Rise to fame
After releasing two unsuccessful albums through Mercury/Polygram (her debut and its follow-up in 1996), Wright had her first Top Twenty country hit in 1997 with the song "Shut Up and Drive," off her third album, Let Me In, which was released by MCA Nashville. In 1999, her fourth album, Single White Female, brought her several hit songs and her first gold album certification. During the three-year gap before her next album, Wright collaborated with fellow country artist Brad Paisley on a duet entitled "Hard to Be a Husband, Hard to Be a Wife," which was written for the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Grand Ole Opry. Paisley and Wright performed the song during a CBS television special and it was released as part of a collection of songs from that special. The duet was later nominated for Vocal Event Of The Year as part of the 35th Annual CMA Awards, but lost. Additionally, Wright joined with Diamond Rio for a song on their One More Day album, as well as Paisley's Part II album. Both were released in 2001. She was ranked #93 on the FHM 100 Sexiest Women of 2002.
On September 10, 2001, Wright was in Canada participating in the 2001 Canadian Country Music Awards (CCMAs). Along with several other country artists, including Cyndi Thomson, Wright was stranded in Canada following the September 11, 2001 attacks. In an odd twist, Wright's fifth album, Never Love You Enough, was originally supposed to be released on September 11 but was later pushed back to September 25. Although Never Love You Enough debuted at #4 on the Billboard Country Albums chart, it was unable to match the success of Single White Female.
In June 2002, Wright split with MCA Nashville. A year and a half later, in January 2004, she signed with a new independent label, Vivaton and began preparation for a new album. Although a music video was released for a song entitled "The Back of the Bottom Drawer," the album never materialized. Wright announced she was splitting with Vivaton in June 2004. Again without a label, she nevertheless released a single in late 2004, mostly through the Internet and various radio stations. The song, entitled "Bumper of My S.U.V.," was written by Wright in response to an altercation with an irate woman who noticed the United States Marine Corps bumper sticker on the back of Wright's car.
The narrator of the song has a bumper sticker on her car for the United States Marines and a woman gives her the finger for what she sees as the narrator's support for the Iraq war. The narrator explains that she has a brother in the Marines, a father who served in the Navy, and a grandfather who was wounded at Normandy in World War II. She says that she does not want war but values the military for their protection of American freedoms. The song is based on Wright's own family; she does have a brother currently in the Marines. Only weeks before the single started getting media attention Wright had signed with Dualtone Music Group, and announced the release of her sixth album in February 2005 (the same album that had earlier been completed for Vivaton).
Even without the support of a label, and lacking most traditional forms of promotion, "Bumper of My S.U.V." became popular with military families and the single sold well. Shortly after the song began gaining momentum, however, controversy broke out over the alleged actions of Wright's fan club president and several others. On December 19, 2004, The Tennessean printed an article stating that Wright had dismissed her fan club president over accusations that he asked his fellow fans to impersonate military families in order to get the song more airplay.
The Metropolitan Hotel, Wright's sixth album, was finally released on February 22, 2005 on Dualtone, considered a surprise since it's a left-of-center country label in Nashville. The CD included both "The Bumper of My S.U.V." and "Back of the Bottom Drawer," along with ten additional songs, most of which were written or co-written by Wright. The album itself was produced in conjunction with her own company. Although not a break-out commercial hit, debuting at #18 on Billboard's Top Country chart (it was #7 on the Top Independent Albums chart), The Metropolitan Hotel gained some critical praise, especially for the haunting song "The River." The music video for the song, about a river that runs near her hometown of Wellsville called the Mardis De Cygnes (pronounced Mara-D-Zine), became somewhat popular on CMT. The final single released from The Metropolitan Hotel was "C'est La Vie (You Never Can Tell) which was not well received from Country radio.
Chely Wright is the founder of Reading, Writing, and Rhythm Foundation, a non-profit organization devoted to the importance of musical education in America's schools and helps supply musical instruments and equipment. A large fund raiser is held each year in June at Nashville's Wildhorse Saloon, (just before CMA Music Festival).