single song while listening to his music growing up,” he said. “But of course George Jones was the main one. He was the guy who influenced me more than anyone else.”
“People I meet today still have memories of Jones back in the ’60s living in Beaumont. I got to be very good friends with him for decades until he passed away. We recorded together, toured together, drank together, hung out together. And I think he liked me because I was from his part of the country and I performed his type of music. I’ve always stayed true to traditional country music and I don’t really go in any other direction, even today.”
Chesnutt works on various independent labels and continues to stay busy.
“I like recording, and ‘Tradition Lives’ was the first CD I had in a while that’s really all new music. Most of the songs are written for the album, some were written about 15 years ago that were never recorded.”
Market share and demographics at radio stations are not his aim with his new music.
“I wasn’t looking for airplay. I had an opportunity to record an album. But more importantly, my fans were asking for new music. I wasn’t concerned about airplay or singles or a hit. I wasn’t looking for that, just looking for songs that I knew my fans would like.”
He’s touring and reconnecting with his fans, and his music, and he’s loving it.
“We work when and as much as we can. A hundred dates a year, as many as we can squeeze in. We have a really great road band; fiddle, steel guitar, piano. I’ve got what I call the full music honky tonk band.”
The song “Hot” was the first song he recorded for “Tradition Lives.”
“We were looking for songs for this CD and ‘Hot” was pitched to us. I heard it a long time ago, and it had been around Nashville for a while,” he said. “It describes being in Texas in the summer, especially in southeast Texas, well hell anywhere in Texas … it really caught my attention and was perfect timing.”
So what’s in Chesnutt’s future?
“Keep doing what I do. Make another album, and continue to work with the independent labels or recording it myself. Keep touring as long as people want to hear us. Just like Willie Nelson; keep doing it until we can’t.”
Mark Chesnutt will be at the Redneck Country Club on Friday, June 16. For tickets and more information, visit https://theredneckcountryclub.com.