Emmys: On the Toe-Tapping Set of ABC's Country Music Drama 'Nashville'

Charles Esten and the Stella Sisters
Dorothy Hong

“There’s a line Deacon says [to Rayna’s daughters], ‘I'm afraid you might blow me away’ -- and that’s real,” says Esten of performing with the Stella Sisters.

This story first appeared in the July 19 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

For Nashville, making music adds a whole other layer on top of producing the freshman soap. Such stars as Connie Britton and Hayden Panettiere, who play rival country divas, spend hours learning and prerecording original songs, like for the penultimate episode of the season, "A Picture From Life's Other Side" (which aired May 15), pictured here. 

Show creator and Oscar winner Callie Khouri brings what she calls the "cinematic approach" to capturing the essence of Nashville, where the drama (which drew a season average of 8.5 million viewers) is filmed. "It's like shooting a music video," says showrunner Dee Johnson of the ambitious concert scenes.

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The process kicks off before filming starts when music producers -- including Khouri's husband, Grammy winner T Bone Burnett (who won't return for season two) -- sift through songs for ones that underscore the narrative of family and betrayal in the music industry. "It's very complicated to get all that done in nine days," says Khouri. 

Adds Britton, whose Rayna Jaymes anchors the series: "There isn't a prototype for it. This has been a big departure from Friday Night Lights and American Horror Story -- and that's a lot of why I did it."