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Tour brings Chris Carmack and other "Nashville" stars from screen to stage
Chris Carmack is best known as an actor, with credits in both film and TV.
But his current role, as gay country singer Will Lexington on ABC's popular series Nashville, has allowed him to return to his first love -- music.
"Music came first," the Maryland-raised Carmack, 35, says by phone from Nashville. "I started studying saxophone when I was a kid; I kind of surprised my folks by asking them to let me participate in the school band and to buy me a saxophone. I started asking when I was in second grade; it took me until fourth grade to get 'em to agree."
Carmack continued his saxophone studies into high school, when he juggled acting with sports, including baseball, basketball, football and wrestling. He attended New York University's Tisch School of the arts but left early to start a modeling career, then headed to Los Angeles to concentrate on acting, signing on with "The O.C." for one season. But even out west Carmack continue to pursue his musical dreams.
"I always wrote songs when I was a kid. I wrote poems in high school and started playing a little bit of guitar," he recalls. "I was not very good, but if you pick up a guitar and you sing a song you wrote to a girl, it works.
"When I went out to L.A. I found myself having a lot of down time, so I really focused on learning blues guitar. There was something I loved about the blues, and I met this guy, an old black musician from Mississippi on Venice Beach one day and he kind of took me under his wing and I really got to learn all about the music and where he came from."
Carmack viewed the "Nashville" role -- first as a recurring character and then as a full-time cast member -- as "an opportunity to really do something with my music." He's appeared on the show's soundtrack albums and has also released an EP of his own, and the challenge has been to make music that's worthy of being in Music City.
"It's really inspired me to step up my game," Carmack acknowledges. "When I was in Los Angeles people would say, 'Hey, so you play guitar.' I thought I was hot s***. But when I came to Nashville and suddenly was immersed in the culture of generational musicians, people who were born into these music legacies and jsut grow up around music and who can play so many different instruments and much better than I can, I started to get a little shy about it.
"So I spent a lot more time really trying to hone my songwriting and my playing and my voice and my style and really trying to up my game since I've been part of 'Nashville.' I don't think I would ever have worked this hard at it if it wasn't for this. It just felt like it's a hobby before. Now it feels for real."
"Nashville" In Concert featuring Chris Carmack, Clare Bowen, Will Chase, Charles Esten and Aubrey Peeples
7:30 p.m. Sunday, May 1.
Fox Theatre, 2211 Woodward Ave., Detroit.
Tickets are $29.50-$65.
Call 313-471-6611 or visit olympiaentertainment.com.
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