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Nashville: The City, The Show, The Love

by Clayton Beltran

My love affair with the city of Nashville began roughly five years ago.

I had made the trip, along with my sister, to run the Nashville Country Music Marathon (that's us the day before the race!). We felt the presence of old country legends at the Grand Ole Opry, strolled up and down Broadway, and enjoyed the country twang and rock blasting from everywhere. I could have spent days in the iconic letterpress shop Hatch Show Print, admiring every single beautiful poster. As if we weren’t already in heaven, we found out that Sheryl Crow was running that weekend too!

When the TV show Nashville debuted a year later, I was hooked and I luckily found a fellow tribe here at Smudge Ink—ahem, Sarah and Kate. Our fandom extended to the Nashville Live in Concert Tour, which was making its way to Boston. With tickets in hand, I made it my mission to get autographs for my sister who was getting married the following week. What else do you do for the one who wants to dance “A Life That’s Good” (hands down the most sentimental country song from the show) on her wedding day?

Sarah and her roommate Kobe joined me under the high-vaulted ceilings at the Citibank Theater. As Aubrey Peeples (Layla Grant) graciously entered the stage to a thunder of applause, I texted a photo (shown above) to my sister in California. Her response: “I’m so jealous.” Needless to say, the concert was full of wonderful sets and surprises. It would be wrong (criminal even!) of me not to leave you with highlights.

Welcomed by a cheer of screams and whistles, Chris Carmack (Will Lexington) joined Peeples on stage to perform their duet, “If Your Heart Can Handle It.” A hush came over the audience as sisters Lennon and Maisy Stella (Maddy and Daphne Conrad) tackled melodic harmonies, demonstrating their wiser-beyond-years musical prowess. They introduced their onscreen dad, Charles Esten (Deacon Claybourne), the ultimate showman with an “aw shucks” smile—and also my sister’s and Kate’s TV crush.

The crowd roared when a nymph-like Clare Bowen (Scarlett O'Connor) announced she would be singing her bewitchingly beautiful performance of the song, “Black Roses.” Three words sung, the drop of one D Minor, and everyone immediately silenced. Chills. CHILLS. Then all of a sudden, she called out Sam Palladio (Gunnar Scott) who hadn’t been advertised during ticket sales. With one stride of his boots, Gunner mania had ignited. Bowen and Palladio sang their duet, “Fade Into You.” If you had not wrapped your arm around your sweetheart by then, you had really missed your opportunity to do so. The show ended as the whole cast stood up on stage for their encore number, appropriately none other than “A Life That’s Good.”

Not forgetting my mission, we gathered to a side door where an impromptu meeting with the cast might occur. Seeing the barricade of fans, the possibility of a failed autograph outcome was making me quite anxious. And then Lennon and Maisy came out! Not the elbowing type, I quickly passed my Sharpie and poster to someone closer. Though overwhelmed by the crowd, the two stars actually looked for me to learn about the poster and sign it. I am so grateful that they did. In fact, three out of the four cast members that sing “A Life That’s Good” left their autographs (see photo above). Connie Britton, if you’re out there, can I send you my sister’s poster to have you sign it?!

Feeling emboldened by my success, Sarah bravely asked for the Deacon Clayborne for his autograph, explaining it was for her boss Kate who couldn’t be there because she was celebrating her mother’s 70th birthday. Let's just call it mission accomplished (see video below)!

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