It's a time-tested story: A young person heads for America's country music capital to stake his or her claim to fame.
Now it gets unscripted-series treatment as FOX debuts "Nashville" Friday, Sept. 14. From the makers of "Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County," the show follows nine people on their personal and professional quests, each colored by the given individual's experiences and hopes.
Rachel Bradshaw, daughter of football legend and sportscaster Terry Bradshaw, wants to establish herself as a singer without invoking her father's name. Chuck Wicks already has had a taste of success, thanks to the imminent release of his first RCA album under the guidance of manager Monty Powell. Mika Combs, Jeff Allen, Lindsey Hager and Matt Jenkins are among the other hopefuls in "Nashville."
If the show sounds a bit like director Peter Bogdanovich's 1993 film "The Thing Called Love," with Sandra Bullock as a would-be Nashville star, this is no movie to the series' subjects.
"By and large, you just don't move to Nashville and get everything handed to you," says Jamey Johnson, a songwriter who has composed for George Strait and Trace Adkins. "I think the movie kind of depicted that, but it didn't really show how long it takes. I know guys who have been in town for seven or eight years and are just now getting their first song cut."
And therein lies the sort of drama that appeals to executive producers Gary and Julie Auerbach, the husband-and-wife "Laguna Beach" veterans who wanted a much different setting for their next project.
"The South and Middle America are really underrepresented in TV shows," Gary Auerbach says. "We specifically wanted to go to a town that had these great stories but also represented other people besides New York and L.A. and Miami."
Auerbach adds that for "Nashville" to work as he conceived it, his new cast members had to have connections to one another.
"That's when you get the best conversations, the best drama, because it's real," he explains. "Also, working in the scripted world, I can never get an actor to do it that good, because [these are] real people living their real lives. They take it much more personally and emotionally than you could ever get an actor to."
Bradshaw agrees. "You think Nashville and you think, 'Oh, country music,' but nobody really sees what Nashville is. We're giving the world an opportunity to see our lives and how hard it is to get into this business, but also how great Nashville is. I knew I wanted to move to Nashville, and my dad said, 'It doesn't matter. You have to go to school.'"
The solution was Bradshaw's enrollment in the city's Belmont University, where friend and fellow "Nashville" regular Sarah Gunsolus also is a student and aspiring singer.
"My parents weren't exactly happy with me just moving to Nashville and saying, 'I'm going to start singing in bars,' " Gunsolus says. "I wanted to get a degree while pursuing that, and Nashville is the perfect town for that. Belmont offers such a great music-business program, it was a perfect fit for me."
Though most are musically inclined, not everyone in "Nashville" is. The prime example is Clint Moseley, a young executive in his father's jet sales business.
"After meeting Julie and Gary and seeing their personalities and their passion and what they were trying to get across, it made me all the more comfortable," Moseley says. "We didn't have to change anything. These are our lives, and we're just inviting them to share our journeys, our dreams, our ups and downs."
Still, others have different agendas, including Powell.
"Being Chuck's manager, it's my job to make sure that I keep a level in between him and anything that we don't want to get out," he says. "We have a saying in Nashville: 'The bus is always coming.' There's always talent showing up in Nashville, people pursuing their dreams, and I've seen a lot of buses show up.
"I was very involved early on in the careers of a lot of very big artists: Keith Urban, Diamond Rio, Rascal Flatts. I'm looking for something very unique, and the percentage of people who show up with the qualities that can really make it is so minute, it's unbelievable. We're constantly looking at hundreds and hundreds of wannabes, and every now and then, a really special one shows up, and you know that is the person or group you need to concentrate on."
One of those deemed worthy by Powell was Wicks, who considers "Nashville" not just a potential boon for his own nascent career but for his chosen industry as a whole.
"A lot of people don't know how country music starts just by hearing it on the radio," Wicks reasons. "Some of the biggest acts, like Carrie Underwood, busted out really big because of TV. I think this is a great opportunity for all of us."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times