Stars from the CMT show “Nashville,” which previously aired on ABC and starred Connie Britton, are bringing their “Nashville in Concert” tour to Raleigh. We talked to Charles Esten, who plays Deacon Claybourne on the show, about his character’s life after the death of Rayna (played by Britton), about what being on tour is like and about his “Every Single Friday” music project.
Here is an abridged account of the conversation.
Q: What is the show like for your character after Rayna death?
A: It’s hard. It’s very hard for Deacon. This is the love of his life and this is the person that he always somehow thought was the end of the rainbow, the happy-ever-after. To finally get there and then to lose her, it’s brutal. I think perhaps he might have crumbled and he might not have made it were it not for the fact that there were these two girls depending on him and that Rayna had specifically made him promise to be strong for them and take care of them. That’s his life now, is to take care of these girls. Whether he’s able to find a life of his own now, we’ll find out, I guess. If there’s a recurring theme at all on our show, it’s that life is hard, but there are people that love you that come alongside and make it better – and there’s also music. That music’s going to play a big part too, I think.
Q: Do you think having the tours helped save the show after ABC cut it?
A: The tours that we’ve had over these four seasons have created a bond that’s beyond what most shows are able to achieve, because they have that viewership bond, that social media bond. We get to go to this other place that most don’t. The show “Grey’s Anatomy” doesn’t get to go around the country doing surgery, thank God. But we do get to go around the country playing these songs and doing this music. In the same way, musicians go out and tour their music to increase that connection and broaden it and deepen it. I have to think that touring has helped us do that as well.
Q: What was your musical background prior to “Nashville”?
A: I’ve always made music, wrote music, sang music. I had piano lessons – I should have focused more on them, but I was more thinking about writing my own songs and trying to copy things on the radio, things by Springsteen or Waylon Jennings. When I went to college, about my sophomore year, I formed a band with my friends and I played in that for about five years. I was the lead singer; I wrote a bunch of originals that we played. Then I decided at that point after an extra year in college playing music, everyone else was going to their real jobs, becoming doctors and bankers and lawyers, and I went out to L.A. to be an actor, hoping that I would somehow be able to do both the music and the acting. One of the earliest jobs I got I played Buddy Holly in the musical “Buddy” in London and then I got to tour in the United States. I got to learn a whole lot of great guitar playing him and do a whole lot of night-to-night acting. That was my first truly important and pivotal role. I got to do both the singing and the performing and the acting.
It was just a couple years even before “Nashville” that I really started to focus on my songwriting and do it with more intentionality, instead of just writing when a song came to me. I would actually sit down and focus on it and really try to keep on it. As soon as that became a focus, it’s funny the things that started happening. I didn’t think it was ever going to happen when all of the sudden I get this job on “Nashville.” Then everything just opened wide for me in terms of music.
I’ve been able to write with the best writers in the world, build a rapport with the best musicians and tour with the best players in the world. That’s what led to my “Every Single Friday” project, which I’m just finishing up. It’s an entire year of a brand-new single every single Friday.
Q: What do you enjoy about the tours?
A: I’ve been to a lot of shows, and these concerts are different because a lot of these songs have found their way, because of the show, into people’s hearts and into their lives. So there’s a real connection when we finally get to play them in person for them – in some cases with them, if they’re all singing along. You’re going to see that bond between these actors, these friends of mine in the audience, and between all of us as well. We’re very excited to get back on the road, especially in the States. The “Nashville” fans bring their friends to the concert, and by the end of it, they’re “Nashville” fans as well. Mostly it’s a ‘thank you’ on our behalf to all the people who have made it possible for us. Along the way it becomes a, ‘Hello, nice to meet you!’ to the next group who are going to ride the “Nashville” train.
What: CMT’s Nashville in Concert with Charles Esten, Clare Bowen, Chris Carmack and Jonathan Jackson
When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday (Aug. 2)
Where: Red Hat Amphitheater, 500 S. McDowell St., Raleigh