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Interview: Sam Palladio reflects on the end of Nashville, talks about performing at Black Deer Festival and teases what’s coming next

The Nashville actor looks to the future as the Country music drama comes to an end.

Sam Palladio
Credit: Sam Palladio

Sam Palladio became a household name when he landed the role of Gunnar Scott in the Country music drama Nashville.

Originally from Kent, Palladio fooled a lot of viewers into thinking he was American with his spot-on accent for the show. Fresh from the Nashville in Concert Farewell UK tour and filming the final episodes of Nashville’s last season, Palladio is now looking onward to performing at the first-ever Black Deer Festival in Kent next month.

I caught up with Sam recently to reflect on Nashville coming to an end, discuss his performance at Black Deer Festival and to find out what he’s got coming up next.

I came to the Nashville in Concert Farewell UK tour at The O2 Arena. What an amazing way to say goodbye to the fans of the show. How was that experience for you?

It was breathtaking actually to see the 11,000 people fill that space was just an amazing way to celebrate the end of this journey for us really. It started six years ago and I guess none of us ever thought we’d be touring on that scale. We just took it as this wonderful acting job and then suddenly realised as the music got so popular, and we’re all players ourselves, maybe there were some roots in playing some live shows together. That started at Joe’s Pub in Chicago for about 600-700 hundred people and we finished up at The O2 Arena. It was a bit of a dream come true really.

I was talking to Charles Esten before you guys came over for the Farewell tour and I was saying it’s a shame really there won’t be a seventh season so you can graduate to a stadium tour. It’s pretty much the last venue size left for you…

(laughs) What’s left for us here? Wembley? (laughs) The Royal Albert Hall last summer, we did three shows there, and that felt like it couldn’t get any better. That’s space is such hallowed ground. There’s something pretty special about The O2 as well. For me, having lived in London for so long and seen a lot of big concerts there, it was exciting.

Nashville 6x08

Credit: CMT

I always think it must be an absolute nightmare trying to figure out which songs to include on the Nashville tours as you have so many to choose from. How do you pick your specific songs?

It really is a tricky thing to put a set list together because like you said, there’s literally hundreds. I think we’ve had 350 pieces of music in the show over the years. You want to pick something that showcases your strengths. It’s sort of a bit of a relay race with the on and off (the stage) again. It’s quite hard to piece together a set that has a lot of flow to it, there’s a lot of moving parts. For me it’s always nice to bring a little original material to that show because I think fans really love to see that side of us.

We get to show that we’re more than these characters that they’ve watched on the show, we’re real artists and performers, and we have a story of our own. I always enjoy adding some originals in there. For this tour I chose the song Adios Old Friend, which was one of my favourites from way back in Season 2. It’s always been a beautiful folk ballad and I’d never actually played that after all these years. Suddenly it dawned on me, ‘well what a perfect way to tip the hat to Gunnar and say adios to him and this awesome journey we’ve been on’. When the idea came to me, it was perfect and lyrically it reflected that farewell friend ideal.

As you mentioned you’ve been playing original material on the tour over the years. Is it a good way to get feedback from the fans that informs your plans for your own music in the future?

Yeah absolutely. I’ve tried out so much original material over the last few years. The Royal Albert Hall show that they’ve just put out on DVD actually has three of my originals on that so that’s pretty fantastic that they made it out into the world. All that stuff for me is cooking at the moment. I got some exciting things coming up this summer and I’ll be getting in the studio with some fun people and taking that to the next level. I definitely think to gauge the audience reaction of new songs is important because I guess we don’t get to tour like traditional musicians do for six or seven months and try all these new songs in clubs over and over again, then you work out ‘this is the hit’. We only get to do this for a few weeks a year and we’re doing it in these huge arenas. I have a song called Wake Me Up in Nashville, which is a very story-driven personal song, and that’s always had a great reaction, even more on this farewell tour, so it’s spurred me on to make sure that’s in one of the first releases that I do.

Nashville 6x05

Credit: CMT

What is the plan with your music moving forward. Are you working on an EP or just planning to put some singles out?

It’s an interesting new chapter. The industry has changed a little so it’s not so focused on full records. I’ve been cutting a lot of stuff over the last year or two so there’s quite a catalogue of material to decide on and sift through. I think it will start as first single that I’ll put out on Spotify and iTunes. We don’t have an exact release date yet but I have quite a few nice little festival appearances this summer so around then we’ll be finding the right time to push a single out to coincide with some of that good stuff that’s happening. I think that’s how it’ll start, a single at a time to gauge the audience and come up with a strategy more long-term after that.

One of the festivals you’re going to performing at this summer is Black Deer Festival in Kent, which is debuting this year. How are you feeling about that?

