Meet The Boys From Nashville

boys from nashville

by Emily Phillips |
Published on

Country music shouldn’t really apply to life in the UK: it used to be all big hair, rhinestones and cowboy boots (even on the guys). But then Nashville came along and changed our world. Suddenly we were in on the drama and the tensions, with a female-led drama pitting the pop-country Taylor Swift-esque career of Juliet Barnes (Hayden Pannettiere) against the Shania-like original Rayna James (Connie Britton). And in the midst of the hook-ups and the break-ups were amazing songs which showed us just what a nuanced genre it is. So when I was invited to see the cast – Charles Esten (Deacon Claybourne), Clare Bowen (Scarlett O’Connor), Jonathan Jackson (Avery Barkley) Sam Palladio (Gunnar Scott) and Chris Carmack (Will Lexington) play the hallowed Royal Albert Hall to celebrate the release of the fifth instalment of the soundtrack, I could hardly contain myself. Afterwards, I corralled the dreamy Chris and Sam for a chat on music, the city of Nashville and secrets from the latest season (currently on Sky Living). And yes, at the gig, at least one of them wore cowboy boots. And it looked hot.

It was such an incredible gig, I don’t know whether it was because it was Sunday night and everybody was so revved up but is it always like that when you guys play?

CC: It usually is.

SP: The audiences are always wonderful, warm and receptive and they get up and dance pretty quick.

CC: I’d say we’ve done a couple of matinées and those tend to be a little more subdued but the night time crowd is pretty rockin’.

Who gets the most nervous and who is the most confident about it?

SP: Well I think that there’s a certain amount of healthy nerves for everybody, certainly for me, the weight of stepping on the stage at the Albert Hall was pretty overpowering, you know, I remember when we stepped out for sound check I welled up a little bit. So, I certainly had some healthy nerves there but certainly by the end of the Sunday night you know it was just beaming smiles off the stage from us guys. We were just very lucky to be on that stage.

I was very excited about seeing Chris on the saxophone and Sam on the drums! We were not expecting that – it’s incredible how you guys are so multi-faceted.

CC: Oh well thanks. I mean we’ve all been playing music for a long time now, Sam’s a great drummer. You know Steve Buchanan who takes us on the road and as an executive producer of the whole thing really encourages us to do that. Like I was not really planning on doing the saxophone this year and Steve was like ‘We’re getting you a saxophone and we’re finding you a spot for it’. He was like, people love it, you got to do it.

Were you both music first, then acting in your younger lives?

SP: For me I guess music has always been the through-line, you know I played guitar from a really young age and my dad played and my cousin gave me a drum kit when I was 13 and I played bass guitar, so you know it was definitely always in the house. Then as I got older I realised, I actually always wanted to be a marine biologist, but getting to about 16 or 17 I wasn’t really smart enough. My maths and chemistry were pretty lacking, so I thought actually you know I think I’m a bit better at this performing stuff. But yeah, I did train as an actor up here and I went to drama school and did a theatre degree here but you know music had always followed me.

In terms of your accent work how do you enter into that, and also when you get off set of an evening do you just drop back into your English accent or do you find it hard?

CC: He actually has trouble dropping character, sometimes I can slap him after work ‘You’re not Gunnar, You’re not Gunnar’!

SP: I know stop hitting me!

CC: Say ‘I am Sam!’

SP: No, but I love doing the accent, it’s like an extra little layer of challenge but I think it has affected my British accent a little bit because you know it’s my job to sound like an American, it's literally my job, so then coming off set obviously, I do drop straight back into my normal voice, but I think certain words have become hybrids of the Americanisms and Britishisms. It’s a weird one when it’s your job to sound like an American.

So, you’re there for 10 months of the year that you’re actually filming. Was Nashville a culture shock when you moved there?

CC: Well actually I describe my years in Los Angeles as 12 years of culture shock. So, when I moved to Nashville it felt much more like home. I grew up in Maryland on the East Coast, you know close to DC, but sort of in the suburban, rural area and Nashville felt very very homey to me. I did have to learn what a Meat-And-3 was. That’s like a restaurant where they serve your meat and three vegetables. Mac and Cheese of course counted as a vegetable, pie counts as a vegetable, like apples and sugar count as a vegetable.

SP: The peach pie is definitely the most important!

CC: The word vegetable is a loose term down there.

SP: Probably cornbread would be a vegetable.

CC: Mhmm.

