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'Nashville' in Rosemont

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By Selena Fragassi
Daily Herald Correspondent


The hit ABC show "Nashville" may be a scripted series, but when seven of the stars hit the road for a spring concert tour -- arriving at the Rosemont Theatre Tuesday, May 5 -- fans will be able to get a glimpse into the real lives of the actors who also moonlight as budding recording artists.

"It's an opportunity for fans of the show to become even bigger fans of the individual actors. We all love music and are really music artists," says Aubrey Peeples, who plays singer Layla Grant on the series.

She is joined on tour by Clare Bowen, Chris Carmack, Charles Esten, Jonathan Jackson, and Lennon and Maisy Stella. This year's 10-date run follows a smaller initial jaunt in 2014 and the million-plus sales of six series soundtracks. (The latest will be released May 12.)

During the concert, each performer gets to play about four songs, including hits from the show and original material. For Peeples, the two converge on her performance of "Blind," a song that was written for her character but actually replicates an original piece the actress wrote at the beginning of this season.

"Our musical styles have started to blend a bit," Peeples admits.

While fictional Layla's career is picking up, her personal life has been a mess -- including an ill-fated marriage to closeted country star Will Lexington (Carmack).

"She's a hard worker and really determined to do whatever it takes, and I like to think I'm the same … except for the part about marrying a gay husband and sleeping with people on my management team," Peeples says. "I personally managed to avoid those two potholes."

Peeples jokes, but the 21-year-old has been faced with her own life-altering decisions in recent years, like putting off a chance to go to Harvard. The Florida native was accepted to the Ivy League school but has deferred her admission twice. The most recent time she had her bags packed for college but got the call about the "Nashville" gig the night before she was supposed to go.

"I definitely had one of those girlie moments of screaming up and down, which I never do, and I decided to put Harvard on hold again," she recalls. "I still do want to go, but I'm just not sure when."

For now Peeples is content where she is, saying that both the show and the city of Nashville are an ideal situation.

"Being here is the best place if you're a new artist in the music industry because Nashville is where all new music is happening," she says. "We get to meet so many people through the show, and we form relationships with them outside of production."

For Peeples, that included working with "Nashville" guest star Christina Aguilera, someone she admired growing up and inspired her during long hours of vocal training and musical theater performances. "Being in close proximity to such icons has been eye-opening and has offered us all a lot of opportunities in the music industry we wouldn't have received otherwise."

Peeples has used the experience to hone her own writing, focusing on a blues-rock style she gleaned from personal favorites like Bonnie Raitt, Jack White and The Black Keys. She hopes to start laying down demos and getting a full recording together within a year, after things settle down with her movie placements in the Nicolas Cage thriller "Rage" and playing the lead role in the live action version of "Jem and the Holograms."

When time permits, Peeples and her castmates also cut their teeth performing at many of the Nashville coffeehouses and clubs like 3rd and Lindsley and Station Inn. "Most of us work in a few gigs every few months," she says, something that will surely help when the "Nashville" tour hits the big stages.

She says everyone is ready. "That's what we do on the show," she says, "we put on fake concerts all the time." Except this time it's very real.

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