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Air Force Christmas radio special features TV's Nashville cast

  • Published
  • By Dale Eckroth
  • Air Force Recruiting Service
Millions of TV viewers know them as Deacon Claybourne, Scarlett O'Connor, Avery Barkley and Layla Grant from the hit ABC series, "Nashville."

On this year's "Red, White and Air Force Blue Christmas" radio special, Master Sgt. Harry Kibbe chats with cast members Charles "Chip" Esten, Clare Bowen, Jonathan Jackson and Aubrey Peeples. All four artists recorded tracks along with fellow cast members for the soon-to-be-released "Christmas With Nashville" album. They also discuss what it's like to live, work and perform in Nashville and how the TV show blends fiction with reality.

"For all of us, acting and music are both of our passions. They are just two things we really care about," Bowen said. "Yes, we play these characters that are musicians, but we were musicians before and we're all developing our own sound outside the show as well."

Esten added that line of reality and fiction has been completely blurred by the TV show.

"The great thing about the songs in the show is that they aren't like buttons on a shirt," he said. "They're part of the fabric. They're woven right into the very scene itself. It's not like you're doing a scene and now let's sing a song that has nothing to do with it. It's deeply a part of it."

Now in its 13th season, a "Red, White and Air Force Blue Christmas" was recorded in early October at Spotland Productions in Nashville and produced by Air Force Recruiting Service.

Big Machine Label Group worked with ABC to arrange the actors' appearance on the Air Force special. The record label is responsible for releasing sound tracks from the TV show including "Christmas With Nashville," the cast's first holiday album.  It was produced by Jay DeMarcus of the band Rascal Flatts.

"This year's show is unique because instead of one great artist, we feature four really talented entertainers," Kibbe said. "Their music is great and they were very open and fun in the interview. It's definitely one of the best times I've had in the studio."

According to Ken Raimondi, broadcast manager at AFRS, the Air Force has enjoyed a long relationship with the country music industry.

"The Air Force has produced music programs in Nashville with country artists for decades. The country community has continually welcomed us with open arms," he said. "They provide their time and talents to us at no charge. They see it as a service to the troops and we are very thankful for their continued participation with us."

Esten echoed those sentiments.

"Historically, country music is intertwined with our men and women who serve. They have a great relationship and the artists are so caring and so wonderful about the military, and rightfully so," he said.

The Air Force special will be sent to more than 3,000 country stations in the United States by mid-November. Also, the show will be distributed to the American Forces Network so troops in deployed locations will be able to listen to it. The one-hour public service program, designed to help ease the programming load for station program directors during the holidays, includes breaks for stations to sell commercial time.

Artists who've appeared on the holiday show include Blake Shelton, Lady Antebellum, Faith Hill, Darius Rucker, Reba McEntire and George Strait.

"If you'd like to hear the show on your local station, please call them and let them know. We'd love to expand our reach," Raimondi said. "We're also considering a podcast in the future that we hope will give our show a wider reach." 

As a service member who's been stationed overseas during the holidays, Kibbe said the Nashville cast's involvement in this year's "Red, White and Air Force Blue Christmas" does make a difference to the men and women in uniform serving around the world. He thanked the actors for taking time to be a part of the program.

"I'd like to turn that around and to anyone listening [military]," Esten added. "We're the ones to thank you, thank you for your service especially during the holidays. God bless you all."