Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties: Kenny Chesney, “That’s Why I’m Here”

“That’s Why I’m Here”

Kenny Chesney

Written by Shaye Smith and Mark Alan Springer

Radio & Records

#1 (1 week)

July 3, 1998

Kenny Chesney tops the chart with his strongest single yet.

The Road to No. 1

After two consecutive No. 1 singles – “When I Close My Eyes” and “She’s Got it All” – Chesney went top fifteen with “A Chance,” the second single from I Will Stand.  He returned to the top with the album’s third single.

The No. 1

Yes, in a run of No. 1 singles that included artists like Reba McEntire, Brooks & Dunn, George Strait, and Steve Wariner, the best two songs came from Tim McGraw and Kenny Chesney.

Chesney modeled his own successful run at superstardom after McGraw, although he didn’t have the same consistent access to top drawer material.   “That’s Why I’m Here” demonstrated his ability to identify a great song when given the opportunity, as well as his skill in delivering a strong lyric with emotional clarity.

It’s a powerful story about a man turning up late at night at his ex’s door, and fully understanding why she assumes he’s been drinking.  Instead, he’s there to make amends for the horrible impact his alcoholism had on his loved ones, especially her.

It’s him taking one of the twelve steps in real time, without the expectation that he’ll be forgiven and that they’ll get back together.  In fact, all he asks of her is to hear him tell his story at AA, so she can seem him take public responsibility for what he’s apologizing for in private.

Compare this treatment of AA to the recent Walker Hayes hit, and you’ll have a damn good measuring stick for how far the genre has fallen in the new century.

The Road From No. 1

The title track was released as the fourth single from I Will Stand, and it went top thirty.  Chesney will close out the nineties with two more No. 1 singles. We’ll cover them both when we get to 1999.

“That’s Why I’m Here” gets an A.

Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties

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Next: Collin Raye, “I Can Still Feel You”



  1. Compare this treatment of AA to the recent Walker Hayes hit, and you’ll have a damn good measuring stick for how far the genre has fallen in the new century.

    Yup. That right there. I never was a big KC fan, but this was a great song.

  2. Chesney has recorded some outrageously powerful songs in his career. This is one of the best. It bears repeating until somebody tells me to shut up, but country music at its best in the nineties was still mature music for adults. Ironically, Chesney’s frat-country, party anthems would undermine this premise as much as any artist’s output, but he still knows today what to do when he gets hold of a killer lyric, just like he did early in his career. He confounds me as an artist and I spend more time than I want to admit wondering what his legacy will be.

  3. This is a classic! Easy A. “Little Rock” by Collin Raye is still my favorite country song about alcoholism, but this one’s damn close. I wish Kenny still did his 90’s songs (especially this one) in his live shows.

  4. This is definitely one of Chesney’s finest moments on record, and it’s arguably still one of the very best singles of his career. Like I said in Tim McGraw’s “One Of These Days,” I so badly want to go back to the time when you could hear deep, meaningful, and beautiful songs like this from the latest popular young male artists…especially during the summer AND from Kenny friggin’ Chesney of all people! Yes, the same guy who would try to be the second coming of Jimmy Buffett in the next decade and help start the movement where nearly all male artists sang about recalling their frat boy days and getting hammered. As others have already pointed out though, this song is solid proof that Kenny does know a good song when he hears one, and he certainly has the talent to deliver them effectively. It’s just too bad we couldn’t have heard more stuff like this from him throughout his career. Man, I love 90’s Kenny, and I still stand by opinion that I Will Stand is one of his best albums still, especially.

    Also like his pal, Tim McGraw, Chesney himself had also matured a lot more as a vocalist by this time, and it’s displayed very well on this record. His more mellow, deeper, and smoother vocals here are quite the contrast compared to his earlier albums where at times it sounded like early Aaron Tippin was a big influence on him. He was also skilled enough of a vocalist by then to nail all the right emotions here. I especially always liked his softer delivery of the chorus right after the bridge, and it’s like hearing him formally apologizing to the woman who’s life he made a living hell of with his alcoholism. Speaking of that chorus, it still gives me chills when he sings the lines “It’s the simple things in life, like the kids at home and a loving wife, that you miss the most when you lose control.” Though I also love “Little Rock,” this is personally my favorite song about alcoholism. I’m one of the lucky ones who thankfully grew up in a family in which that wasn’t a problem, but I feel for those who’s lives and families were destroyed by it.

