As Deacon Claybourne on "Nashville," Charles Esten plays a talented musician with a troubled past, a conflicted relationship with both female stars of the show (Connie Britton and Hayden Panettiere) and a history of addiction. In real life, Esten is also a singer/songwriter, but fortunately he doesn't share Deacon's angst. I spoke to the actor at this winter's TCAs, and found the former "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" improv artist and onetime Buddy Holly (for the London production of "Buddy") to be country-cool and thrilled to be putting his real-life songwriting skills to use.
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Foodies, rejoice! Bravo has announced that "Top Chef" will be returning for an eleventh season. Open calls for chefs interested in competing in the high-stakes culinary competition series will be held in cities across the country starting on February 11th. Additional information and downloadable applications can be found at www.bravotv.com/casting.
While "The Avengers" may not be up for any major awards at this year's Oscars, the Academy has still found a way to include some of Earth's Mightiest Heroes.
While a Josh Groban album may be the last place one would expect “Kashmir”-like strings and guitars, on “All That Echoes,” the classical crossover singer veers momentarily into Led Zeppelin territory on the lushly atmospheric “Hollow Talk.”
If the detour surprises his fans, that’s just fine with the multi-platinum singer. “I feel like we’ve done something really special, hopefully they will too,” he says. “Most importantly, if it’s honest, they’ll get that, but I always enjoy giving people what they didn’t know they wanted.”
“All That Echoes,” which came out Tuesday (Feb. 5), and quickly topped iTunes albums chart, features the famous baritone singing seven songs he co-wrote. Groban’s songs stand side-by-side with five others by such noted songwriters/artists as Stevie Wonder, Jimmy Webb, and Glen Hansard.
Produced by Rob Cavallo, Groban’s sixth studio album aims to capture the vibrant feel of his live shows. To facilitate that energy, Cavallo, best known for producing acts like Green Day, Goo Goo Dolls, and My Chemical Romance, collected a who’s who of rock musicians to play on the set, including drummers Matt Chamberlain (Pearl Jam) and Abe Laboriel Jr. (Paul McCartney), as well as bassist Chris Chaney (Jane’s Addiction), guitarist Tim Pierce (Dave Matthews) and keyboardist Jamie Muhoberac (Rolling Stones, Fleetwood Mac). The rockers played alongside a harpist, violinist and cellist.
“They balanced each other out in such an amazing way to see every day,” Groban says. “The rock guys brought an energy to the orchestral players and the orchestral players brought a fluidity and a musicality and kind of more of a restraint, if you will, to the guys that were coming form the rock side...When we’re in [the studio], we’re just thinking about making really exciting things come out of the speakers. It doesn’t become more complicated than that.”
While the album falls well within the boundaries that Groban’s longtime popera fans expect, he’s also eager to go against any perceived stereotyping he’s experienced.
“Anybody in the public eye at any level in any part of the entertainment or sports world feels expectations from their fans and feels a certain amount of pigeonholing from their fans. I don’t think I’m any exception to that,” he says. “At the same time, it’s a delicate balance when you’re in the studio and kind of siloed in your own little world and you’re battling between what you’re inspired by everyday and what the expectations of the fans are and what your main goal is, which is to be a communicator of music to make people feel good or to feel the music fully. Ultimately if you’re having the time of your life but people aren’t connecting to your sound, then, to a certain extent, you’ve kind of missed the cause.”
One of more striking songs on the album is “Below the Line,” which Groban wrote after volunteering with “Live Below The Line,” a non-profit that raises funds for people living in extreme poverty. It also spreads awareness by asking people to live on $2 a day, the amount that 1.3 billion people living in poverty subsist on.
“I just happened to be exploring that particular charity and going through the fasting period on a day I had to write and so while the song itself is not specifically about that organization, it triggered a lyrical message that we ran with and that we felt was a good universal, humanist kind of message. That song was written within two or three hours... and I was really hungry. That message [is] if we’re not helping others and not seeing the bigger picture of what’s happening in the world, then we’re truly not helping ourselves.”
Groban, who will appear on “CSI: New York” as himself on Valentine’s Day, co-hosted “Live with Kelly” a number of times and was rumored to be in the running to become the permanent co-host before Michael Strahan got the job. Groban stresses he could have never handled full-time hosting duties with his busy music schedule, but adds he loved interviewing people and it gave him a new sympathy for journalists.
“You’re trying to fill many roles when you’re interviewing. On a show like that, you’re genuinely curious about things that are going on with them, but you have about 30 seconds to get the answer and then you have to make sure, of course, that you’re making them look good and that you get it all in before commercial,” he says. “You’ve got a million things going on around you while you’re trying to have the conversation.”
