Kenny Chesney was in Knoxville a few days ago, hosting a premiere of his latest sports documentary: "The Color Orange: The Condridge Holloway Story." Kenny was joined by a number of University of Tennessee alumni, including former quarterback Peyton Manning, and a number of ESPN hosts and analysts, including Kirk Herbstreet. Kenny spoke to us outside the historic Tennessee Theater about making this latest film, as well as his upcoming tour and ACM nominations.
What is it about this story you wanted to tell? The fact that it hadn’t been told before was something I couldn’t believe. Condridge being the figure he was, and broke such a racial barrier, and nobody recognized it. Anytime you do something first, you pay a price, and Condridge handled it with such grace and style, and with such a positive attitude and it was inspiring to me. He was such an athlete, he was Michael Vick in 1972 and 73. We know the stats, but I wanted everyone to know what kind of person he was, how humble he was, and odds were against him becoming that person. That’s why when ESPN asked us to do this, that’s why I wanted to do this film, to show people what kind of person he is.
How did it change you? Lotta people say he didn’t play in the NFL, the NFL didn’t give him a chance, but he didn’t focus on what he didn’t have. He focused on what he had, and was thankful for it. There are so many life lessons in Condridge’s story We all have adversity, we all have hurdles, I certainly have. I don’t think I handled it as well as Condridge did his. Making this film makes me wanna be a better person, and it was a gift from God ESPN asked us to do this. I would have done this anyway because he was such a huge sports figure in my life. Condridge Holloway is the reason that I love sports in the first place, so to be able to tell this man’s story, and apply it to your life, I didn’t expect that. But in ways it was a God-send.
We finished Boys of Fall film in August, and the part they loved was my connection with Condridge Holloway. When they saw what he meant to college football, and they saw he meant so much to me that I wore his orange #7 jersey to get my school picture made in, that was important to them, and they wanted to make that connection. When ESPN called me, we’d just finished Boys of Fall, and I was gonna take the next 3 months off and learn how to surf before I went back on tour. Then they said we want you to make a film on Condridge Holloway, but we want it to air in February. I was sitting with my feet in my pool, but realized I had to do this. We had a chance to make a film that was gonna mean a lot to generations of people who were invested in college football and understood Condridge’s journey. That was more important than us being tired. Once we got into it, it gave me more energy. So I’m so glad we did it.
Would you do another one? I didn’t know we were going to do Boys of Fall. It became an expensive obsession, but if you told me in 09, I’d say you were crazy. I made two films because I made too films I was passionate about. I don’t know what else that would be. If a story comes along that we can sink our teeth into, that we’re passionate about, it might be sports, but never say never. I enjoy the process, and we work well together, I enjoy taking an idea and bringing it to life on screen. It may take several years if we do it again. I gotta go on tour. I gotta think about that.
Have you rested? I have, I feel like I’ve had time off. I don’t feel like I stopped, but I’ve had mentally time away. I’m ready to go back out, I miss the energy, I miss the excitement from the first note of every night, the band’s anxious, sounding better than ever, working hard to rehearse, to have the love affair we experience with the fans is second to none, but that’s why I feel we needed the time off, I needed to protect that at any cost. Now we’re ready to go back.
ACM nomination for Album & Single: I’m very proud of them, the fact that the album was nominated, I took a lot of extra time with Hemingway’s Whiskey. I had a whole nother album done, but knew it wasn’t right. I scrapped all of it except Boys of Fall, Somewhere With You, and a song called Seven Day. But I was afforded, because I didn’t tour, I was afforded the luxury of time. That’s why I’m excited about the album nomination.