Nashville has one of the most passionate fanbases of any TV show and its stars are so grateful, they’re taking the show’s hit songs, and some of their own, out on the road for the fourth year in a row on the 2017 CMT’s Nashville in Concert Tour.
After wrapping up a handful of sold out shows in the UK, the cast is currently embarking on the US leg of the tour, giving them the opportunity to show fans who they are as musicians outside of their TV personas. Chris Carmack and Charles Esten, commonly known as Will Lexington and Deacon Claybourne, respectively, say the UK trek could not have been better.
“It was fantastic. Every year, it’s such a joy touring, but this year in particular felt very special,” Carmack tells Sounds Like Nashville over the phone. Carmack and Esten, along with fellow castmates Jonathan Jackson (Avery Barclay), Clare Bowen (Scarlett O’Connor) and Sam Palladio (Gunnar Scott) headed across the pond not long after a series of terror attacks rocked areas like Manchester and London. But the actors agree that the spirit of the people is nothing short of incredible and the fans’ love is as strong as ever.
“It was important for us to be able to go there and not just for them, but for us, to bring the love from Nashville and not just the show, but the city, that so many people said ‘please send our love, bring our love,’” Esten explains. “If there’s anything that’s a recurring theme of our show, it’s that even in the toughest situations, music has some inexplicable and indefinable ability to bring healing and….if we could do that in the smallest way, we wanted to be a part of it. Those concerts were the most special for sure.”
They were originally scheduled to play Manchester Arena, but it’s unfortunately still closed after the May 22 attack following a performance by Ariana Grande. But the change in venue did not stop the fans from coming out and supporting the tour. “The Manchester shows were very special, just the people there and the heart you could feel,” Esten says humbly. “Manchester has a lot of love, they’re beautiful people,” adds Carmack. “They’re very inspiring in how they’ve dealt with everything and bounced back and seeing them all coming out to our show and participating the way they did was very inspiring.”
And that devoted Nashie fanbase has only grown over a year’s time, so much so that the cast found themselves performing in front of 11,000 people in Glasgow and scoring three sold-out shows at London’s esteemed Royal Albert Hall, with both Esten and Carmack citing the latter as a highlight of the tour. “Even after you do it, you don’t quite understand what that feels like. It’s massive and it’s beautiful and it’s so much fun,” Carmack says about performing in such hallowed venues.
The cast is now back in the US, playing multiple cities across the country. While they enjoy performing classic songs from the show, the tour also allows the stars to show off different facets of their musical talents. For instance, fans are bound to be surprised when Carmack jumps on stage with a saxophone in hand, prepared to dazzle the audience with his blues-infused soul. “I spent a lot of years loving the blues and playing blues guitar and that’s something I don’t get to do on the show, but I get to do out live,” he reveals, adding that he always sticks a blues song in his set – this year’s number is “Texas Flood” by Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble. “I think what we’re all really are trying to do as musicians and performers is share our love of music with the audience and share our love of the music that we have on the show.”
And the number that is near and dear to Esten’s heart also doubles as a fan favorite. “A Life That’s Good” has become one of the show’s signature tracks and was used in a particularly compelling fashion in season 5 when Deacon, Maddie and Daphne tearfully sing the song while sitting beside Rayna before she dies. “There’s a reason that it’s been used that often; I think and that is it holds the key to the show,” Esten says. “This song seems to really resonate with the fanbase, so I can’t even tell you how loud they would sing that back to us in Dublin with all their phones lighting the arena or Glasgow or England, and it happens here as well.”
When they’re not singing favorites from the show, Esten also thrills in performing original numbers he’s released through his Every Single Friday campaign for the past year, including the rowdy “Buckle Up” and “I’m Coming Home,” the latter of which he recorded in Glasgow. While he says he has a “blast” performing alongside his castmates each night, it’s the connection with fans that means so much to them all. “It’s honestly the best feeling,” he says about fans’ passion for the show. “We don’t take it for granted. For one, not every show gets that, very, very few shows get to stand on the stage and get that sort of feedback and that kind of attachment to your show. If you are a fan of the show, you’re not going to want to miss it, it’s going to be Nashville plus.”
The US leg of the Nashville Tour continues through August 6 when it wraps in New Jersey.