Charles Esten Grateful For Time on 'Nashville' TV Show

It was a dream role for actor Charles Esten when he landed the spot of Deacon Claybourne on the TV show, Nashville, and now, as the series prepares to air the final episodes, the 52-year-old is nothing but grateful for his time on the show.

"Well, the first message is one of gratitude," Esten tells Sounds Like Nashville of what he would like to tell the show's loyal fans. "It is the deepest thank you [that] you can imagine, because we have always been a fan-based show.

"From the very beginning, there were people that were just hooked and they climbed on the train and it was not an easy show to jump off no matter what we took you through. We took you on some hard bends and some hard turns. We understand that."

Nashville spent four seasons on ABC, before leaving the network and joining CMT for the final two seasons. Connie Britton, who played Rayna James – Claybourne's wife – left the show in Season 5.

"That was a challenge for fans and we are so grateful for everybody that stayed the course and stayed with us to discover the same thing that people are discovering in real life, which is 'How do you go on?'" Esten says. "'You lose that love of your life. You lose the one you though you would always be with. How do you go on?'"

When Britton left the cast, Esten admits he was disappointed. Still, her departure forced him to hone his acting skills in a way he hadn't in the past.

"As an actor, I didn't want to lose that relationship," Esten concedes. "I would much rather Connie was still here, but as an actor you, 'Oh, we get to explore this new thing that most shows like ours never …' Deacon's been through all these things that we thought were pretty hard, we had no idea what he's going to go through."

The final episode of Nashville airs on July 26. But Esten has no plans to leave Music City, at least for now. The Pennsylvania native, who has sung on the Nashville soundtracks and toured with some of his fellow cast members, has his own music career. In 2016, he began the seemingly impossible task of releasing a new single every Friday for 52 weeks, which he completed exactly one year later.

Even though Nashville, which allowed Esten to both sing and act, is coming to a close, the show in many ways fulfilled it's purpose for Esten long ago, which is prove to him that it is possible to combine his two passions, acting and music, without having to choose.

"I guess I'd have to admit that it occurs to me that all of this, in some sense, has been a kind of declaration that music is a priority to me," Esten tells Billboard. "Now that I've been blessed to get all the incredible opportunities that Nashville -- the show and the city -- have provided, I honestly can't conceive of a future that doesn't somehow include writing, recording, and performing my music as a central part of my life. You might say that I am in it for the long haul."

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Download Esten's music at CharlesEsten.com.

Photo Credit: Getty images/Jason Kempin