The singer, who has also acted on "The Office," and "Crazy,Stupid, Love," among other shows, recently told Reuters that he hopes to take a hiatus from making music in the next few years to do theater.
The prodigious (and often hilarious) Tweeter will hit the road to support “All That Echoes” in April. On the schedule are three shows at Los Angeles’ Hollywood Bowl. Sure to be in attendance are his most fervent fans, dubbed Grobanites. Some of his fans feel such ardor towards the singer that they go so far as to get tattoos os his signature.
Though flattered by his fans’ passion, Groban says he has no one’s name he’d like permanently etched on his body. “You know, if I were going to get a tattoo, i probably would have gotten one by now,” he says. “No, I think that I try to keep my tattoos ingrained in my brain.”
(Welcome to the Oscar Guide, your chaperone through the Academy’s 24 categories awarding excellence in film. A new installment will hit every weekday in the run-up to the Oscars on February 24, with the Best Picture finale on Friday, February 22.)
Have things finally turned around in what used to be the Oscars' most annually frustrating category? It's one where the commendable requirement that members see all five nominees before voting can lead to some unpopular upsets. But after year upon year of controversial omissions, vanilla inclusions and frequently forgettable winners, the Academy looks likely to crown the year's most universally acclaimed world cinema title for the second year in a row. To make matters all the sweeter, it's not their only reasonable option. This year's slate of nominees in the category is arguably the richest in recent memory: a healthily border-crossing mix of perspectives with one revered auteur balanced by a couple of bristly, exciting up-and-comers.
One might credit the Academy's consistent tweaking of the rules in this category for making it appear a little more on the money in the past few years: they were aware there was a problem, and hats off to them for addressing it. But it must be said that the individual countries played ball this year, too -- with very few exceptions, the national committees charged with selecting their official Oscar submission chose wisely. The resulting longlist of 71 films, the largest in Oscar history, was veritably stacked with festival sensations and under-the-radar gems. Winnowing it down to five was always going to be a heartbreaking process, but we still have reason to cheer those left standing.
The nominees are...
Aside from last night's VES Awards, it's a pretty slow day on the circuit, so let's lead with some unsurprising but reassuring news. Not that you had any reason to suspect otherwise, but last year's quartet of acting Oscar winners -- Jean Dujardin, Meryl Streep, Christopher Plummer and Octavia Spencer -- will all be on hand to present at this year's awards, joining Mark Wahlberg and his fuzzy friend from "Ted" on the list of confirmed presenters. Assuming the Oscarcast producers don't veer from the traditional format, you could already start imagining the juxtapositions: many people's choice for Greatest Actress Alive handing the Oscar to many people's choice for Greatest Actor Alive, welcoming him into the triple-winner club to boot, is a particularly nifty photo op waiting to happen. And while Jennifer Lawrence remains at the front of the Best Actress race, how sweet would it be to see Jean Dujardin present the award to his senior compatriot, Emmanuelle Riva? [The Wrap]
It was a predictably great night for "Life of Pi" at tonight's Visual Effects Society Awards as the film picked up four prizes, including the big daddy, Outstanding Visual Effects in a Visual Effects-Driven Motion Picture. Not only that, but as previously announced, the film's director, Ang Lee, received the Society's Visionary Award. "It's not visual effects. It's visual art," Lee said upon receiving the prize.
Chuck Hagel weathered quite the storm from his fellow Republicans during his confirmation hearing for Secretary of Defense. But part of the debate strewn about in those eight hours pertained to something very much at the fore of discussion in this year's documentary feature race.
I'm not quite sure why this has to be a two-night, very special event, but here we are again with "The Bachelor." I'm trying to sort out what could possibly justify a two-part episode. Could it be that ABC just shoved two episodes of this series into one week and tried to sugar coat it as "very special"? Of course not! So maybe the other girls actually eat Tierra in a frenzy, driven to cannibalistic insanity by this overly dramatic, man-hogging manipulator. Hey, these girls are getting angry, so I can't rule it out.
A review of tonight's "Justified" coming up just as soon as I read a book about a Native American princess who controls invisible forest animals...
I posted my review of the new season of "Smash" this morning. Now it's your turn. What did everybody think of the changes made by Josh Safran and company? If you were a fan last spring, did you enjoy these tweaks? If you were just hate-watching by the end, was this an improvement? (And do you want the show to improve?) Were you happy to have Jennifer Hudson around for a bit? Did you think her duet with Katharine McPhee did a good job of showcasing both "Idol" alums? Do you like the new musical, and did you find Jimmy charming or just a complete jerk?
I imagine there will be some rubbernecking for tonight, even among those of you who didn't like the show last season. Was there enough here to make you want to stick around?
Have at it.