Back to Our Roots
By Dan MacIntosh
If you listen to any amount of Paul Chesne Band music, you’re going to hear a plenty of songs about girls and a lot of songs about Jesus. Sometimes, both subjects are contained within the very same song. These songs may come out as comforting country tunes one minute, and noisy, messy rock & roll the next. Therefore, it’s no great surprise Chesne describes his music with the Paul Chesne Band in unusually extreme terms. “It’s Dr. Dre meets Johnny Cash,” Chesne quips. “Or as our bass player came up with a couple weeks ago, ‘Just imagine a jukebox has exploded.’”
During his formative years, Chesne listened to a lot of the Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel and Bob Dylan. “As I grew up,” Chesne adds, “I started to like hip hop a lot as a teenager.” This teen exposure to hip hop explains the Dr. Dre side of his inspirational equation. It wasn’t until Chesne became an adult, however, that the jukebox in his psyche truly blew up due to the input of some potent, roots-oriented explosives.
“I heard Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson on the same night when I was 18,” Chesne says, recalling his country music epiphany. “I heard two of their albums back to back. The first was Johnny Cash’s American Recordings, and Willie Nelson’s Shotgun Willie, and that just changed my whole perspective. So I devoted a lot of time to learning about country music. It just expanded my horizons. Once you go through that, you get to old blues and it made me go searching for their inspirations.”
Inspiration can strike in the strangest places, at the strangest times. Chesne wasn’t in some famous club or shopping at a hip record store when he was initially struck by this addictive country bug. Also, up to that point he honestly didn’t truly comprehend country music.
“I did really get it until that night when I heard those albums,” Chesne admits. “I was working at a pizza joint delivering pizzas. There were no orders and the chef had put those albums on and I listened to them and it just blew my mind.” As it turns out, that influential pizza chef was both literally and figuratively a tastemaker.
Chesne doesn’t just live in the past when it comes to drawing from his musical inspirations. He also digs a lot of contemporary artists, too; ones that are likely inspired by some of his older country influences. “New people that I like are Lucinda Williams, Wilco and Spoon,” he lists. And even though there are deep roots to the music Chesne creates these days, he’s by no means stubborn purist. “I don’t really discriminate against any genre of music,” Chesne asserts. “I love them all. I just love good music.”
It’s ironic that Paul shares a last name (albeit, one spelled slightly differently) with big time country singer, Kenny Chesney. Although ‘that other Chesney’ has his moments of sincere tenderness, he also records far too many songs about hanging out on exotic beaches, drinking expensive liquor and seemingly auditioning for Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. However, what attracted Chesne to country music were not the dollar signs in the eyes of slick Nashville superstardom.
“I think there’s something that’s just so human about country,” Chesne explains. “About the stories. Just about a person with a guitar in front of you presenting their art and expressing themselves. There’s something so timeless and powerful about that. “
The Paul Chesne Band plays music for any number of good (or bad) reasons. They want to make people happy and get them to dance, as well as make the pretty girls cry. Or it may just be because they’re high, low, drunk or any combination of all three. Or, to quote them directly, “because we can’t in good conscience do anything else.”
All of these reasons sound like lines to every honest-to-goodness country song you’ve ever heard. If you also throw in bits about Jesus, too, you just about have it all. Downright sincerity, mixed with obvious talent, is more than proof enough that Paul Chesne was destined to do more than just deliver pizzas the rest of his life. And with the angel of Nelson on one shoulder, and Cash on the other, there’s no possible way the man could fail.