'Nashville' star Charles Esten on the state of country music

By Allison Walker Torres, Entertainment Reporter/Anchor
Last Updated: Friday, January 06, 2017, 8:20 PM EST

It's a show with such a loyal following that its fans are called "Nashies."

Season 5 of "Nashville" debuted this week on CMT. Rayna (Connie Britton) and Deacon (Charles Esten) are facing a new normal, with Maddie now back home and Highway 65 struggling financially.

We caught up with Esten, who's also managing to release a brand new single every single Friday:

ALLISON WALKER TORRES: So Charles, not only are you back as Deacon, but you're also releasing a brand new song - literally - every Friday?! How is that possible?

CHARLES ESTEN: Well, I tell you what. It's only possible because of this show that brought me to Nashville. Not only did it do that, but it introduced me to all these songwriters that I've been able to co-write with... After 4 seasons, I hadn't put out any of my own music yet -- we have a whole bunch of Deacon's music out there -- and I decided, instead of putting out an album or an EP, I was just going to start putting out my music one week at a time.

AWT: "Nashville," of course, is now on CMT, meaning new writing. I imagine it feels brand new, but we're not expecting major character changes, right?

CE: Well, no. I would say -- if anything is the same -- would be these characters. We have new show runners besides a new network... and they came in saying it was these characters they were drawn to. In fact, they were drawn so much, they wanted to spend a little more time with the characters.

AWT: I understand some of your favorite Deacon and Rayna moments are when you're not saying anything. Expound on that!

CE: Well, there's something about -- I guess they call it sub-text -- those moments where you can't really express it. But that's what happened early on... I remember seeing in the pilot where we were on a bridge and they just let that scene breathe. There were things we were saying to each other, but there were moments where we were just sitting there looking at each other. She'd touch me with the back of her hand or something and those are the ones that somehow seemed to resonate.

AWT: So what's the deal with the current state of country music? It seems like when a new sound steps into the spotlight, another takes a breather only to return a few years later with fresh faces. What's trending now? What do you want to see happen?

CE: What I want to see happen is... I'm one of those people that as long as somebody can find the country music they love, that's what it should be. As long as you can find it and it's out there.

I think right now, that is absolutely the case. Whether it's on your radio station right now... it may or may not be. But for a whole lot of people, it absolutely is. But if that's not, you can definitely find it -- whether it's on satellite radio or iTunes or things like that. What I was drawn to earlier on was that, sort of, whether it was Americana or that original country, a guy like Chris Stapleton that just comes along and a voice like that that is just undeniable. I've so many friends in that town that write and make such unbelievable music.

That, to me, is the beauty of country music; that it's not monolithic... In Nashville, you can go one night and listen to Vince Gill down at 3rd and Lindsley and hear that pure, pure voice, or you can hop over to the Mercy Lounge and hear a real kinda heavy, rockin' country. Then you go to Bourbon Street Blues & Boogie Bar and hear that sort of bluesy, twangy country. I'm up for all of it.

In a pinch, I'll probably put on some Waylon or some Merle.

  • See an extended video interview in the box above.