Though Casey Chesnutt had high hopes for his newest single, “Even Texas Couldn’t Hold Her,” he has been admittedly taken aback by just how well the song is performing out of the gate.
Though the Texas-living singer/songwriter had hopes to gain five spots per week on the Texas charts with the lead single from his Down Mexico Way EP, the song performed nearly six times better than that over the past week, gaining nearly 30 spots to enter the top 70 and validating the direction he’s taken his music.
We chatted with Chesnutt about growing up in a musical household, all about “Even Texas Couldn’t Hold Her,” his plans for new music and more!
Pro Country: Who were some of your earliest musical influences that have helped to shape your sound?
Casey Chesnutt: Definitely guys like Randy Rogers, Wade Bowen, Stoney LaRue and Pat Green. I follow a lot of the Early Texas country/red dirt scene.
PC: As the son of country legend Mark Chesnutt, did it almost feel inevitable that you would catch the music bug yourself and pursue a career in music? When did you first see it as a possibility?
CC: I’ve really always been fascinated with music, even as a kid watching my dad do it. I did a high school talent show during my sophomore year of high school, and I won it, and that made me think that I might be able to do something with music. That’s where I got started; I always had that interest, but I never really started pursuing it until after that competition.
PC: That’s pretty early in your life to start down that musical path. How important was it for you to cut your teeth in the industry and be on the road at such a young age, and what were you able to take away from that?
CC: I was definitely able to learn a lot. It was really stressful because I was trying to get through high school and do music at the same time. I really wanted to make my footprint, and I also knew I was going to join the Marines at some point. I was making pretty good money at 17 playing the bars every night, and I started getting really ambitious with it. I started making school less of a priority, because everything in my life was just about music. I knew I wasn’t going to be going to college, so my goal was just to pass high school, go off to the military, then come back and pick music back up.
PC: You did end up serving in the Marine Corps for five years, and upon your return, you picked your music career back up. What were you able to learn through your five years in the Marines and how excited were you to get back into music?
CC: What did I not learn from the military? if it wasn’t for the Marines, I’d probably be in jail or still playing those small bars [laughs]. I’ve learned to have patience and how to be more resilient. That’s helped with the lack of sleep and running and gunning on this radio tour, all the while, doing five gigs a week. It taught me a lot about responsibility; how to grow up and be an adult.
PC: You recorded your new EP, Down Mexico Way, in Nashville. What was it like recording in Nashville with the level of collective talent that was surrounding you?
CC: It was definitely an experience. We spent a lot of time in the studio when we were down there trying to push and get the stuff recorded. After we got done recording, we made a beeline to the main street in Nashville, and that was a sight to see. Seeing music every 15 to 20 feet was really baffling. I probably heard “Tennessee Whiskey” every five seconds on that street [laughs]. It was really surreal.
PC: Why did you feel that “Even Texas Couldn’t Hold Her” was the right lead single from your Down Mexico Way EP?
CC: It really has a grasping effect on people. I think it has a lot to do with the fiddle and the strong emotions that are tied to it. Even the title has a really strong emotion to it. Keith Smith wrote that song, and he did a really good job of setting up the hook on it. It’s a really smooth, easy to listen to song. It was easy for me to sit there and say it, because it felt natural.
PC: How did that song end up falling to you and how easy of a decision was it for you to cut it?
CC: We had a bunch of songs sent to us from a bunch of different songwriters in the area. We fell in love with it as soon as we listened to it. As soon as we realized that was the direction we wanted to go with our music; keeping the traditional sound but still maintaining a red dirt sound, it made it easy. It’s a song that grasped me, and it’s definitely an attention getter.
PC: You’re in the midst of a radio tour for “Even Texas Couldn’t Hold Her” throughout Texas. What has the experience been like of touring the state and hitting the road with the song?
CC: Lots of driving and lots of not sleeping [laughs]. It’s nothing I’m not used to, but sometimes I get to the fourth or fifth radio station, it makes you hope it’s a good investment, because radio tours can be expensive. You’ve got to stay in hotels and pay for gas, so it can get expensive, and we just hope we get some gigs or streams out of it. It’s been a journey.
PC: You’re seeing the fruits of that labor now as the song just entered the top 70 on the TR3 chart. What has it been like for you to watch the song climb the charts and to see that work pay off?
CC: It’s been astounding. We didn’t expect it to do what it’s done. I thought and hoped that it would jump five spots a week, so I figured it would take us 20 weeks to get it to the near 20s on the chart. It jumped up about 30 spots in a week, and I was blown away. I didn’t know how to respond to that. It was really cool, and it’s motivated me to keep pushing on the radio tour. I think if we can get this song to number one, I’ll feel really confident with the direction we’re going with the music.
PC: “Mexico Way” is one of our favorite songs on its EP. What drew you to have that song serve as the title track for the EP?
CC: I fell in love with that song. It’s a really mellow song, and it’s got a really cool beachy, Kenny Chesney vibe. It’s still got the heartbreak, Texas country fiddle ride in it too. That mixture of both makes it so mellow and easy to listen to to me. When you include that catgut guitar, you start to hear the Chesney, but when you hear the fiddle, it throws you off. Roger Springer wrote that song, and it was my favorite song on the EP at the time. I think that’s going to be the next song we push off of the EP.
10) What do you hope listeners take away from the Down Mexico Way EP after listening all the way through?
CC: I hope they’ve got good stuff to say about the music, and I hope it makes them want to hear more. I just want people to know that there’s more music coming. It’s going to sound a little different. It’ll always have the Texas, red dirt sound, but it’s going to start evolving into its own sound. I don’t want people to expect the same thing every time we release music.
PC: As someone with a father who has had so much success in the music industry, do you lean on him for any kind of advice or guidance, or do you subscribe to the “learn as you go” mindset?
CC: My dad grew up in a bit of a different country music world. He gives me a lot of great advice, but I’m learning now that the advice of some of the older musicians isn’t quite the same as today’s market. I’m learning that I have to do different things. It’s all about social media now. That’s something that I grew up with, so I know how to navigate it a bit easier and how to talk to people and be responsive there. There’s not a whole lot of advice from that portion of it, but there’s a lot of advice that I’ve gotten from the performance aspect of it that he’s given me: like having to change your strings every now and then, not playing when you’re sick and not getting too drunk [laughs].
PC: You mentioned new music earlier. Along with that on the way, and of the things you can control, what are your plans for 2022?
CC: I’m trying to put together this original album that we’re working on. We’re trying to cut it in Nashville. It’s going to sound a little different, and we’re expecting to get it out and pushed, and hopefully people listen to it and dig it!
*Casey’s music is featured on The Best of Pro Country playlist!*