Location shots take us to Nashville while Eli Young Band’s version of “Even If It Breaks Your Heart” plays, and we find ourselves at home with Rayna and Teddy Conrad and their 2 daughters. We learn that Teddy’s currently a stay at home dad who, when asked by his girls about the family being rich, light-heartedly says they’re “cash poor” before reminding them it’s rude to talk about money. Rayna’s getting herself all gussied up for something, and it turns out it’s for a celebration of legendary songwriter/producer Watty White’s contributions to country music at the Grand Ole Opry. That’s the voice of Eddie Stubbs you’re hearing, the real life voice of the Opry.
Rayna sings “Already Gone,” gets the great crowd response that she’s used to getting, and a compliment from her band leader of 20 years Deacon Claybourne about how she killed it. As she comes off the stage, Rayna greets Watty before Deacon introduces Rayna to his niece Scarlett, a Bluebird Cafe waitress and adoring fan. Rayna asks Scarlett if she’s a songwriter, and Scarlett modestly says she writes some poems but her boyfriend Avery Barkley is a songwriter. Rayna also commits to playing at the ceremony at which Coleman Carlisle will announce his mayoral candidacy, and jokes about her powerful father’s distaste for country music.
Meanwhile in a nearby dressing room, Juliette Barnes is getting her makeup done in a room full of her memoirs, hit CDs, and test perfume bottles. Her personal assistant confirms TV and magazine bookings, and answers a call from Juliette’s cell phone (hip hop ringtone!), which turns out to be from her mother. We hear Juliette’s mother asking for money as Juliette pretends she can’t hear anything and hangs up. Juliette scolds her PA for allowing her mother to get her new number, tosses the phone in the garbage, and demands a new phone number.
Then her manager comes in and says it’s time. Time for what? Time to meet Rayna James, which Juliette Barnes has no interest in doing. Her manager tells her it’s for the label. Juliette rolls her eyes. On the way to that meeting Juliette fangirls over Deacon, gushing about a record he wrote that she has on vinyl. She hatches a plan to poach him from Rayna’s band into hers. Juliette also bumps into Avery and Scarlett, but mostly Avery, and comes onto Avery when he apologizes. By Avery’s response we can tell he is, to quote the great Tammy Wynette, “just a man.” Juliette arrives at Rayna’s dressing room and a rather catty exchange ensues in which Juliette snubs Rayna’s handshake to greet Watty White, implies to Rayna that she’s old and Rayna implies to Juliette that she’s dressed like a slut. That went well!
Rayna’s not too sure what the point of that little Juliette meeting was but the somber faces of her manager and Edgeville Republic label reps say it all. Her tour is selling poorly to the point it may have to be cancelled, she nixed 3 songs her producer was sure would be a hit, and her record label thinks she should coheadline a tour with Juliette Barnes, with Rayna playing first. Rayna isn’t having any of it, and wants to know who came up with this idea. Turns out it’s the brainchild of Marshall Evans, the new head of Edgeville Republic, Rayna’s label of 20 years. Rayna is going to meet him for the 1st time on Monday, when he’ll be expecting to hear her decision about jumping on Juliette’s sold out arena and stadium tour, which the label thinks it could package as an historic event that puts together the label’s “two most important artists.” A discouraged Rayna watches Juliette sing her hit single “Love Like Mine” at the Opry with hoards of young girls singing along, but Rayna is totally unimpressed by a girl she says wouldn’t make it as one of her backup singers.
Flash to a ceremony honoring Lamar Wyatt, Rayna’s powerful, philanthropic father with whom Rayna clearly has issues. Rayna’s late but gets there eventually. Her sister, who was managing her father while he groused about Rayna, now tries to manage Rayna, who hates these gigs. Meanwhile Juliette is flirting up a storm with the producer she shares with Rayna as she records a new track called “Boys & Buses” (another Nashville original). There are jokes in the room (that Juliette can’t hear) about the need for autotune, but everybody in the room agrees Juliette has star quality and is a huge moneymaker. Meanwhile Rayna is driving her girls home. The mood is light in the car until the girls start singing along with Juliette’s “Love Like Mine,” which Rayna promptly shuts off.
If you’re like me and wondering why Rayna’s daughters could harmonize so effortlessly with Juliette’s “Love Like Mine,” it’s because they’re Lennon & Maisy of this viral video fame:
More covers by them here.
