NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Buddy Miller says these days it’s not unusual for duet partners to cut their love songs syllable by syllable while never even seeing each other: “In this town especially that’s what happens.”
That’s why the veteran Music City producer and band leader was so astounded by what he witnessed in the early days of working on the music for the television show “Nashville.” He was nervous about his session with Clare Bowen and Sam Palladio because their song “If I Didn’t Know Better,” written by John Paul White of The Civil Wars and Arum Rae, was challenging and served as a pivotal moment in the pilot. It had to be right, and that depended on the young actors being able to pull it off.
“They didn’t know they didn’t have to memorize the song or look each other in the eyes when you’re singing a love song,” Miller said. “For those two who’d never sung in a studio before to go in there, look each other in the eyes with the song memorized and sing the song, I had goose bumps and so did everybody else in the room. … That had a whole lot more soul in it than most of the stuff that gets cut in this town.”
The music of “Nasvhille” has been as much a star on the hourlong ABC drama as Connie Britton, Hayden Panettiere, Charles Esten, Jonathan Jackson, Bowen and Palladio. Yes, each really does sing his or her own part, and so far fans seem to be responding, buying more than 800,000 digital singles. Panettiere’s “Telescope” has even cracked top 40 at country radio. The show’s soundtrack will be released by Big Machine Records this week.
The actors say they pay as much attention to the music as their lines. T Bone Burnett, husband of show creator Callie Khouri, oversees the music on the show and has signed up veteran producers and songwriting friends like White and Civil Wars partner Joy Williams and Elvis Costello, to name just a few, and set up a live band of trusted players. Each song is shaped in the studio before it’s taped for television.
“They’re like little plants and they’re all very well taken care of by the right people,” Bowen said.
Choosing the right songs has been a lot like choosing the right dialogue or location. Miller said each becomes a part of the character’s story, helping to push the narrative along. For Bowen and Palladio, who play the aspiring — and mutually infatuated — singers Scarlett and Gunner, the key moment was “If I Didn’t Know Better.”
For stars Britton and Panettiere, who play rivals country divas Rayna and Juliette, the key moment came a few weeks ago when they took the stage at Ryman Auditorium for their own duet, “Wrong Song.” After weeks of spiteful relations, the two temporarily put aside their differences and the song served as a touchstone for both disgruntled characters.
Miller calls Britton’s performance “fierce” and the 45-year-old actress says moments like those were the reason she chose to pursue the part.
“Once you hit 40 you sort of feel like you’re sort of set in your ways and kind of know what you’re good at,” Britton said. Taking a risk and going beyond her comfort zone brought a lot of challenges and fear, she said. “But it’s also good to know you can always throw yourself something new and at the end of the day, at least for me, when I really stretch is when I feel alive and really feel the rewards of that hard work.”
Most of the actors had some background in musical performance, but it’s been years since Britton gave up singing to focus solely on acting. Her performances have been a revelation for fans and critics alike, and her peers are repeatedly astounded.
“Just because somebody’s an actress doesn’t mean they’re a rock star, but she’s doing it,” Bowen said. “Like the scene at the Ryman, she’s a rock star. She’s amazing and she’s just pulling things that we are like, ‘Where did you get that from? That’s beautiful.’ And I think she’s got the most challenging job. The show is on her shoulders and she’s blazing the most amazing trail for it.”
Like Miller, Palladio uses the word fierce to describe Britton: “She’s just got a lot of strings to her bow. To come from ‘Friday Night Lights’ to ‘American Horror Story’ to then ‘Nashville’ is just such a leap. It shows her versatility, I think.”
Britton started the transformation by working with voice coach Valerie Morehouse and aims much of the credit for the show’s musical success and her own metamorphosis at Burnett. She called the Grammy- and Oscar-winning producer “a completely generous artist.”
“I think the reason why so many people want to work with him is because he has this amazing ability to challenge me and at the same time make me feel completely safe and excited to take risks,” Britton said. “He has the ability to bring out your true voice. I just feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to have done that.”
Follow AP Music Writer Chris Talbott: http://twitter.com/Chris_Talbott.
More Related Stories
- Ray Manzarek, founding member of The Doors, dies at 74
- Beware of book blurbs
- Did a Salon excerpt ruin Penn Jillette's chance to win "Celebrity Apprentice"?
- Zach Galifianakis to take formerly homeless woman to "Hangover 3" premiere
- Seth MacFarlane will not host Oscars again
- "SNL's" uncomfortable Garner/Affleck moment
- "Celebrity Apprentice" finale ratings hit a new low
- Worst National Anthem fails
- The truth in Kanye's anti-prison rap
- Stephen Colbert to UVA: "You must always make the path for yourself"
- "Game of Thrones," season 3, episode 8: A salon
- Bieber booed, Miguel falls on fan at Billboard Awards
- "Mad Men" recap: Love, acid and whores. Lots of whores
- Taylor Swift leads Billboard winners
- “Game of Thrones” recap: “We must do our duty”
- "The Unwinding": What's gone wrong with America
- Michael J. Fox wins: The best and worst of the new fall shows
- First look: The Coens' marvelous folk-music odyssey
- New York's most persecuted subway artist?
- James Franco: "I really felt I was in conversation with Faulkner"
- "Jodorowsky's Dune": The sci-fi classic that never was
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11