"I opened for Tim, it was a blast," Chesney said to the Chicago Tribune. "It was a very unsure time for me, a very uncertain time. It was the summer before the No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems album came out. We had no idea what that album would do. Then it went triple platinum, and boom. I had all those years of building a fan base and those three summers took it to the next level. We embraced it and ran with it.
"[Those] were three summers that literally changed the direction of my life," Chesney continued.
"It set the table for what we've been able to achieve for the last decade and be a headliner," McGraw added. "We had a lot of conversations, a lot of late nights hanging out talking about our careers and what were the best moves to make."
One of the questionable moves the friends made during that time was in Buffalo during the George Strait Country Music Festival, when Chesney allegedly absconded with a local deputy's horse, causing a scuffle into which McGraw jumped. McGraw was charged with second-degree assault, but the incident gave the superstars an outlaw edge.
Since that pivotal tour, both men have continued to be dominant musical forces within country. McGraw has achieved crossover success, dotting the Billboard 200 with four No. 1 albums and five that peaked at No. 2 including his 2012 album Emotional Traffic, his 11th studio album and first on Big Machine Records. He signed with the label after a lengthy and ugly divorce from Curb Records.
Coincidentally, McGraw is now on the same label as Taylor Swift, who wrote and recorded a hit song, Tim McGraw, a tribute to his longevity and influence in music.
"The first thing I thought when I heard it was, 'Man, you're really gettin' old when they're writing songs about you,' " McGraw told the Post-Gazette. "But then I realized she was 14 or 15 and wrote it in math class, so I didn't feel so bad then. In fact, it was pretty cool, and to see the success that she's gone on and had, and how she's handled herself, she's a good girl."
Chesney may not have the mainstream cache that McGraw -- who also has a successful acting career -- has, but his statistics are similar with nearly 50 charting singles, 23 of which were No. 1 hits. All but one of his baker's dozen albums have sold gold or platinum and he is starting year 10 of his run as a stadium act.
Chesney's most recent studio album, Welcome to the Fishbowl, was released last month and led by the (surely coincidentally timed) Southern rockin' flavored duet and hit single with McGraw Feel Like a Rock Star.
In concert, the duet starts off a short, show-ending set featuring both stars that includes songs such as Chesney's She Thinks My Tractor's Sexy and McGraw's Indian Outlaw, and often closing with Jackson Browne's Running on Empty.
That comes after both artists have already given the people their fill of their own hit-filled catalogs. McGraw's hour-plus long set is filled with many of his hits spanning his career from 1994's Down on the Farm through 2010's Felt Good on My Lips and he's debuting a few new songs, including the surprisingly power-poppy Mexicoma along with his recent euphemistically titled country-rock stomper Truck Yeah.
Chesney, known as a hardworking showman on stage, takes his role as country music's version of Jimmy Buffett seriously, performing party tunes such as Keg in the Closet and Beer in Mexico.
Their lives and careers have changed dramatically in the 11 years since McGraw and Chesney first toured together. Both men are living the dream they shared as newcomers in the last century, making the Brothers of the Sun Tour a culmination of both their careers and their friendship.
"We've wanted to do it for a while, but the timing didn't work out right. We had different projects going at different times," McGraw said in the Post-Gazette.
"Now it seems like the right time. It's been a long haul to work on this and get it together. I think the winners will be the fans, because it's not often you have two guys in the peak of their career going out and doing something like this."
What: Brothers of the Sun Tour featuring Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw, Grace Potter & the Nocturnals and Jake Owen
When: 4:30 p.m. Sunday
Where: Cleveland Browns Stadium, 100 Alfred Lerner Way
Information: 800-745-3000, www.ticketmaster.com
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