Chris Carmack on ‘Nashville’ Drama, New EP and Embracing Gay Musicians
For his “day job” on the ABC musical drama, Nashville, actor Chris Carmack steps into the cowboy boots of rising country singer Will Lexington, winning over female fans with his confident swagger and down-home country charm. Behind the scenes, Will has been harboring a secret, known only to a few of his friends, former lovers (and a former wife) and one special man in his life. That all changed in an instant when the character outed himself as a proud gay man in front of the press during the series’ third season finale, ending months of “come out already” cries from viewers. The proclamation sets the stage for some heretofore uncharted territory in Nashville‘s fictional realm of country music, but the real-world implications of declarations from gay country singers Ty Herndon and Billy Gilman (both on the very same day) last fall are also unprecedented.
It remains to be seen just what impact being openly gay in country music will have for all of them, but next week, Carmack will show his support for Herndon, Gilman and many others at the first annual Concert for Love and Acceptance at Nashville’s City Winery. As thousands of fans gather from around the world for the annual CMA Music Festival, this groundbreaking event, co-hosted by Herndon and political commentator Meghan McCain (daughter of Sen. John McCain), will include performances by Crystal Gayle, Jamie O’Neal, Meghan Linsey, Stella Parton and Shelly Fairchild, and also feature appearances from Tiffany, Melinda Doolittle, Desmond Child and many others. For Carmack, it’s a chance not only to express solidarity; it’s also a golden opportunity to step out from the musical identity of his TV character to perform some of his own music, which he’s been working on since first moving to Los Angeles to pursue his acting career.
Carmack is now putting the finishing touches on his upcoming EP, Pieces of You, getting band members together and arranging gigs to introduce music that may surprise fans who only know him as Will Lexington. After a battle with bronchitis, he proved the old entertainment axiom, “the show must go on,” sitting down with Rolling Stone Country as he shared the very personal inspiration behind one of the EP’s standout tracks. He also reveals the special spot where he kept his first song lyrics and speculates on Will’s post-coming-out story. (Hint: it involves unicorns.)
Now that you’re performing your own music in live settings, how does that compare to acting in front of the camera?
Performing live is easy in front of an audience. But when there’s a guy yelling, “Alright, six, five. . .,” and then he goes [holds up four fingers and counts down], you start to go, “Wait! No, wait!” [Laughs] Why’d he stop talking? What’s gonna happen?
You’ve described “Being Alone” from the new EP as “a young person’s solitary struggle to discover his own identity while trying to adhere to the stifling plans and expectations of others.” That, of course, seems to describe Will Lexington, but how much does that describe you?
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