CHESNEY: The only thing I knew to do: I ran. I pushed her away.
PLAYBOY: In what way?
CHESNEY: In every way possible—to the point where I just didn’t want to be married to her anymore. It’s that simple.
PLAYBOY: So you were the one who called an end to the marriage?
CHESNEY: Yeah, I guess I did. But I still struggle with it. Was it the right thing to do or not? I still think about her every day. Every day I wonder if she’s okay.
PLAYBOY: Do you go see her movies?
CHESNEY: Yeah, of course.
PLAYBOY: How often do you talk to her?
CHESNEY: Not often. It’s just too hard. We talked about a year ago, on the phone, for five minutes.
PLAYBOY: Have you ever tried to get her back?
PLAYBOY: She has said marrying you was “the single biggest personal mistake of my life.”
CHESNEY: Believe me, I thought it was a mistake too. Nothing positive at all in my life came from it, I can tell you that.
PLAYBOY: What would you do differently?
CHESNEY: Maybe we should have dated for a year or two. What would have been wrong with that?
PLAYBOY: Did anyone suggest that?
CHESNEY: You couldn’t tell us anything. We were just so excited and in love.
PLAYBOY: It’s hard to see how anyone could go from true love to an annulment in four months.
CHESNEY: Don’t believe it hasn’t left scars. I mean, you don’t just fall out of love with somebody. Believe me, I’ve had a pretty quiet life since then.
PLAYBOY: C’mon, Kenny. We saw pictures of you with Skylene Montgomery, Miss West Virginia, when you were dating her last year.
CHESNEY: She’s pretty smoking hot, isn’t she? [laughs]
PLAYBOY: She’s incredibly hot, especially in the swimsuit competition.
CHESNEY: Yeah, she’s hot. Thanks, buddy.
PLAYBOY: Do you compare other women you’ve dated with Renée?
CHESNEY: Maybe mentally, because she’s the smartest woman I’ve ever met.
PLAYBOY: Wait, Renée is smarter than Miss West Virginia?
CHESNEY: I never got around to talking to her that long. [laughs] Ah, Miss West Virginia. When I met her she presented me with some kind of honorary certificate signed by the governor. She was wearing a yellow dress and boots. She looked really good. It was a lot of fun for a little while.
PLAYBOY: When you break up with a woman do you do it the brave way or the cowardly way?
CHESNEY: I do it the brave way: I let them break up with me.
PLAYBOY: How long did you stay mad at Renée?
CHESNEY: I’m not mad at her.
PLAYBOY: After the annulment you said, “I’m sad. I’m angry.”
CHESNEY: I wasn’t angry at her. I was angry at the situation. I mean, who likes to have their relationship on public display? Who likes to have people speculate about everything under the sun? It’s tough enough to have a relationship, and it hurts enough to have it not work. Then you add all this other shit on top of it—what’s there not to be angry about?
PLAYBOY: There was speculation that you’re gay, because she cited fraud when she filed for an annulment.
CHESNEY: That is the most unbelievable thing in the world. “Because Renée cited fraud, Kenny’s got to be gay.” What guy who loves girls wouldn’t be angry about that shit? I didn’t sign up for that. I think people need to live their lives the way they want to, but I’m pretty confident in the fact that I love girls. [laughs] I’ve got a long line of girls who could testify that I am not gay.
PLAYBOY: Have you ever counted?
CHESNEY: Yeah, but I’m not gonna tell you the number. There’s no way I’m telling.
PLAYBOY: Is it more than 100?
CHESNEY: Man, I was over 100 several years ago. I can’t believe I’m actually saying this on the record: That was probably back in 2001. I had a good time in college, I really did. My first five years on the road were intense because I was the guy in college who never got laid until I started playing guitar. There were years when I had a better summer than A-Rod, buddy. You know? I got on the boards quite often. From 1993 to 1998—those five years were a blur. We would party on the bus after every show.
PLAYBOY: How would you get the girls off the bus?
CHESNEY: I’d have the bus driver crank up the bus and pretend we were leaving. “Oh, we’ve got to go. You’ve got to go. See you later.” That’s why all the gay rumors are so ironic. I’ll tell you what, though, in the middle of it all, I never said one bad thing about anybody. Out of respect, I took it. I have never said a negative thing about anybody, even when the whole world was saying I was gay because Renée Zellweger cited fraud.
PLAYBOY: Do you think country music would support a gay singer? It’s a pretty conservative genre.
CHESNEY: I don’t know. I doubt it.
PLAYBOY: So we won’t see a gay country singer in our lifetime?
CHESNEY: It ain’t gonna be me, I can promise you that. [laughs]
PLAYBOY: Why did Renée claim fraud?
CHESNEY: I talked to my attorney and her attorney. In order for us to get an annulment, the legal papers could claim either physical abuse, which wasn’t true, or mental abuse, which wasn’t true, or three or four other things that also weren’t true. The best thing we could put in there was fraud. So I said, “All right, do it. Whatever.”
PLAYBOY: You said the end of the marriage left some scars. What was the low point?
CHESNEY: It all happened in September, right when I got off tour. I kept pretty much to myself, in this house. I didn’t leave the house or get out of bed for seven days. I didn’t talk to anybody. I was incredibly depressed. I was like Owen Wilson at the end of Wedding Crashers—that was me. That year, 2006, after the annulment was finalized, I hated the whole year. But I went out on tour and put on a smile every night. Then I would read reviews that said, “Something’s wrong with Kenny.” No shit. I’ve had a rough six months. “Something’s missing with Kenny’s show.” Yeah. Kenny’s missing from Kenny’s show!
PLAYBOY: Describe that week when you didn’t leave the house.
CHESNEY: I was numb. I remember thinking, It’s really quiet in the house, but outside there’s a buzz saw aimed right at me. I was lying in bed, watching all these talk shows featuring lawyers who had never met me. What? Who are you? I wasn’t leaving the house again—and I didn’t, for a while.
PLAYBOY: Did you see a shrink?
CHESNEY: I should’ve, but I didn’t. I didn’t want to talk to anybody. Music’s my medication.
PLAYBOY: Why did you finally get out of bed?
CHESNEY: I got hungry. Next thing you knew it was March, and I had to start a tour in a month.
PLAYBOY: So what kind of town are you from?
CHESNEY: I’m from a really small town.