Charles Esten couldn’t have predicted his future in music when he booked one of his first gigs with his college band. And they might have done well to have decided on a better name for their group.
“It was not an amazing band name,” Esten said with a laugh after a sound check for Wednesday’s (July 13) Skyville Live. “It’s amazing that it was a band name.”
At the time, they were auditioning for a dorm basement party and got the gig playing the only two songs they knew.
“It was either going to be a very quick party, a very boring party or we were going to have to go learn two hours’ worth of music in two weeks,” Esten recalls. “The name turned out to be something we were saying a lot then. It was another way of saying, ‘No.’ ‘Are you going to study tonight?’ And somebody would say, ‘N’est pas.’ And ‘N’est pas,’ meant, ‘No.’ It didn’t make any sense! So we called ourselves N’est Pas.”
And N’est Pas they were for about five years.
“Some people thought it was Napalm,” he said. “It wasn’t napalm. As bad a name as napalm is, it might have been better.”
There will be no N’est Pas reunion when Skyville salutes the magic of Music City on Wednesday night (July 13). Instead, the online concert series will feature live performances by Esten, Clare Bowen, Chris Carmack, Mark Collie, Lennon & Maisy, JD Souther and Pam Tillis.
The night will also include the live performance premiere of Esten’s new single “Through the Blue,” which lands Friday. The plan is to release a new song every week from a catalog of music he’s written since he started the show Nashville four seasons ago. The roll out even comes with the hashtag – #EverySingleFriday.
“It sounds a little crazy,” he said, “but I’ve been writing so much in this town for these four seasons, I have a lot of songs. I play them already in concerts and nobody’s been able to find them anywhere else. I remember the first time I played at the Grand Ole Opry, I said, ‘This next song is available in record stores nowhere.’ And that’s how all my music’s been for a while. I don’t know why that was. But maybe it was to start something like this … to give these songs a chance to be heard.”
Esten co-wrote “Through the Blue” with hit-makers Kendell Marvel and Tim James about how life’s hard times can be short-lived.
“I love writing a song that without being preachy, can just take a moment to say life can be hard,” he said. “Just hang on through the blue because it does end. Those dark times end. It sounds simplistic, but it didn’t hurt to hear that for me. … Maybe it doesn’t change everything in that moment, but it’s a little reminder. It’s nice to not only say that but say it in a song that kind of rocks.”
Esten is also ecstatic about Nashville’s fifth season coming to CMT. Just don’t ask him for any spoiler alerts.
“People think we get the scripts long in advance and we know what’s going to happen down the road to our characters,” he said. “We don’t. … I think it’s an unbelievable fit. Even down to the obvious fact that it’s called Country Music Television. I mean, I don’t know what combines country music and television better than Nashville. We have found not only a home, but the perfect home to do something very special. That doesn’t happen very much.”