    Sonically, “That’s Why I’m Here” is also gorgeous. I love the clean and smooth production by Buddy Cannon and Norro Wilson, especially the sound of the drums and Sonny Garrish’s steel guitar. I especially love the sound the steel makes at the very end and after the last time Kenny sings “Ohh, I’ve been there….” Interestingly, this is also the production style that Kenny would stick with up to the mid 2000’s, though the steel guitar would become a lot less prominent.

    “That’s Why I’m Here” is one of the main songs I fell in love with during the 1998 trip to Lancaster, Pennsylvania that my mom, dad, and I went on not long after my 6th grade year ended and summer vacation started. That’s still one of the most memorable trips to PA for me, because not only did I have so much fun with my family there, but it’s also the trip that got the ball rolling for us to take many more trips back to PA since then. Each time “That’s Why I’m Here” came on the radio while we were in the car, I’d always be enjoying it in the backseat, but at the same time, I’d also get frustrated because Mom and Dad always seemed to be talking in the middle of it, and I’d wish they’d just listen to this beautiful new song, lol. I especially always loved the sound of the chorus, which I thought was so pretty, and I could tell it was a heavy song about a family breaking apart, though it’d be a little while later until I realized it was about alcoholism.

    I especially remember hearing “That’s Why I’m Here” in the car after we had been to the Lancaster K-Mart in Fruitville Pike. That was the first time we had ever been to that K-Mart, and it continued to be one of our favorite stops there until they sadly bit the dust like most all other K-Marts fairly recently. While we were at that K-Mart during the 1998 trip, my dad bought me the latest Goosebumps Book, I Am Your Evil Twin, which ended up being one of my favorite books to read all throughout that year. It’s still one of my favorite Goosebumps books today, and coincidentally, it’s also set in Pennsylvania. :) During the trip, we also had dinner at the Red Lobster near that K-Mart, and again, it continued to be one of our favorite stops on many more PA trips after that. Thankfully, it’s still there today.

    “That’s Why I’m Here” continued to get a lot of recurrent airplay in the Fall of 1998 when I was starting 7th grade, along with “She’s Got It All.” Between those two songs still getting tons of recurrent airplay, unfortunately, that was likely the reason why “I Will Stand” ended up not doing quite as well. It’s such a lovely song, though, and it’s one of the fine examples of Kenny being a great romantic balladeer back in the 90’s, imo. Besides tackling songs with heavy subject matter like this song, I also miss the Kenny Chesney who regularly did love songs.

    Unfortunately, radio stations in our area pretty much forgot that this song existed after he entered his beach bum/frat boy phase in the early-mid 00’s.

      • Kevin,

        You don’t know how much that means to me hearing that coming from you, especially! I sincerely appreciate those kind words. :) It does motivate me to try to catch up on commenting on these songs a bit more, as I know I’ve been a bit behind lately, lol.

        I’ve loved reading your pieces on this site for quite some time now, and you’ve especially been killing it with these 90’s country entries! I’m so looking forward to you covering other decades with this feature! :)

  5. Btw, I was just reminded of this episode of The George Jones Show which I believe aired in 1998 and features Kenny performing this song on stage later on. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L9-CLxzLD98 It also features Glen Campbell and the criminally underappreciated Danni Leigh. Kenny’s performance starts at 42:14, but I recommend watching the entire episode (and other episodes of the show posted on YouTube).

    It’s just amazing to see how different of an artist Kenny was here compared to what he’d become in the following decade. I especially love the obvious George Strait influence he shows during his performance of “That’s Why I’m Here,” from how he’s dressed to the way he’s holding his guitar. It reminds me of a comment he made a while back on how his career skyrocketed once he “stopped trying to be George Strait.” However, in my humble opinion, Kenny made some of his best music when Strait was still more of an obvious influence.

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