This week will be a whirlwind for Chris Carmack, as the Nashville star event-hops during the CMA Music Festival.
“I’ll be playing quite a bit around town,” he told Billboard. “On Friday, I’ll be playing the GLAAD/Ty Herndon event at City Winery, which is very much in harmony with the character I play on Nashville. Then, there’s a performance at the Belk Stage downtown on June 13 at noon.”
From there, the Washington, D.C., native will be leaving Music City to attend his niece’s first birthday party. He joked that after the candles were blown out, “I might have time for a little nap then.”
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It’s definitely been a busy year for Carmack. Between his busy shooting schedule of the ABC prime-time drama — set to enter season 4 this fall — he has also been steadily working on his forthcoming EP, Pieces of You, which he says is more than ready to get out to the public. “We had a studio date in February during the big ice storm in Nashville, but miraculously, we were able to put together five songs from that, and I’ve been working on them ever since. The recording process inevitably takes longer than you expect, because everybody has things happening in their real lives, but I was able to get ‘Being Alone’ out before we went on the Nashville tour. I was very excited to have that out. So I’m champing at the bit to get Pieces of You out, but I want to get it right,” he tells Billboard.
The Nashville tour earlier this year was definitely a career highlight for Carmack, who portrays Will Lexington on the series. “That was the coolest perk or extracurricular activity that I’ve ever gotten to do as part of the show. It’s a very unique event and so much fun to be a part of. We’re basically bringing the show to our fans all over the country in person. For the people who show up at the concerts, the music is one of their favorite elements of the show. We’re literally bringing the highlights to them. We also perform original music as well. I got a chance to do ‘Being Alone,’ so in addition to bringing the show to the stage, we also got to bring ourselves to the stage. We’re not up there as Will Lexington or Deacon Claybourne; we’re up there as Chris Carmack or Chip Esten doing some of the songs from the show and some of our own along the way. We might be playing 4,000-seaters, but it’s a very intimate exchange between a cast that loves each other and the fans that love the show. We really get to commune over the music.”
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“Being Alone,” the first track from the EP, is now available digitally. Carmack says the song was written about his real-life experiences, but he admits there are plenty of parallels between the lyrics and the life of his character — who had been keeping his homosexuality a secret until the final few minutes of the season finale last month.
“What’s most interesting to me is the origin of why it mirrors it. That song came out of a place for me when I was in Los Angeles, trying to define myself and hold on to my identity in a place that was full of many things I identified myself with. The road that I have taken into playing Will Lexington is the sacrifices that one has to make to follow one’s dream — particularly in doing something like music or acting. You have to be willing to move a long way from your family and friends and do it on your own. You have to take jobs that you don’t want to take or rub you the wrong way. You may feel like you are prostituting yourself in so many ways.” He says that goes from himself as well as his character. “That’s where the song comes from, as well as my motivation for Will comes from: the sacrificing of personal happiness for a dream that you believe will bring you happiness. But the closer you get to your dream, the more imperfections you see, and the more you realize this might not feed my soul the way I thought it was going to.”
Though Will Lexington is a country performer, Carmack said fans might be surprised that Pieces of You is pretty musically diverse. “One of the things that I am most excited about is that people have said that the influences and styles that I draw from are apparent on the album. I grew up playing jazz saxophone, so there’s a lot of jazz, and play some diminished scales on the guitar, which isn’t what you typically hear on country radio. There’s some blues guitar influence, which is something I spent years working on in Los Angeles. There’s some pop influence there, and now with the country I’ve been working on with Nashville, there’s the tone in my voice in some of those phrasings. It’s a real culmination of all the music I’ve loved over the years.”