We’re now back in the Conrad/James home, where Rayna is stressing out over the decision she has to make about her tour. Teddy walks in and jokes around with her so that we see he’s a supportive, loving husband before the conversation turns serious. She fills him in on the state of her tour and her record, and though he’s sympathetic, Teddy wonders if it would be such a bad thing to tour with Juliette and implies it’s pride more than taste that’s getting in the way of Rayna doing it. Rayna knows the label is going to stop promoting her record if she doesn’t join Juliette’s tour. Teddy says she doesn’t have to put herself through this, that she could quit right now. Rayna says their lifestyle depends on her continuing to work, which hits a sore spot with Teddy. He’s made some business deals that went bad but he’s working to fix that, and he thinks she should consider borrowing money from her father. That hits a sore spot with Rayna, who doesn’t want to be like her sister, whom she calls her father’s “handmaiden.” Teddy agrees that Rayna’s dad is a jerk but “that doesn’t change the color of his money” and says that when her father passes, her sister is going to be the most powerful woman in Tennessee thanks to her closeness with their father.
Rayna makes a late night visit to her producer Randy and tells him she’s reconsidered those 3 surefit hit songs he’d brought her that she’d nixed. Now she wants to record 1 of them and release it as a bonus track. Unfortunately, Randy tells her those songs have been cut (presumably by Juliette, with whom he was in studio earlier that day). Although Randy doesn’t tell Rayna who cut the songs, he does admit he’s producing Juliette’s next record. Rayna is disappointed but Randy reminds her of his ex-wives, leading to this classic line from Rayna: “Would you stop getting married and start dating?” A disappointed Rayna asks Randy about Juliette “Why do people listen to that adolescent crap? Sounds like feral cats to me!” She wants to know why people pretend Juliette is good. Randy has no answer, but cut to Juliette lying naked in his bed, hearing this whole conversation go down. Awkward, yet juicy!
Cut to the Bluebird Cafe, where Deacon is playing “Back Home” (a Nashville original), a country weeper that impresses the whole crowd, including Juliette (who seems genuinely moved), Avery, Scarlett, and another guy we will soon learn is named Gunnar. Avery congratulates Deacon on a great set and asks if Deacon’s had a chance to listen to Avery’s demo. Deacon doesn’t seem that interested in Avery’s “alt country meets punk, but more cerebral” music but promises he’ll listen while teasing Avery about working on being worthy of his niece. Gunnar compliments Deacon on a great show and Deacon encourages Gunnar about the progress he’s making as a songwriter. A new love triangle is born as Deacon asks Gunnar to keep an eye on Scarlett, and Gunnar seems to already have a crush. As Deacon packs up his van, Juliette comes out to see him and tells him she wants to record “Back Home.” She invites him to come play on the record, and Deacon says it depends on scheduling because he has tour rehearsals with Rayna. Juliette lets it slip that she’s heard that tour is off, but Deacon hasn’t heard anything about that. Juliette backs off temporarily, then goes in with an offer for Deacon to take over for her current band leader, who will be leaving for family reasons anyway. Deacon is loyal to Rayna, but Juliette keeps piling it on. She wants to write with Deacon and thinks they could have a great time together. Oh, she’s coming on to him too. Deacon resists. For now. Juliette heads off into her dance track playing SUV.
Somewhere in the center of Nashville, old Lamar Wyatt wants to build a baseball stadium in the city. His team, including daughter Tandy, warns him it’ll be even more difficult to get that done once Coleman Carlisle takes over as mayor. That’s no good for Lamar, so he hatches a plan to run his own candidate: Teddy Conrad. That’s right, his son in law. He and Tandy know Rayna will be dead set against it. Like that’s going to stop them.
Jump to Rayna’s tour rehearsals, where she’s singing “It’s My Life” (a Nashville original). She’s struggling with her earpieces, and eventually rips them out and throws them onto the ground. Rayna’s dissatisfied with wardrobe too, and apologizes to everybody for her “diva dip”. Her manager soothes her but then reminds her that she has that meeting with the label Monday. She asks her bandleader Deacon to go for a walk. They talk about Rayna’s frustrations with the state of her career, and Deacon tries to reassure Rayna that what’s going on now doesn’t change everything she’s accomplished. We also learn that they have a romantic history together, and they both have some regrets there. Deacon tells her about Juliette’s offers, and it leads to him asking Rayna why she never cut more of his songs. Rayna says those songs felt weird, like maybe they were about her. Deacon says maybe they were.
