Charles Esten Announces Faith-Inspired Single “A Little Right Now”

“Everybody, in all walks of life, finds themselves at a point in time when they’re not feeling the faith they used to feel, whether it’s a faith in a greater power, in God, faith in their own abilities, or faith in things working out,” says singer-songwriter Charles Esten, calling American Songwriter from his Nashville home. “There are things that are out of your hands, and that’s where faith comes in—but sometimes, you’re just not feeling it.”

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With that meaningful theme in mind, Esten co-wrote “A Little Right Now” with Jacob Lyda and Brian Maher. Set for release on April 28, this single is drawn from his debut album (title TBA), which he plans to put out later this year.

He likens the collaborative songwriting process to a quilting bee, where all the contributors “show up with a collection of patches that they’ve collected over time—‘Here’s an interesting piece of fabric.’ And from that, as a group, they create this one thing, this blanket.”

“A Little Right Now” features a distinctive double drop D tuning, for which both E strings on the guitar are lowered to D. Esten became enamored with this tuning after taking on the role of inveterate musician Deacon Claybourne on the hit television series Nashville, which ran from 2012-2018.

“A handful of the first songs that I played [on Nashville] were in the double drop D tuning, and a lot of that had to do with my friend Colin Linden, who played the guitar parts for Deacon in the studio, and he would teach me how to play what he played,” Esten says.

He quickly recognized the unique shading that this tuning could give to his own songs. “A D major chord is super happy, very positive; it just rings with possibility and happiness. A D minor chord can sound very dark, very somber, or really sad. The great thing about double drop D is it gets rid of that third, so you don’t have to make that binary choice between the happy major and the deeply sad minor. You can put on it what you will. In the end, it was perfect for a lot of the Deacon songs – and it was perfect for this song, too.”

Esten has long divided his time between music and acting and says both sides of his career have definitely informed each other for the better. He first found success in the early ’90s when he portrayed Buddy Holly in a London theatrical production for two years. From there, he appeared on the television show Whose Line Is It Anyway, where he was assigned to imitate artists such as Sting or Bruce Springsteen. He credits his time in a cover band while he attended the College of William and Mary in Virginia for helping him learn to effectively emulate other artists.

One downside of this type of work, however, was that it left Esten unsure of his own musical identity, but he again credits his work on Nashville for motivating him to shape his own sound. “Here I am in Music City. I’m on a TV show, so Lord knows how long that will stay on the air, so I’d better make the most of this while I can,” he says. “So I said, ‘I’m going to commit right now to putting out a brand new single every Friday for as long as I can do it.’ Fifty-four Fridays later, I stopped. That was called my “Every Single Friday” project.”

That run of singles, in 2016 and 2017, resulted in a deal with a publisher, who then set him up with producer Marshall Altman. With the right team in place, “Finally, I think for the first time, I started to hear this through line of what this first album might be,” Esten says. 

That through line, he adds, “is not completely focused down to one thing, but it’s more that life can get very, very hard. Harder than you ever imagined. And you can feel lonelier than you ever imagined you would. You can lose all your faith. But if you can hang in there, even when love goes away, you can find it again. Even when light goes away, it can return. Even when you don’t think you’ll ever be happy again, your greatest happiness can still be to come. It’s a grouping of songs that show that journey.”

His other recent single, the power ballad “One Good Move” (which came out in March), shows how Esten’s own personal journey inspired his songwriting. The song came together at a writing retreat, where he was matched up with young songwriters Elise Hayes, Zarni DeVette, and Sam Backoff— none of whom he’d met before.

“I said, ‘I’m very lucky that when I was your age, every phone wasn’t a video camera,’” Esten recalls of their initial getting-to-know-you conversation. He also told them, “I wasn’t the brightest young guy. I made a lot of bad decisions—except for one thing: my wife and I just celebrated our 30th anniversary; she was really my one good move back then. It was such a good decision made by such a bad decision maker at the time.” His co-writers immediately recognized that this would make an excellent song topic, and “One Good Move” came together quickly.

As he anticipates his full album release later this year, Esten takes a moment to appreciate how far he’s already come in his career. In particular, he’s proud of his numerous performances at Nashville’s legendary Grand Ole Opry. “I didn’t even know that was possible, let alone do it as many times as I have—158, I believe, for my next one,” he says. “I get so surprised so often by these things that were never even in my wildest dreams.”

Pre-Order “A Little Right Now,” HERE.

Photo by Jami-lyn Fehr / Sweetalk PR

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