SP: For me, I had never been to America before I got the job. Never. I was saving up to fly out to Los Angeles to do the Pilot season but it got to that point of the year where I couldn’t afford it, it wasn’t going to happen, but I was dreaming of it. At that point, I have actually signed with an American manager who’s allowed me to kind of skip that whole process and the first thing she sent me was the script to Nashville. I got myself on tape in my bedroom and sent it off and somehow you know beat out some bunch of American guys and got the job. Touching down in Nashville was my first place I ever landed in the States and yeah but you know slightly different to London but I loved it. I grew up in Cornwall and so Nashville certainly at that point had a very cool small town feel, ‘Cornwall of the America’. The population has exploded and you know it's such a hot city now. It was back then but it felt a little more small townish.

CC: I mean it really was a lot smaller.

SP: I mean there’s a 100 people a day moving to Nashville, many new skyscrapers. I mean give it a few more years and it will be a big city, because the amount of buildings that are going up.

Do you attribute that to the show?

SP: Absolutely.

CC: The tourist board also attributed it to the show. I mean they take these surveys to see why people come to Nashville and something like four out of five came in part because they saw the show and two out five came just because of the show. It’s definitely contributed to the boom of tourism, people go there and love it so they move there, so you know I think the city was ready for a big expansion even without the show, but the show threw it in the hype.

In terms of the cult appeal of Nashville, the fans have literally kept the show alive and brought it back from the brink of cancellation. What is that like to feel like your jobs are in the fans’ hands?

CC: That’s a familiar feeling as an actor.

SP: It’s never certain. You do get used to the ups and downs, the rejection of auditions and not getting parts and so when you do get a job it feels really special and you try to hold onto it for as long as you can. You know that it's out of your hands though - it's not because of what you did that the network decides to cancel it. For the fans to rally like they did, it’s kind of unheard of, at least for it to actually make a difference. #BringBackNashville just sort of exploded and fans all over the globe petitioning, there was literally a petition and CMT [Country Music Channel], the Nashville based network, you know it feels like the hometown feel, the city is wonderful so they answered the call and so…

CC: CNT was a good fit for Nashville and Nashville was a great fit for CNT and so timing was right, you know they’re investing more in scripted television, the show brought a lot of more eyeballs to CNT, eyeballs that are interested in country music, so I mean it couldn’t have been a better fit. The show itself has changed a little bit, being brought to cable as well, you know plot lines aren’t as forced to develop quite as fast, you get a little bit more time, a little bit more breadth in scenes.

Get a bit more sexy!

CC: I mean let’s be honest, it's hard for me to get more sexy, but I’m giving it a go.

We’re not as far ahead here as in the States, so what should we expect as the season unfolds in terms of romances, your story this season?

SP: Scarlett and Gunnar the music kind of always brings them together and is the thing that heals, but their relationship is as usual just in an interesting new place. Basically, there is a new nemesis for Gunnar in this season in the form of Christian Coulson who plays Damian George this English music video director has a bit of a thing with Scarlett, who causes some major upset.

What about Will?

CC: You know Will is going to develop a romance with somebody perhaps who he shouldn’t, they are going to be professional entanglements and conflicts of interest and it's going to put him in a spot where he is sort of feels forced to choose between loyalty to friends and loyalty to love and I’ll let you watch to discover what happens.

How did you feel when you got the script for Will and you saw his kind of character and the whole gay character in the country scene. That must’ve been really exciting to read.

CC: Oh, yeah when I first auditioned for the part it wasn’t even for Will, it was just to read. I think it was a Gunnar scene so I read like Gunnar’s lines as Will.

SP: They were probably trying to re-cast me.

CC: Yeah, they probably were, haha. So, after they were interested in giving me the role, [Nashville showrunner] Callie Khouri called me to pitch me the role because I didn’t know this was a thing, but apparently, some actors have a problem with playing a gay role - I guess that’s a thing?! - so they just wanted to feel me out about it. So I was on the phone and they told me ‘you know he’s gay and a country-music singer, are you okay with that?’ And I’m like ‘okay with that?! That sounds awesome, let’s do it!’ you know and that was the moment I realised it was not just going to be ‘I’m on for a few episodes and I sing a song’, I realised oh, this is going to be hard, this is going to be a big part, so I was just totally jazzed.

The Music Of Nashville Original Soundtrack CDs Season 5 Volumes 1 & 2 are out now on Big Machine Records.

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