For 'Nashville' star Charles Esten, playing the NFL Draft Experience stage combines his favorite things

He watched firsthand as the game transform players like Terry Bradshaw and “Mean” Joe Greene into household figures.

“One minute I’d be in the locker room hanging out with these guys and then we’d walk out the door and they’d be swarmed by people wanting autographs and everything,” Esten, 53, said.  

“I remember my kid eyebrow raising up and being like ‘Well, what is this thing called? What’s going on here?’”

Now, the Grand Ole Opry guest artist and former “Office” actor plays his own role in one of football’s biggest weekends — headlining the free NFL Draft Experience stagewhen the league’s annual player selection event invades Music City this weekend.

Charles Esten performs at the 2018 CMA Music Fest Thursday, June 7 2018, at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo: Larry McCormack /

Esten closes down the Experience stage Saturday, performing 4:30-5:30 p.m. outside Nissan Stadium. Organizers estimate roughly 150,000 could attend the downtown Nashville event, which runs Thursday through Saturday.

“Life is good when your favorite things come together,” Esten said. “And these are my favorite things: NFL football, Steeler football, specifically, and Nashville … Nashville music, specifically. I think it’s a natural combination.”

Esten isn’t planning too many surprises for Saturday’s appearance, he said. He’ll do a full band set and might find time to roll out a few new tracks. He’s sharing a backing band, Sixwire, with the NFL.

The tenured Nashville group plans to act as host band for the draft, Esten explained, offering live music during selections and learning team-specific celebration songs to please fans.

“To be sure, there are some serious, serious decisions being made by the teams and the organizations but that doesn’t mean that all the people out there waiting, with a beer in their hand, don’t wanna have a good time.”  

Charles Esten poses in his dressing room at the GrandBuy Photo19 PhotosCharles Esten returning to his first love: music

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Esten’s appearance comes nearly a year since Claybourne and the remaining cast of “Nashville” exited cable airwaves. With “Nashville” providing momentum for a musical career, the Pennsylvania native decided to stay in Music City. Since joining the show, he's performed more than 100 times at the Grand Ole Opry and (unintentionally) set a Guinness World Record for releasing 54 singles in as many weeks.

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