Our chat with Charles Esten is the second segment of a four-part Q&A series ahead of the 2020 C2C Festival. See more from our series featuring Eric Paslay (here), Abby Anderson (3/2), and Gabby Barrett (3/5).
Four seems to be the magic number for Nashville star Charles Esten, as he is set to play the C2C: Country to Country Festival for the first time in four years, and he will be making stops in four different cities: Dublin, Glasgow, Amsterdam and Berlin.
Though it has been a while since playing C2C, Esten is no stranger to Europe thanks to his frequent tours across the continent. Sounds Like Nashville caught up with the singer and actor to find out about his return to the C2C Festival, the differences between performing in the U.S. & overseas and new music in the works.
Check out our Q&A with Esten before he heads across the pond below.
C2C Festival kicks off on March 7 & 8 with stops in Amsterdam and Berlin. The festival continues with a large lineup of artists when it stops in London, Dublin and Glasgow on March 13, 14 and 15. Visit c2c-countrytocountry.com for more information.
Sounds Like Nashville: You’re returning to the C2C Festival four years after your last appearance – what are you most excited about this year?
Charles Esten: There’s a million things about this upcoming C2C that excite me. I’m incredibly thrilled and honored to get to perform on those fantastic main stages, alongside artists I know and admire, in front of incredible U.K., German, and Dutch audiences some of whom may or may not know me before my sets, but will definitely know me and my music afterwards. I’m looking forward to continue finding and making fans over there in these countries I’ve grown to absolutely love visiting. And on top of all of that, I get to have a big part of my family there to experience it all with me!
SLN: You’ve gotten to perform and go on tour many times in Europe – both with your Nashville castmates and on your own – what does it mean to have had so many opportunities to travel the world and play music?
CE: Honestly, it means more than I can describe. Here’s why: Music (writing, playing, and performing) was, all the way back to when I was a kid, my first love and it has always, even for the many years I’ve been an actor, held the deepest part of my heart. All that time, I continued to write and play on my own, but at a certain point I probably began to figure the chance to actually play my songs onstage, in front of big appreciative audiences – the chance to be an actual artist – had passed. Playing Deacon on Nashville changed that for good. It opened up doors that have allowed me to reignite that love affair with performing, not just in the US, but all over. For me to get to play my music everywhere, and to get to do all of these incredible things is, for me, more than a minor miracle, and I don’t take a second of it for granted. And I definitely have no intention of ever letting go or ever turning back!
SLN: You’ve certainly played a big part in helping the country genre grow worldwide as Nashville was a huge success overseas. What have been some of the biggest changes you’ve witnessed over the years of playing there?
CE: First of all, to hear that from people – not just fans, but industry folks and artist friends that tour internationally – is one of the very coolest things about the whole Nashville journey. The show is a love letter, not just to the city whose name it bears, but to Country Music, itself. And to think that we have had any role at all in the growth of that amazing and historic genre that we all respect and love so much? Well, for me, that might actually be the very best part of it all.
SLN: This trip will include stops in London, Dublin, Glasgow, Amsterdam and Berlin. Are there any sights you’re hoping to see while visiting these cities?
CE: While we will do our best to see as many of the great sites as we can, it’s not always optimal to spend our limited time in the long lines of the biggest tourist sites. What my wife and I prefer, and tend to make a real priority, is just to get out there in these great cities and walk. We pull out the maps and find a big circuitous route that gives us a taste of as much local history and color as we can devour in our somewhat limited time. Inevitably, we happen upon places and events that might not be in the guides, but will stay forever in our memories. Can’t wait to find this year’s!
SLN: Is there a European city you’d like to perform in on your bucket list? If so, why that city?
CE: There’s actually many on that list that I have yet to check off. Too many to list them all, but why not start with Paris? As a young man, I won a trip to Paris on a game show and was able to take my then-girlfriend and now-wife Patty. We have been back to France since then (at the wonderful Monte Carlo TV Festival), but have not yet had the chance to return to Paris. And to play there? Well, that would be a dream.
SLN: We’ve heard that the European fans are very passionate about their favorite artists. Have you noticed that? Is there a big difference between playing for fans in Europe versus in the United States?
CE: It’s absolutely true. And I’m not the only one to notice it. Whenever you talk with a country music artist who has just returned from Europe or the U.K., you can be sure they will still be coming down from the high it is to play for the great fans in those cities. The audiences, are not only enthusiastic (which they are!), but extremely knowledgeable about the artists they are there to see. They seem to know all the lyrics, as they sing along – and not just of the hit singles, but of the deeper cuts that they might not be expected to have ever even heard. My guess as to why is that if you are a fan of country music in Europe or the U.K., you won’t get all the music just handed to you on the radio. You’re going to have to do some work yourself to find it – to dig in a little deeper. And it’s such an incredibly rich genre that once you do, you’re only going to be hooked and want more. That’s one possible reason. Another is that, in a real way, many of the roots of American country music are in these countries. So what those fans are hearing is echoes of they’re own great musical traditions bounced back in a different form from across the Atlantic.
SLN: Any travel tips for fans looking to go abroad?
CE: My biggest tip is to go, if you can, with someone, or someones, that you love. Looking at great sites, discovering new cultures, experiencing new cuisines – all of these things are a joy. The deeper joy is experiencing them with somebody who means something to you. Seeing their eyes light up. Knowing that years from now, you will have been co-witnesses to these beautiful memories.
SLN: What can we expect from you this year? Any new music in the works?
CE: New music is, indeed, on the way. My final weeks before C2C have been spent in a Nashville studio, recording some new songs – many of which I’ll be playing during the festival. My aim is to release them – possibly in an album – in the Spring/Summer of this year!