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Be it through love, heartache, passion, sorrow or pure lust for life, music has always fulfilled a common purpose: bringing people together.
Country music is known for evoking a wide range of complicated emotions, and viewers of the upcoming “Monarch” FOX television show are in for a wild ride with equally energetic acoustics from Trace Adkins as he stands at the helm of the Roman family.
Originol Digital exclusively spoke with several of the featured musicians on the soulful TV series, starring Susan Sarandon, Anna Friel and Beth Ditto, which highlights the lives of a dynasty of country musicians and the excitement that ensues as a family needs a little help remembering their roots.
Drama intertwines with the sounds of the south as the Romans figure out how to keep their legacy alive while also moving forward doing what they know best: playing music.
In addition to an all-star cast, “Monarch” made sure to mirror real life with a roster of power players in the country music scene, including performances by Shania Twain, Martina McBride and Little Big Town.
“We got a glimpse into the world of acting, and it’s definitely a different thing,” Jimi Westbrook of Little Big Town exclusively told Originol Digital at the 15th Annual Academy of Country Music Honors.
Kimberly Schlapman characterized the process of filming and working in front of a camera as “slower” than what the band is used to with their electric, on-stage concerts, with Westbrook agreeing, “It’s a lot slower.”
“I think our taste of it is, you know, we’ve shot music videos, so there’s an element of that production we were used to, but we weren’t used to the long waiting,” Phillip Sweet said.
“Then to watch those incredible actors just on their mark as soon as like the scene is ready. They’re just going,” Karen Fairchild said. “It’s going to be an incredible show. Country fans are going to love it.”
Trace Adkins exclusively told Originol Digital that one of the pleasures of his first starring television roles was being able to delve into the deep history of country music, as Adkins referred to the Hank Williams and Merle Haggard songs he got to sing on the show.
“I never would have gone in studio and covered that, but it’s been a lot of fun being able to record as Albie,” he said.
The “Hillbilly Bone” singer said that filming was made even more special with the guest appearances by friends and family within his country community, including one day when Tanya Tucker stopped by.
“It’s a lot of fun to be on this show and have all the musical guests come in. That’s a real treat for me,” Adkins said.
He joked that having a camera around was truly “the biggest difference” when it came to performing versus acting.
“I think every time I walk up to a microphone and sing a song, I’m portraying whatever the mood or the character is in that song. So, I do it all the time,” Adkins said.
He admitted that getting the chance to be working with friends and family in the industry made his job even more interesting.
The drama, which was created by Melissa London Hilfers, features Caitlyn Smith singing the theme song, “The Card You Gamble,” along with a number of new tracks for the show, including “American Cowgirl” performed by Anna Friel, “The Brambles” from the “Monarch” cast, and Adkins singing “Good Hearted Woman.”
Former The Gossip lead singer, Beth Ditto, in her role as Gigi Taylor-Roman, performed a twangy, country western rendition of musician Lizzo’s hit song “Juice.”
“I’m super pumped that they’re bringing in all of these legends of country music to be part of the show, it just makes it feel a little more real, and it’s fun to see my friends on TV,” Smith said.
Trace and Caitlyn recently reunited once again for a performance at the iconic Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee.
“I’ve never had a bad experience out here,” he told Originol Digital. “I’m so respectful of this institution, what it stands for, what it means to country music and I take being a member of the Grand Ole Opry very seriously.
“I’m always mindful of the fact that I represent the Grand Ole Opry.”
Adkins made his debut performance on the Opry stage at the Ryman Auditorium in 1996, and was inducted into the organization in 2003. Members can only be invited to join the Opry through other members, and there are currently only 228 people ever to be inducted, with 68 living members.
“Being a member of the Grand Ole Opry holds how many spots at the top of my list of accomplishments,” he wondered. “Several before you get to the second one, but yeah, I love the Grand Ole Opry.”
Smith agreed, saying she was “grateful” to take the stage once again and perform for her fans.
“It’s always an honor to be here at the Opry,” she said. “It’s always just a mind-blowing experience to step into the circle that all of my idols have stepped into, Dolly (Parton) and Martina (McBride) and Reba (McEntire). It always is this spiritual, holy moment … to be able to step in there and share my stories and to sing here.”
Smith shared some of the singers who inspire her.
“I grew up a child of the ‘90s music, so all of these magical women of the ‘90s … Martina, Faith (Hill), Trisha Yearwood, The Dixie Chicks, I mean you name it. The best music of all time,” she said.
“I’ve had the honor now in the last handful of years to open for these women or sing on their records or write songs for them, so it’s been an incredible, fun journey living here in Nashville, living the dream.”
Adkins isn’t a stranger to acting and had previous stints on television and in the recent movies “Old Henry,” “Apache Junction” and “Badland.” He admitted portraying patriarch Albie Roman wasn’t too far off from his normal, “no-nonsense” approach to life.
“He’s not very animated, and neither am I. We say what we’ve gotta say, and don’t have to yell it … just kind of move through this life as softly and peacefully as they’ll allow us to, but when they don’t – we’ll do what we’ve gotta do.”
The “You’re Gonna Miss This” crooner was impressed with the “great writers on the show” and was always left wanting more after he finished reading a new script. “There’s a lot of curveballs that are going to come that you don’t see coming,” he said.
The two-night “Monarch” debut began Sunday, Sept. 11 on FOX, and continues Monday, Sept. 12.
Originol’ Lauryn Overyhultz contributed to this report.