Watty White has his own WSM-ish show, and Rayna is a guest playing the traditional country songs that inspired her. We learn that Rayna lost her mother at the age of 12. Watty gently suggests to Rayna that maybe it’s time for her to reinvent herself some. She asks him if he thinks Juliette is a flash in the pan, and he says he thinks she’s here to stay. Cut to a studio where producer Randy is waiting and Juliette is running late. Her PA apologizes for her. Her producer goes looking for her. We see her in a small, dark room having a weepy conversation with her mother, whom she again refuses money because it’s clear that her mom is an addict looking for her next fix. Randy opens the door on a crying Juliette, who proceeds to make out with him.
Back from commercial, we’re in one of those backrooms where important stuff happens. Like Lamar Wyatt having a conversation with Teddy Conrad about running for mayor. In his own menacing, sleazy way, Lamar talks to Teddy about having confidence in him and how this is an opportunity for Teddy to reshape his future. Teddy is skeptical about his qualifications, and skeptical of what Lamar will do to the opposing candidate Cole Carlisle, whom Teddy thinks is a good man. Teddy tells Lamar he will run only if Lamar agrees to no dirty tricks, no rumors, or anything that would hurt Carlisle or his family. Lamar agrees, but I think we know how this is going to end up going. Lamar tells Teddy that he’s going to be the one who tells Rayna (why that was a question I don’t know).
Predictably Rayna is highly skeptical of Teddy running for mayor, especially with her father’s involvement. Rayna knows that Teddy hates politics but, Teddy says he just hates discussing politics. Because that’s totally different. Teddy talks about how this is a chance for him to do something so Rayna doesn’t have to work, but Rayna isn’t interested in stopping working and wonders if that’s what he he wants: her standing off by the side of the stage supporting him. Teddy shoots back that that’s what he’s been doing for her all these years, and that he knows she settled for him and that he was her 2nd choice (1st choice was Deacon?). She remembers that she told Cole Carlisle she would perform at his announcement. Teddy’s announcement will be the same day. Awkward! Back at Tootsie’s, Gunnar’s impressed by Scarlett’s poems. He wants her to put them to music. She’s shy about it but soon enough, they’re working on it, with some banter about love and whether there is ever really “The One” mixed in.
On a new day, Rayna and her manager meet with her new label head. Rayna notices the plaque for Juliette’s hit record “All My Angels” (with angel wings, ya’ll!) is way larger than any other artist plaque on the wall, including hers. But she starts out friendly with Marshall Evans, talking about her history with Edgeville Republic, a label that was essentially built on her success, and how she stayed loyal to the label even when other labels were trying to woo her away. Woman knows how to make a case! But Marshall Evans is all about the now, telling Rayna she needs to find her place in a new market. He lets Rayna lay it out: she can open for Juliette on tour or, the label will drop its support for her record. Rayna walks out saying “You can kiss my decision as it’s walking out the door.”
Rayna’s still feeling feisty when she confronts her father about his motives for urging Teddy to run for mayor. Her father mocks her for her inability to believe he just wants to get Teddy back in the game, so to speak, but Rayna wants to know what he’s really after. He tells her that contrary to her opinion, he’s responsible for her success because he funded her 1st record. This seems to be news to Rayna. Lamar gets to threatening Rayna, chastising her for not being more supportive of Teddy after everything Teddy’s done for her, and implying their eldest daughter Maddie… (may not be Teddy’s?). Rayna starts yelling, Tandy has to separate her from her father, and she walks out with more threats from Lamar about crossing her.
That night, Randy heads over to Juliette’s gated mansion. Meanwhile at Bluebird’s, Gunnar volunteers Scarlett to sing a song when a performance spot opens up. A sheepish Scarlett takes to the microphone (for the very 1st time ya’ll!) and she & Gunnar perform “If I Didn’t Know Better” (which comes to us from the Civil Wars). As they sing, we cut to Juliette shutting the door on Randy and telling him never to visit her without calling. He’s confused because he thought they were a thing. But inside, Juliette has been playing and making out with Deacon. Oh nooooess! We also see Coleman Carlisle preparing his mayoral announcement while Teddy nails his, impressing Lamar. Rayna is dressed to the political nines, but we don’t know which mayoral announcement she’s headed to. While she’s walking, she gets a call from Watty White, who’s at the Bluebird watching Scarlett and Gunnar. Watty has Rayna listen in, and says he has an idea. She likes what she’s hearing. After the call, Rayna heads to the stage and sure enough, she’s there for Teddy. But I think we all know this roller coaster ride is just getting started and there’ll be lots of twists and turns to come. We’ll find out more…next week.
What did you think of the premiere episode? Will you be coming back for more?
Check out this post for information on the original music featured in tonight’s episode, and links to download several of the tunes on Itunes!