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Charlie Robison Tells How Kenny Chesney Came To Cover ‘El Cerrito Place’

Charlie Robison

Photo courtesy of Charlie Robison

Texas singer and songwriter Charlie Robison has recorded a good deal of music over the years, including such acclaimed songs as “My Hometown, “I Want You Bad,” and “Good Times” (which was featured in True Blood). Yet outside of his home state (and Dixie Chicks circles–he was married to Emily for nine years) he’s never been a household name, nor a regular on country radio.

His music, though, has caught the ears of some of country’s best-known artists. The latest example is “El Cerrito Place,” a song written by Keith Gattis that Robison covered on his 2004 album Good Times. Robison’s version of the song (and its subsequent video) earned a fair amount of attention, and one of the new fans turned out to be Kenny Chesney.

This summer, “El Cerrito Place” landed a proud spot on Kenny’s new album, Welcome To the Fishbowl.

“I’ve loved that song for a while,” Kenny explained in a promotional video about the song that was released earlier this summer. “There is a certain longing in this song that in a lot of ways I really relate to. It’s about wanting something that’s not there. The character in the song has a certain insanity that I think is very relatable with a lot of people.”

“I had the feeling he was going to end up doing that song someday,” Charlie told Steve Rixx of Houston station KILTin a recent interview.

As Charlie tells it, when he first released the song, he got a call from Chesney about it.

“‘Man, I can’t stop playing the song,’” Charlie says that Kenny told him at the time. It took several years, but his premonition that Kenny might one day record it turned out to be right. And as Rixx points out, Kenny’s version didn’t stray too far off the path from Charlie’s. (The song’s writer, Keith Gattis, also recorded his own version of the song, though Charlie’s version earned far more attention–and also resulted in a haunting video that got some strong rotation on CMT.)

“It’s hard to [take] a song where there’s a definitive recording of it and make it your own,” says Charlie. “I think he did a good job with it. You have to stay true to it, but you have to put your own twist on it at the same time.”

And since the average Kenny fan likely knows little about Charlie Robison (or Keith Gattis), not to mention the active world of below-the-radar country music in Texas, it can only benefit. “Little things like this are always great victories for all of us [Texas artists],” says Charlie. Because of this new exposure, more mainstream country fans might “end up checking out scene down here, and that helps everybody.”

Charlie’s upcoming project is a Live at Billy Bob’s CD that he’s recording this Friday. Listen to the full Charlie Robison interviewwith Steve Rixx on KILT.

- Kurt Wolff, CBS Local