The Nashville star is ready to release Love Ain’t Pretty, his first solo album.
And now, at long last, we have the first solo album from Nashville star Charles Esten.
Yes, you read that right: First solo album.
Sure, Esten has lifted his voice in song on a fairly regular basis throughout most of his decades-long show business career, going back to his 1991 breakthrough on London’s West End as star of Buddy, an exuberant stage musical about the legendary Buddy Holly. More recently, he was totally convincing and potently compelling Deacon Claybourne, the sexy and sensitive, troubled yet talented country star who loomed large in over 120 episodes of Nashville, the 2012-18 filmed-on-location series about dreamers and schemers in Music City.
After moving to Nashville with his wife Patty and their children for production of the drama, Esten quickly established his country music cred with audiences and industry insiders. He was embraced by the Grand Ole Opry, where he performs every chance he gets, and started appearing at CMA Festivals with a song list of tunes he had written or co-written. He continues to tour, both as a solo act and with other Nashville cast members, at venues throughout the world.
As for recording, Esten cheerfully says with classic understatement: “I put out a ton of singles over the years.” No kidding. On July 15, 2016, he launched his #EverySingleFriday campaign, promising to release digitally a new song he had written or co-written each week. By July 21, 2017, he had fulfilled that promise so faithfully that he qualified for a Guinness World Records title for “Most consecutive weeks to release an original digital single by a music act.”
“On July 1, 2016,” Esten said when presented the official certificate for that title on The Today Show, “I posted a video where I promised to put out a brand-new original single every single Friday for ‘as long as it made sense.’ At that time, I had no idea how it would go, or how long I could do it. I only knew that, as a lifelong songwriter, through my role as Deacon Claybourne on Nashville, I had found my way to Music City and, surrounded by some of the most talented people in the world, I was feeling a level of inspiration and creativity that needed a different kind of outlet than an EP or an album.
“I had no idea how challenging this project would be, or how incredibly fulfilling, or that little over a year later, I would complete #EverySingle Friday with 54 original singles released. I certainly had no idea that number would be considered [for] a Guinness World Records title.”
Looking back on that marathon of creativity, Esten admits he was inspired by what author Malcolm Gladwell dubbed “The 10,000 Hours Rule,” a proposition that the key to achieving expertise in any given field is simply a matter of practice for — yes, you guessed it! — 10,000 hours. (“Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good,” Gladwell explained. “It’s the thing that makes you good.”)
Esten learned his self-taught lessons well enough to figure he was ready for that long-delayed solo album, Love Ain’t Pretty, which is set for release Jan. 26. He co-wrote all 14 songs in the collection, with some — including “One Good Move,” a loving tribute to his wife; “Down the Road,” an irresistibly energetic number featuring Eric Paslay; and “Somewhere in the Sunshine,” a mellow and introspective ballad — already available for sampling wherever you buy your music.
I recently had the pleasure of talking with Charles Esten for the first time he graced the cover of our October 2015 issue — well, OK, for the first time if you don’t count occasional hellos at various Nashville events, and handshakes after Grand Ole Opry shows — and thoroughly enjoyed our chat about his new record, his recent wrap of a three-year run on Netflix series Outer Banks, and his thoughts on whether we’ll ever see Nashville: The Movie. Of course, at the very end, I also had to thank him once again for introducing me to that savory delicacy, Nashville Hot Chicken.