Sam Palladio: Art Imitates Life During Nashville in Concert Tour

One of the first things Sam Palladio and I talked about when he was in Chicago on Friday (April 25) was music — country and otherwise.

“Damn, that modern stuff is catchy,” Palladio told me about some of the country songs on the radio right now. “I listen to it sometimes, and I go, ’I don’t wanna like it.’ But I do. There was a beer/truck song going around my head the other day. I cringe when I hear another one, but even when I’m like, ’This is terrible,’ then two hours later, I’m humming it and can’t get it out of my head.”

But when Palladio, who plays Gunnar on Nashville, isn’t singing country music, he’s listening to local bands and indie rock and some Americana music.

“A lot of Jack White and cool stuff like Moon Taxi,” he said.

Palladio admitted he knew nothing about country music before he came to the U.S. for his role. The British actor auditioned while he was living in England and said he shot his audition tape at 3 a.m.

“I sang my favorite James Taylor song, ’You Can Close Your Eyes,’ and a Tom Paxton song,” he said. “And I read for a couple of scenes in the show. I was actually auditioning for Gunnar and for Avery, and I ended up being the first guy cast in the show. I thought, ’What a perfect vehicle for my two passions — music and acting.’

“They really did cast actors who are so passionate about music. Even without the show, we’d all be happy staying in Nashville, just being musicians and enjoying the scene.”

That love-of-the-game spirit made Palladio’s “Wake Me Up in Nashville” the stand-out performance at Joe’s Bar during the Chicago stop of the Nashville in Concert tour. The song is a heartbreaking ballad about his grandfather leaving for the war and missing the chance to say goodbye to his love when his train passed through Nashville’s Union Station.

During the Chicago concert, Palladio also did “Can’t Get It Right” and “Driftwood” from the TV series and helped his castmates out on a few other tunes.

“In my downtime, I’m a songwriter,” Palladio said before he took the stage at the sold-out concert. “So now because I live in Nashville, I’m setting up meetings and writing with loads of people each week and getting this wealth of material that I couldn’t be doing anywhere else. If I was in LA, there’s just not a songwriting community there. Nashville is the one place to do it. Like just recently, Jay DeMarcus and I got together and took this old song of mine and pulled it apart and reworked it in a Rascal Flatts style. It’s called ’Black and White.'”

“Art really does imitate life here,” Palladio said, “so I couldn’t be in a better place.”

Chip Esten , Chris Carmack , Clare Bowen and Jonathan Jackson performed at the show, as well. The Nashville in Concert tour continues with shows Sunday (May 4) in Washington, D.C., and Tuesday (May 6) in New York City.

Listen to a live stream of The Music of Nashville Original Soundtrack Season 2, Vol. 2.