The success of ABC's Nashville can be attributed to several things. The writing is superb. The acting is incredible. (Connie Britton is amazing as ever, but her being the only cast member even nominated for a Primetime Emmy this year was ridiculous.) But no actors could have kept Nashville afloat if the music it was built around sucked. Not only does the music not suck, it shines.
The actors on Nashville deserve some serious props. The entire cast do their own beautiful singing, breathing life into lyrics great enough to hook even someone like me, who has sworn off country music since being raised on it. Those standout lyrics are the true stars of Nashville.
The credit for this wonderful music goes to the wife/husband creative team that drives the show. The Academy-award winning writer of Thelma and Louise, Callie Khouri, created Nashville and makes the final decisions on what songs will be used in the show. Her husband, T. Bone Burnett, serves as Nashville's executive music producer and co-composer. Burnett is no stranger to the music industry. He is a 12-time Grammy winner and has produced music for everyone from Taylor Swift to Elton John.
Khouri and Burnett have chosen amazing songs for Nashville; the first soundtrack released for Nashville debuted at Number 14 on the Billboard chart:
But the unsung heroes of Nashville are the songwriters who have created the songs on the show. The above playlist contains just a sampling of their work. Some of the songs are written by well-established artists. "If I Didn't Know Better", supposedly written by the characters Scarlett and Gunnar on the show, is actually the product of John Paul White of The Civil Wars and artist Arum Rae.
The heartfelt ballad "No One Will Ever Love You," sung on Nashville by Britton and co-star Charles Esten, was written by White and Steve McEwan. You may not know McEwan's name, but you've probably heard his music. He has written songs for the likes of Carrie Underwood and Keith Urban. Dan Auerbach, frontman for the Black Keys, produced a version of "Bitter Memory," an unreleased Lucinda Williams track, sang by Britton's Rayna James character. "Twist of Barbwire," sang on the show by alt-country rocker character Avery Barkley, is actually an unreleased Elvis Costello song.
Newcomers and up-and-coming artists are also getting a shot at getting their material heard because of Nashville. Sarah Zimmermann and Justin Davis, two 20-something musicians who started performing together after being randomly put together for a writing assignment in college in the real Nashville, wrote "When the Right One Comes Along." Emerging artists Trent Dabbs and Kacey Musgraves co-wrote "Undermine." As sung by Esten and Hayden Panettiere, "Undermine" debuted at Number 7 on the iTunes country chart.
If you haven't given Nashville a shot yet because you think you don't like country music, you should reconsider. There is more to the show, and its music, than just a down-home twang.