CMT Premiere: Charles Esten Returns To His Improv Roots With His Lighthearted "Make You Happy" Video

Charles Esten's debut album "Love Ain't Pretty" will be available Friday.

Country music fans first met Charles Esten when he played country singer Deacon Claybourne on "Nashville." They didn't know that Esten was a singer making his living as an actor as much as he was an actor playing a singer on a hit television show.

More than a decade after the show debuted, Esten is preparing to release his debut country album. "Love Ain't Pretty" will be available Friday. Today Esten, also known for playing Ward Cameron on "Outer Banks," released his "Make You Happy" video from the album today.

Esten wrote "Make You Happy" with Gary Burr and Jon D'Agostino, and Marshall Altman produced the song along with the rest of his album. Esten produced the music video, and Erika Rock directed it.

The playful and energetic video features Esten juggling, drumming or as he says, "that's all me doing what I do best - showing off." His wife, Patty, also appears in the video.

"So much of this video happened completely organically, just out of all the fun we were having on the day," he said.

At some point in the shoot, Esten and the director realized they needed to showcase the woman Esten was showing off for – Patty. She was there helping and didn't plan to be in the video.

"Thankfully, like so many years ago, she said yes!" Esten said. "And so that's her walking into the room, looking gorgeous. And later, that's her on bass. And at the very end, that's me accidentally, perfectly, knocking her sunglasses off her beautiful head. Still makes me smile."

Esten has spent most of his adult life trying to make people he doesn't know happy through his work on stage and screen. The video was initially meant to be a straightforward performance clip, but as the song inspired his silliness, it turned into something more.

"From me getting more and more shameless in my attempts to entertain to my band - completely bored in the beginning, but slowly loosening up until they're every bit as goofy I am, the song inspired all that," Esten said. "The video brings the song to life because the song brought the video to life!"

In that way, the video transports Esten back to his comedic roots. Esten frequently appeared on the improvisational comedy show "Whose Line Is It Anyway?"

"It's great when you can shoot something this freely and improvisationally, but it's hard to be sure it's all going to come together," he explained. "Will the ideas and the intentions all work together in the end? No one really knows."

Esten wasn't sure the video had come together until the director sent him the first cut. At that point, he knew they nailed it.

"All those loose and goofy moments told exactly the story we wanted with exactly the right tone," he said. "We all captured a little bit of mirthful magic day. And it makes me very happy."

While Esten is celebrating the lighthearted moments in "Make You Happy," the song isn't indicative of "Love Ain't Pretty" as a whole.

"The throughline of this album is right there in the title: 'Love Ain't Pretty,'" Esten said. "Life can be hard, and there are moments when it can wear anyone us down. In those times, you need strength and maybe a little more faith. So, there's some real seriousness throughout. This song and this video say that in the midst of all of that, it's a gift and a calling and a joy simply to make someone smile. To, even for just a little bit, with just a little silliness, be able to make them happy. If fans take nothing from this video but a smile, and maybe a laugh, that'll be fine by me."


1. "Love Ain't Pretty" (Charles Esten, Marshall Altman, Jimmy Yeary)

2. "A Little Right Now" (Charles Esten, Jacob Lyda, Brian Maher)

3. "One Good Move" (Charles Esten, Sam Backoff, Zarni deVette, Elise Hayes)

4. "In A Bar Somewhere" (Charles Esten, Jason Gantt, Neil Medley)

5. "I Ain't" (Charles Esten, Brad Crisler, James LeBlanc)

6. "Another Song About You" (Charles Esten, Colin Elmore)

7. "When Love Ain't Love" (Charles Esten, Jeffrey East)

8. "Candlelight" (Charles Esten, Kenny Alphin, Eric Paslay)

9. "Back In My Life Again" (Charles Esten, Marcus Hummon, Bryan Todd)

10. "Make You Happy" (Charles Esten, Gary Burr, Jon D'Agostino)

11. "Willing To Try" (Charles Esten, Gary Burr)

12. "Maybe I'm Alright" (Charles Esten, Leslie Satcher)

13. “Down The Road (feat. Eric Paslay)” (Charles Esten, Eric Paslay, Dylan Altman)

14. "Somewhere In The Sunshine" (Charles Esten, Jon Nite)

Latest News