Oh so excited! It’s an incredible line up it really is. The first year of a festival is always full of energy because everyone wants to make it a big success. I think they’ve pulled together an incredible line up. I’m a huge fan of Passenger, Jason Isbell, Ward Thomas and The Wandering Hearts. There’s just some great musicianship, some great singers and I’m thrilled to be on that line-up and seen in a similar light. I was born in Pembury down the road so as a Kentish boy playing the first time in Kent that’ll be nice as I have a lot of family in that area too. It’ll be a good excuse for a summer time party I think.

I’m pretty excited that we have such a major festival celebrating Country and Americana down the road too…

Americana and Country, as you know, is just going from strength-to-strength. These country festivals we’re seeing put together just have some incredible talent. I think Black Deer seems to be really tastefully done and really well executed so far. They’ve pulled together some great talent.

You must have a unique perspective on the growth of Country music here in the UK. When you first went off to Nashville to film the show, the audience here was more nice but six years later there’s been such huge growth. Have that taken you by surprise?

To be honest yeah it did. The show started at a time when I hadn’t really heard any modern Country music. I knew the classics, like Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson and all that stuff but the genre was very new to me and I was a musician and plugged into all that. Heading off to shoot the show I wasn’t sure if it would really translate that much back in the UK but Channel 4 picked it up and it started airing. Suddenly we started to see that the show was going down really well, people were loving this music and they were buying the records. I do think our show kickstarted that movement a little bit. It put Country music in front of UK TVs and people realised it’s really exciting and there’s some fantastic stuff being made over there. I think it was a bit of a bridge for the genre to really take off here.

Nashville 6x04

Credit: CMT

Definitely and the show is going to have such a legacy because of all the music and the impact it’s had over here. We’ve still got 8 episodes of Nashville left but already fans are talking about reboots and revivals. Would you revisit Gunnar if the opportunity came up in the future?

Yeah I’d love to. I think at this point we’ve done six years and we want to go out with a bang. It’s always a danger when shows keep running and running that you run out of good stories to tell. I think at this stage it’s a fantastic conclusion for all the characters at this point. Further down the line who knows? I’m pushing for the Will and Gunnar spin-off show (laughs), the bromance comedy because I just love Chris Carmack and we get on so well. That’s what I’d push for.

I think the exciting thing is that people will also find it as it gets added to Netflix and those sort of platforms. It’s going to be a new fresh show for a lot of eyes and ears. Personally I’ve been late to the game on so many TV shows and discovered them years and years later on streaming services and suddenly you go, ‘where was I when this came out, it’s fantastic?!’ I’m hoping there’ll be a bit of a legacy for it and for the next few years we’ll still be finding new fans and they’ll be wanting that music. It’ll keep us on the road for a while if we want to be out and playing the songs of Nashville, that’s for sure!

Even after the show ends you could continue to tour as a cast if you wanted to…

Absolutely. Yeah. I think the songs are reasonably timeless. They’re not so genre specific or, you know, 2014. Country music really does have that wide reach. I think the sounds of the songs that started the first season, that T-Bone Burnett oversaw and he really set the tone, I certainly think those songs are just timeless, beautiful things like the ballads that Clare and I get to sing.

What would you say is going to be the hardest thing to leave behind?

It’s almost a bit like leaving school or graduating high school because the cast and crew have all lived in the same city and worked on the same show for six years. That’s always a little sad when we all go our separate ways and jobs come to an end and we’re all signing each other’s t-shirts like it’s the last day of school. I’m going to miss that but a lot of us are planning on staying in Nashville as long as we can. It is a very vibrant city, there’s so much going on and there’s so much creativity there. We get the direct flight to the UK, that’s just started, so that opens up my roots back home and cuts off a few hours on the travel so that’s great. I’m just going to miss the cast and the crew and the family that we’ve built.

Nashville 6x02

Credit: CMT

They couldn’t have timed those direct flights any worse could they? Can you believe they started once you’ve finished filming six seasons of the show?

Typical (laughs). It works out well for me now because the schedule’s wide open and I need to be a bit more mobile so hey, I’ll take it.

Outside of the music, do you have more acting work lined up as well?

Yeah there’s a lot of exciting things being negotiated at the moment. I’ve been on a lot of phone calls and a lot of auditions and Skype meetings . The exciting thing is that this show has had such great success that it’s given us a really nice platform to take the next step from. For me music is so important for the next step and I’m having a lot of really interesting meetings. I’m about to announce a couple of partnerships in the next week or two so watch this space musically at least. On the acting side of things, I think I may be on a flight to Romania to do a film in a couple of days so we’ll see if that all gets locked down. I think if I’m able to, in an ideal world, spend six months making music and touring and then hop in on a film or two or a nice mini-series I’d be very, very happy. A lot of stuff cooking, which I’m really excited about!

Sam Palladio will perform at Black Deer Festival on Sunday 24th June 2018. The festival takes place from Friday 22nd to Sunday 24th June at Eridge Park in Kent. For more information and tickets visit https://blackdeerfestival.com.

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