During his summer hiatus from Nashville, actor-musician Sam Palladio, who plays Gunnar Scott on the ABC drama, was exploring the latter half of his hyphenate, taking his original music on tour in his native U.K., sharing a stage with one of his musical heroes, Ron Sexsmith.
In August, Palladio, who was raised in Cornwall on the English seaside, played a little closer to his current Music City home, taking the stage at the Grand Ole Opry, where he introduced two songs he played on the recent tour. One of the tunes, called "Her Recovery," was inspired by Palladio's mother, who was also responsible for the young musician becoming familiar with Sexsmith in the first place.
"I was introduced to his music through my mum," Palladio tells Rolling Stone Country. "She was unwell for a while but found his music and found this beautiful quality in it. It really felt like healing music for her. It was playing in the house continuously until she was better. I got to tour with him, which made her very, very happy."
Palladio, who earlier this year performed throughout the States with his fellow Nashville cast members, found inspiration on the road throughout the summer and has been writing for an upcoming solo project.
"I've been an audience member myself all this time and now the tables have sort of turned," he says of his recent Opry stint. "It's always interesting to hear a little story or a little snippet of somebody's personality or their inspiration. So I thought, 'Screw it, let's do two originals and let people get a taste of something different from Gunnar Scott.' It's an amazing opportunity [that] we get to showcase new material at the Grand Ole Opry. I should be playing these songs in pubs and grimy bars."
"I love the way Kacey Musgraves has opened the doors to country music. Maybe I should live in that sphere? Maybe I should be the English country guy."
Palladio, whose co-writers have included Will Hoge and Trent Dabbs, has been more solitary in his recent writing, applying tricks of the trade he's gleaned from more seasoned tunesmiths and getting the material ready for release.
"It's just been an amazing thing, living in the city and getting inspired, getting to work with local writers, big writers," he says. "I feel like I'm at the stage where an album is ready to go. It's just a case of finding the right people to make the best of that situation. I pretty much have the material. I have this massive songbook that keeps getting added to. There's no shortage of inspiration here. I have a catalog that I'm excited to sit down and pick from."
Choosing the material to record is likely going to be easier than giving fans a precise idea of what they can expect to hear, however. While Palladio comes from more of a rock background, having played drums and performed in metal bands, he says his new music will "live in a few different places," much like he has in recent years.
"It'll have that country/East Nashville/Americana feel to it," he explains. "I think Americana has been the biggest revelation since I've been here. It's going to sit a little bit between that singer-songwriter/Americana, dark folk-pop world. Somewhere between Ryan Adams, that great understated folk thing he has and. . . I love the way Kacey Musgraves has opened the doors to country music. Maybe I should live in that sphere? Maybe I should be the English country guy."
Wherever the new music lands, it's bound to be an easier journey than the one his Texas-born Nashville character has taken. With Season Four debuting tonight, big questions linger: namely, did Deacon survive his liver transplant, and what about his sister, Beverly?
"We left it on that crazy cliffhanger," Palladio notes. "Can I tell you who survives? I'm not sure. It's a really exciting opener. Gunnar has been going back and forth, pining for Scarlett [Clare Bowen] after all these years that have passed. That ends in Season Three with a bit of a moment where there may be a romantic connection again. We definitely explore that in Season Four. We're singing some beautiful songs as well."
Although Gunnar's love life has been in a state of flux, he continues to support his pal Will Lexington (played by Chris Carmack), who publicly came out in the third-season finale.
"He's facing some demons," Palladio says. "You think that coming out would sort of relieve everything but, of course, he ends up closeting himself again, to not deal with all the public stir that's associated with that. Gunnar has always been a great buddy of his so he's always lending a helpful bit of advice. There's some good bromance going on again this season."
The Gunnar character has always been adept at lightening the series' mood. His "on the road" scenes with Scarlett and Avery (played by Jonathan Jackson) were a comical highlight of last season.
"I'm always trying to work some comedy in there," says the actor. "I come from more of a comedy background. I don't want to spoil it but I get to do a lot of work with Jonathan and Chris this year. There may be a little comedy trio in the making. Avery has been through a lot, having to cope with crazy-ass Juliette [Hayden Panettiere], so he ends up leaning on some brothers for a little support. You can imagine — three young men and a baby gets really interesting."
Nashville returns Wednesday, September 23rd, at 10:00 p.m. ET on ABC.