There was a
moment when Chely Wright knew for certain that Never Love You
Enough was everything it could be, that it was ready for release
to her expectant fans and to a wider country audience waiting to
see how she would follow up her breakthrough smash, "Single
earlier, with ten songs already completed, she had decided to
keep working, following an ever-more-demanding internal
barometer honed over a lifetime of music making. "I just
wanted to make sure it was right," she says. So, in
addition to the groundwork she had laid with producers Tony
Brown and Buddy Cannon, she recorded some sides with friend and
co-writer Brad Paisley, and with producers Paul Worley and Dann
Huff, to be sure she had fully explored her own artistic
The moment came
when she heard the completed work she and Huff had done on the
song that would become the CD's title track.
"I knew we
had a single in the song 'Jezebel'," she says, "and I
knew that Brad and I had done a couple of really cool things,
but when I heard the song 'Never Love You Enough,' and then
after Dann made the record on it, I was really confident about
everything we had. I said, 'That's it. The record's done.'"
As a result,
Never Love You Enough -- after 17 months of preparation and
recording--is a fully realized reflection of Chely as both an
artist and as a person. Meticulously crafted, passionately sung,
it is, she says, "sonically more interesting than anything
else I've ever done, but it's definitely still me."
It is her
particularly in the fact that she wrote or co-wrote five songs
on the project--two with Brad Paisley ("One Night In Las
Vegas" and "Horoscope," one with Brad and Tim
Nichols "Not As In Love"), and one with hot new writer
Roxie Dean ("Wouldn't It Be Cool")--and wrote another
on her own, "Deep Down Low.
songwriting efforts with Paisley, in fact, blossomed
unexpectedly into tracks that became a real key to the project.
"We became accidental producers," she says with a
laugh. "We had written a couple of songs and just decided
to spend a little extra money and go for record quality rather
than demos. When Tony Brown heard them, he said, 'We have to put
those on the record.'"
songwriting involvement and the striving for excellence that
marked the album, Never Love You Enough is the perfect
representation of an artist whose maturity, drive and talent
have brought her to the forefront of the current musical world
and poised her for the success and status she has so richly
The signs of that
success are everywhere. Both her talent and her star power have
been on display in a variety of settings during an eventful
summer. She was part of a star-studded Fourth of July concert
broadcast live on PBS from the lawn of the Capitol building in
Washington, D.C. More than half a million people watched live as
Chely joined the likes of the Irish Tenors, the Pointer Sisters,
the Fifth Dimension and the National Symphony Orchestra for the
day's most-watched celebration of the country's 225th birthday.
For Chely, who has traveled as far as Korea and Japan
entertaining U.S. troops, the rain-soaked Capitol celebration
had special meaning for her.
"I grew up
having great reverence for the military. My grandfather was in
the Army, my father was in the Navy and my brother is in his
12th year in the Marine Corps. I was just brought up to respect
military men and women--rightly so, because I have a lot of
liberties that someone else had to go fight for."
She was part of
an equally impressive line-up at MCA Nashville’s recent Label
of the Decade celebration at the new Country Music Hall of Fame.
As the latest in a series of extraordinary female singers whom
have stretched back to Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn and include
labelmates Reba McEntire and Trisha Yearwood, she said the
evening held for her "a pretty high chill bump
Chely was also
part of the Ralph Stanley "Clinch Mountain
Sweethearts" project. Her vocals on "Angel Band"
displayed both her appreciation of and aptitude for pure
mountain bluegrass, amid a lineup that includes Joan Baez, Dolly
Parton, Jeannie Seely and Sara Evans among others.
extraordinary has been the good use to which she can put her
increasing celebrity, as evidenced at this year's Fan Fair.
There, her Reading, Writing & Rhythm Foundation raised
$100,000 in a sold-out Wildhorse Saloon show which featured a
concert and both silent and live auctions, all involving
high-profile friends in the country and pop music worlds. It's a
mark of her growing cachet that an auctioned dinner with Chely
went for $14,500.
If anyone could
be said to have brought a lifetime of musical preparation and
experience to a country career, it is Chely. She grew up in
Wellsville, Kansas, in a family of players and singers. She can
still recall sitting on her great-grandmother's knee as she
played an old upright piano during church services or
honky-tonks at home. At four, she was taking piano lessons that
her parents struggled to pay for on a modest income.
Her early years
were suffused with church music, the bluegrass of regional
festivals and what came into the house from Kansas City radio
stations--"country music," she says, drawing out those
four syllables deliberately and lovingly. It became and remains
her first love, and she would tell anyone who would listen that
she was going to become "a famous country star." Each
year, her mother once said, "The world stopped, we locked
the doors, sat on the couch, and watched the CMA awards."
