04/19/2010 at 01:00 AM EDT
Walking off the stage at Seattle's Qwest Field last August, Kenny Chesney
knew something wasn't right. "It was a great show," says the singer. "But I didn't feel happy. I didn't feel bad. I just didn't feel anything; I was numb. And that was one of those nights I knew something was going to have to change."
One month later Chesney rocked the country music world by announcing he would not tour in 2010. The four-time CMA and ACM Entertainer of the Year had spent the past 17 summers on the road, playing to more than a million fans every year since 2002 and setting a record as the biggest North American ticket seller of the past decade. "But I needed a break," he says. "Someone said, 'You sure do give a lot of your life to this,' and I said, 'No, this is my life.' There's no room for anything else. And that's gotta change." Since then, Chesney, 42, has spent much of his time helping to edit his concert film Kenny Chesney: Summer in 3D
, which was shot during last year's tour and hits theaters April 21. "I'm really proud of it," he says.
Now he plans to spend the next few months tackling an even bigger challenge: figuring out how to balance his career with a personal life. "I have a great life, a great career, but I need more," he says. "Not more money. Not more fame. More heart." Chesney, who was briefly wed to actress Renée Zellweger in 2005, admits that his focus on work has made relationships difficult. "It's not like I'm taking a year off so I can get married again," says the singer, who has been dating Nashville nurse Amy Colley since 2008. "But I want to put myself in a position to have a relationship in my life. My road life is great because of what I've given to it. If I want the other parts of my life to be like that, I know I have to give to them too."
Chesney does plan to perform a handful of dates this summer "to keep the juices flowing a little bit," he says. "And to pay the bills," since he is keeping more than 100 of his band and crew on salary during his year off. But his focus, he says, will be on listening to his heart. "I want to just experience things I've never had time to experience," he says. "Anything that's going to allow me to get my mind in a place where I feel centered and solid again."