Since the ABC series Nashville began last fall, millions of viewers have tuned in to watch the drama unfold between two fictional country music stars: the established icon Rayna Jaymes, played by Connie Britton, against the up-and-coming, Taylor Swift-esque Juliette Barnes, played by Hayden Panettiere.
But it’s more than just a compelling storyline that draws an audience to Nasvhille; what really seems to have made an impression is the series’ music. A product of the (literal) marriage between the show’s creator and executive producer, Callie Khouri, and its executive music producer, T-Bone Burnett, Nashville’s soundtrack has proved a maker — not a breaker — for the series.
Before the series returns on Wednesday, March 27, to round out its first season, Khouri joins us from NPR West in California to discuss Nashville and its carefully selected soundtrack.
On the song that will end Season 1’s finale (unspecified which character will be singing it):
“It’s called 'Nothing In This World,' and it’s a stunningly beautiful song. It’s just one of those songs that when I heard it, I thought, this is the nicest way I can think of to end this season for this character. To give her a song that is this powerful, after what we’re gonna put her through, she’s earned it.”
On whether the cast will head out on tour:
“It’s definitely something we’re discussing. Obviously so much goes into a tour – it’s a huge enterprise to get a tour up and running. It would be really fun for everyone. I’m not sure what’s gonna happen, given the time constraints that we have. We’re just gonna see how things shake out by the end of the season. I know they’d all like to.”
On whether she modeled the main characters with specific musicians in mind:
“T-Bone does a really interesting thing whenever he starts working with someone — an actor on a movie, or in this case a TV show. Which is: He kind of goes back with each actor [and discusses] who their musical influences would be. So, Rayna very much came from the old-school storytelling place of Tammy Wynette and Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton and Kitty Wells and was raised [and] brought up on the classics of country music.... She would be in the realm of Martina [McBride] or Faith [Hill] or one of those kind of artists who hit her heyday in a time when the songs were really about something.”
On the show’s theme of artists fighting for a place at the top:
“I think every generation figures out a way to make music that really pisses off the generation that came before it. So with Rayna and Juliette, Juliette’s always pursued a more pop kind of country — the kind that people in Nashville will go, ‘That’s not even country. Why do that call that country?’ I think that it’s kind of an interesting thing to be talking about now, and especially to be talking about it in a time where all aspects of the business itself are kind of falling apart.”