At 11, Chely made
her first foray into a little club in nearby Edgerton, and by 14
she was traveling on weekends, singing in clubs and honky-tonks
in her own County Line Band, which included her father on bass.
In seventh grade,
the school band teacher called her mother and asked why the
talented Chely wasn't in the school band. "We need
her," he said. Recognizing the family's financial
situation, Chely had been reluctant to ask, fearing she'd have
to give up piano to buy an instrument and take up band. Her
mother assured her that they would find a way to start her with
a used trumpet, and she went on to become an accomplished
trumpeter, playing in the jazz, pep, stage and marching bands.
"It was a really big deal to me," she says. "It
shaped my life in many ways, and ultimately it probably helped
shape my career."
The experience is
a key reason she founded her Reading, Writing & Rhythm
foundation--dreaming it up, logo and all, in a
middle-of-the-night burst of inspiration--and why its work,
which involves getting money and instruments to school music
programs, is particularly rewarding. She wanted to help assure
that other children would not have the kinds of doubts and
worries about participating in school music programs that she'd
After her junior
year in high school, Chely worked at the Ozark Jubilee in
Missouri, and a year later, on May 12, 1989, she moved to
There was nothing
easy about those early days. She sang at Opryland seasonally for
three years, worked at less-than-glamorous day jobs in between,
starved for awhile--at one point she was living in a trailer,
with $13 left in her checking account--and strove with a fierce
determination toward her first record deal, attending writers'
nights and relying on the faith she had learned on her
piano-playing great-grandmother's lap.
faith can take you just about anywhere in life. It can help you
find your dreams and get you through the hard times. It was part
of why I never thought I wasn't good enough and I never thought
that it wouldn't happen for me."
Along the way,
she formed friendships with other aspiring artists and with Opry
stalwarts like Minnie Pearl and Porter Wagoner. Her first
breakthrough came as a songwriter when she was signed to a
publishing deal--a career achievement of which she is justly
proud--and by the time she'd been in Nashville for 3-1/2 years
she had her first record deal.
promising newcomer, she was named Top New Female Artist by the
Academy of Country Music in 1995. Still, success was slow in
coming, and after two albums, the label folded. She had to draw
even more deeply on her inner strength. "I said to myself,
'Maybe I can't get on the radio, but they can't stop me from
writing songs and from touring,' so I kept doing both, trying to
keep a buzz about myself alive until I had an opportunity. And I
was prepared when opportunity knocked."
In fact, she had
helped bring opportunity's hand to the door, convincing MCA
Nashville President Tony Brown she had a real shot at the brass
ring. An earlier song of hers, "The Love That We
Lost," was the one that spurred his interest, although he
says, "I saw the fire in her eyes, so I took a
It was a smart
one. "Shut Up And Drive," from her MCA Nashville
debut, Let Me In, became her first top-ten hit in 1997. She
opened for Vince Gill and became the only female artist chosen
for the Crown Royal Tour in 1999. That year came "Single
White Female" and Chely's quick ascension to a new career
that first #1 is something I can mark off my list," she
says with a smile. "It's a great feeling to do the show
every night and to be able to say, 'You guys gave me a #1
record, and I thank you." Given her drive, her most recent
triumphs are simply plateaus rather than peaks, starting points
for further climbs, which she plans to make with the same
combination of talent and verve that have brought her this far.
whatever reason, God put this default setting in me not to be
able to identify the possibility of failure," she says.
"I've refused to fail at anything. For generations, my
family has passed down the notion that if you have a good plan
and execute it, you can have a portion of your happiness."
And happiness is
certainly a key part of the picture.
with a great job, with the gift of music, a great family (she
talks to hersiblings by phone daily), fantastic friendships and
a brand new niece or nephew on the way. You always hope you're
growing as a person, and expanding spiritually in your
relationships and in your thought processes, and I really feel
like I'm in an excellent mindset right now. I think when you get
your mind and body and spirit all on the same path, that's when
things start to work."
She is an
enthusiastic and talented painter, and free time—what little
there is of it--might well find her hiking, cleaning and
rearranging the house, or relaxing over sushi with a friend. An
avid sports enthusiast, she has picked up golf tips from friend
Vince Gill and plays every charity sporting event "to
These days, the
demands of her career keep her on the road a great deal of the
time, but she is comfortable with its rigors.
well on the road," she says. "I've been touring in
some capacity since I was 14. I've been out pretty much
full-time since 1993 on a tour bus. I think I've got diesel fuel
in my veins. I love the smell of a truck stop. And I don't sleep
in a stateroom in the back. I sleep in a bunk. Always
she has laid through the years has set up the success embodied
so clearly in Single White Female, and it's something she
"I think I'm
no different from any artist in music," she says. "At
least once, you want to see your name up on the top."
talents, her drive and the contents of her new CD, it's a sight
she should be getting used to.