Playing Deacon Claybourne on “Nashville” has shown Charles “Chip” Esten more than a city built by music, but a special life he leads on camera and stage, and as a husband and father.
On the eve of the season finale of CMT’s “Nashville” series – which will return in January for a sixth season – he called last week from Kill Devil Hills, in North Carolina’s Outer Banks, voicing the view he had of the Wright Brothers National Memorial in the distance.
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Esten and a “Nashville” co-star, Clare Bowen (Scarlett O’Connor), will team up in concert at 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 19 at the Alabama Theatre, at Barefoot Landing, on U.S. in North Myrtle Beach. Buy tickets at 843-272-1111, 800-342-2262 or www.alabama-theatre.com.
With a career in acting, including the heartfelt intensity of his role with other characters on “Nashville” since its premiere in 2012 on ABC, Esten said playing and seeing the musical part might even carry deeper sentiment for him. With “unbelievable songs” writers compose, he said performing on the show and with Bowen on tour means “everything to me.”
“Music was my first love,” Esten said, “and I sort of stepped away from it for a while, for acting, but I’ve gotten back to it.”
Living in Music City, Esten said an energy radiates “in the air” there, as he feels when sitting in the historic Ryman Auditorium, the Grand Ole Opry’s original home, watching a “great guitarist play.” He appreciates the city’s place at a “sort of musical crossroads” in history – also where the late Buddy Holly and Elvis Presley each recorded hits – and its people, with a “combination of kindness and incredible talent.”
Esten also found fun in releasing a weekly recording digitally on iTunes and Spotify through his own “Every Single Friday” project, with 54 singles, the latest being “I’m Coming Home,” from July 14 (www.charlesesten.com), an incentive so “people can find out who I am, musically.”
Other chapters on Esten’s extensive resume include skits on the longtime “Whose Line Is It Anyway” comedy improv series. He said the biggest part he remembers from several years was “going home with my face hurting from smiling so much,” and that his appearance on an upcoming episode has been taped for the show, which airs on The CW network (WWMB-TV 21).
Growing up a Steelers fan
A football enthusiast since childhood in his native Pittsburgh, Esten said his father had a business venture with one of the Steelers during their string of Super Bowls in the 1970s, bringing extra access to growing up, cheering with a trademark “Terrible Towel” for that “legacy” of a football team. The Nashville Predators franchise, which reached its first-ever Stanley Cup Final this summer, also has won over Esten as a hockey fan. He said some members of the band Sixwire – who will join him this Saturday – play among the the Small Time Rock Stars, who entertain between periods at Preds home games at Bridgestone Arena, and welcome special guests such as Vince Gill.
This past season, “I got to be on stage with them in that Predators magic and madness,” Esten said, mindful that the Pittsburgh Penguins have won back-to-back titles since 2016, but crediting the Preds for that “key unlocked” to the joy of rooting for a hockey team based in Tennessee that also sports gold, “but don’t ask my family about that.”
During this chat on the day after Glen Campbell died at 81 from Alzheimer’s disease, Esten thought deeply about fielding a question about the challenges of fighting a health battle. Active with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (800-955-4572 or www.lls.org), Esten said he and college-sweetheart wife Patty watched their now-teenage daughter Addie make a full recovery from a diagnosis of leukemia at age 2 1/2.
Esten said “community,” and “being surrounded” by friends and family, for support in whatever such as hurdle such as battling cancer or an addition awaits, provides light in moments of feeling “very alone … in the dark.” The plots on “Nashville” also show people coming alongside someone so he or she “is not walking that road alone.”
“The show also reminds us,” Esten said about a healing effect, “about the strength that music brings.”
Esten brought up some real life proof, from Addie’s tenure of chemotherapy, and both parents taking turns staying bedside overnight, and one sleepless bout, as she wept “at the top of her lungs.” He said by putting his headphones on Addie’s ears as Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel,” a moving hit from the late 1990s, played, the tears stopped instantly, with this “gorgeous etheral, healing song.”
If you go
WHO: Clare Bowen and Charles Esten, from CMT’s “Nashville” series.
WHEN: 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 19
WHERE: Alabama Theatre, at Barefoot Landing, on U.S. 17 in North Myrtle Beach.
HOW MUCH: $49.95, $57.95 or $63.95
SOME OTHER SPECIAL SHOWS: Mostly at 7 p.m. –
“The Ricky Mokel Comedy Show starring Grant Turner,” Aug. 26, for $29.95, $34.95 or $39.95.
Rick Alviti Showband’s “That’s The Way it Was – Tribute To Elvis,” 7:30 p.m. Sept. 9. $27.40 or $34.95.
Temptations and Four Tops, Sept. 23. $49.95 or $58.95.
Coasters, Drifters, and Platters, Sept. 30. $35.95 or $43.95.
ALSO: One the Show” plays 7:30 p.m. several times every week, for $35.95, $43.80 or $49.25 ages 17 and older – with free admission for as many as two children, 16 or younger, with a paid adult ticket, through Aug. 31.
INFORMATION: 843-272-1111, 800-342-2262 or www.alabama-theatre.com