"I've never had four seasons of anything!" Charles Esten says with a laugh, expressing gratitude to the fans who've kept ABC's Nashville on the air. The actor-musician, whose long list of pre-"Deacon Claybourne" TV credits includes Whose Line Is It Anyway, Big Love and The Office, has found his sweet spot on Nashville in that it combines his loves of music and acting — and not just on the small screen. Once again, he joins a lineup of castmates taking their show on the road, with the Nashville In Concert tour kicking off this week. Esten says he's having as much fun off stage as on, thanks to the audiences.
"The thing that we love so much isn't just the performances, but meeting people afterwards and hearing the stories about why the show means something to them," he tells Rolling Stone Country. "Because in so many cases, it's not just the drama or the big crazy plot twists . . . It's the little things, when we've touched on a topic like when someone needs an organ donor, or someone has cancer, or someone has addictions they're fighting. I can't even tell you how many people come up to us after the concerts and share why they love the show. And to have that moment to say thank you to them – they're why we're on the air!
"We're so fortunate to bring this show to them," Esten continues. "To stand on a stage and sing these songs they love from the show — and have them sing it back to us — those are some of the most fulfilling moments I've had."
Joining Esten on the stateside bill are Clare Bowen, Chris Carmack, Sam Palladio, Will Chase, Jonathan Jackson and Aubrey Peeples. The tourmates all perform songs from the show and some of their own material, as well. Their backing band is made up of several musicians who've played on the Nashville soundtracks, and is led by "the voice of Deacon's guitar," Colin Linden.
"He's an unbelievable guitar player and blues singer," Esten says of Linden. "When you hear Deacon singing, that's me. But when you hear Deacon playing, that's Colin. Deacon's a much better guitar player than I am. We joke, Deacon is such a badass that it takes two of us to play him!"
Linden will also play bandleader across the pond for the sold-out U.K. run, which features Esten, Bowen, Carmack and Palladio. Organizers had to add extra shows in London and Dublin due to high demand.
Performing in London will be a full-circle moment for Esten, whose first real acting gig was playing the lead in Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story on London's West End.
"When I was doing that, I was really learning acting but doing what I knew, which was playing guitar and singing," he recalls. "For years, I had always wanted to do the music and the acting together. Whose Line Is It Anyway had a little of that, where we'd make up a song off the top of our heads based on a title. But it took all these years to find something like Nashville. It's an unbelievable bookend."
Nashville In Concert Tour Dates:
April 15 - Las Vegas @ The Venetian Theatre at The Venetian
April 16 - Los Angeles @ Microsoft Theater
April 17 - Phoenix @ Comerica Theatre
April 19 - Denver @ Paramount Theatre
April 21 - Tulsa, OK @ Brady Theater
April 23 - Grand Prairie, TX @ Verizon Theatre at Grand Prairie
April 24 - Austin @ The Moody Theater
April 25 - Houston @ Revention Music Center
April 27 - Atlanta @ Fox Theatre
April 28 - Clearwater, FL @ Ruth Eckerd Hall
April 30 - Rosemont, IL @ Rosemont Theatre
May 1 - Detroit @ Fox Theatre
May 3 - Washington, DC @ DAR Constitution Hall
May 5 - New York, NY @ The Theater at MSG
May 6 - Boston @ Wang Theatre
May 7 - Uncasville, CT @ Mohegan Sun Arena
June 13 - Manchester, England @ Bridgewater Hall
June 14 - Birmingham, England @ Symphony Hall
June 16 - Glasgow, Scotland @ Clyde Auditorium
June 17 - Bristol, England @ Colston Hall
June 18 - London @ Eventim Apollo Hammersmith (2 shows)
June 19 - London @ Eventim Apollo Hammersmith
June 20 - Dublin @ 3Arena