From PEOPLE Magazine Click to enlarge
Kenny Chesney leans back against the downy white pillows on the window seat in his upstairs bedroom as a stunning view of the Pacific Ocean stretches out behind him. "I love the sunsets," Chesney says of his Malibu property, which is nestled high in the canyon hills within sight of Catalina Island. "The view is amazing, and I just love being able to sit out here and watch the sun and the ocean."

It's the kind of relaxing, peaceful pause that the hardest working man in country music rarely affords himself. Famous for his take-no-prisoners touring schedule—he is one of the top ticket-sellers in the U.S., having played for more than one million fans each year since 2001—Chesney, 40, has found a sense of renewal in Malibu. Unlike the Caribbean, where he also owns property, California doubles as both a private retreat and a music haven with historic roots. "This is just such a creative place to be," says the reigning CMA and ACM Entertainer of the Year. "You can feel it out here—you think about the music that's come out of these canyons, this stretch of ocean highway: Buffalo Springfield, Jackson Browne, the Eagles, Joni Mitchell, Van Halen...You get a sense of how vast it is and you get inspired."

Energized by his time there, Chesney seems more eager than ever to do what he loves most. After a successful summer and fall he is already working on his new show, which will kick off rehearsals in February. As for his next album, "every morning, I'll pull my guitar out and see if she talks to me," he says. "I'm working on some new stuff."

But it's not all work. Chesney also has hosted visitors in Malibu, including girlfriend Amy Colley, 24, a Nashville-based burn-unit nurse who is a former Miss Tennessee U.S.A. "She's very smart," says Chesney. "She has her own life and she's very comfortable in her own skin. That helps." And he is making the most of California living, grilling in his outdoor kitchen and regularly biking 25 miles up the Pacific Coast Highway. "For the first time in a really long time, I went to the grocery store," he says of the privacy Malibu affords its celebrities. A sushi lover, Chesney is also keen on another Malibu tradition: dining at hot spot Nobu. In late 2008, Chesney came into the restaurant with pals and spotted U2 guitarist the Edge. Chesney, a huge fan, didn't want to bother the rocker but left him a note instead. The next time Chesney came into Nobu, there was a note waiting for him from the Edge offering praise for Chesney's "luminous" music.

And yet Chesney rarely settles in one place for any length of time. In fact, although he only bought the $7.5 million Malibu home in 2008, he already has plans underway to sell the estate and rent a home down the beach. "Out here, I can hang with people who understand my life, who have that kind of life," he says. "And I have a lot of friends here."

Those friends include Eagles alum Joe Walsh, rocker Eddie Van Halen, music producer Rick Rubin and Desperate Housewives star Eva Longoria Parker, who popped in for a barbecue last fall. He is also close with CSI: Miami star Emily Procter, his pal and—get this—official decorator. (She helped style his home in the U.S. Virgin Islands, too.) "Kenny is a sensualist," says Procter, 40. "He likes to have luxury that is comfortable and not too stiff."

With that in mind, Procter calls her theme for Chesney's Malibu spread "Nassau meets Nashville," with its English Colonial feel of white against dark wood. "He likes dark wood and yet he wants it beachy," she says of his taste. He also likes his flat-screen TVs—the more, the better, including a retractable screen at the foot of his massive mahogany bed and one he can watch from his bathtub. "You can literally watch TV from just about anywhere in the house," says Procter. "Anyone who knows him well knows he really likes watching football with his friends. He loves being social and entertaining."

Still, Chesney never stays away from his first love—performing and writing music—for long. After his February Grammy performance he'll gear up for his summer tour, leaving the quiet Malibu lifestyle behind, for a while, anyway. "Music has marked every major event in my life. It still marks where I am, what I'm doing," he says. "It makes every moment more. I don't know if I can be that for other people, but if you ask me what all this is about...at the end of the day, that would be it."