Clare Bowen has had a busy year; she’s just finished a UK tour with some of her Nashville co-stars, she got engaged to musician Brandon Robert Young, she found out the TV show she worked on was cancelled (and then saved!), cut her hair mega short (for a good reason) and she’s experienced heartache in her personal life after her brother was diagnosed with cancer.
We chatted to Clare after her London gig and talked Nashville, songwriting, wedding dresses and her dream country star cameo.
When Nashville was cancelled by ABC, how did you find out?
It was interesting, we were actually in a studio and Brandon [Clare’s fiancé] was putting in a vocal while my phone started blowing up. I just scrolled down to Twitter and that’s how I found out. Then he came out of the studio and was like ‘How you doing baby?’ and I just said ‘the show got cancelled’. We actually found out via social media and that was my birthday so that was pretty funny. Everyone was like ‘oh that’s horrible’ but you can’t take those things personally. I mean ABC gave us four years of a show that, without the Opry we would not be here and It would not be what it was. It’s all completely original music written into storylines and not just spontaneously bursting into song like musical theatre and Glee. It’s all about the music industry and the life that goes on backstage.
Were you happy when the show got picked up by another network?
I had a gut feeling about it… I was like ‘I don’t know how we’re coming back but I know we’re coming back’. The show has such a following that I suspect there will be a Nashville riot.
Do you think all of the cast members will return to the show?
I don’t know, someone put me on the spot the other day and asked if I was coming back and I said ‘well if the integrity of Nashville as a city has been preserved with the upmost care then I’m in’ and thankfully we have people like Steve Buchanan of the Opry and Buddy Miller… We have all these wonderful people who we couldn’t do without. I think everyone will be in with a pleasant surprise. It’ll be a whole new writing team.
What would you like to see happen to your character?
“She’s gone from this little quiet introverted creature – she’s still introverted – she’s learnt to cope better though. There are little 12-year-old girls who run up to me in the mall and say ‘we love Scarlet!’ … she’s the character I’ve played who is the closest to me and I’ve played characters who have killed everyone off… but we look pretty much the same. One of her growing points is that she doesn’t let men treat her as doormat anymore. It’s nice to be able to look those little 12-year-old girls in the eye and say, ‘don’t settle for less’.
When you’re on stage, are you Scarlet or Clare?
When I walk on stage I’m always Clare. I was lucky enough to get to write Scarlet’s back story in the beginning. For the tour I got to collaborate with a Nashville based bridal designer called Olia Zavozina. She and I together designed my entire line. I used to work in the wedding industry, I designed dresses for a living… I’ve had every funny job under the sun, from puppeteering to mustering cattle!
So will you design your own wedding dress when you marry Brandon?
“Yes, definitely and Olia will make it with me”
Your little brother, who lives back home in Australia, has been diagnosed with stage four lymphoma, does music help you get through the tough times dealing with that?
I feel like music is really the universal language, even if you don’t understand the words to something there are melodies that make you feel a certain way. I have always been an advocate for kindness…. It’s interesting today with social media, people will say things and there’s no accountability. So it’s nice with music to say something as an actual human being… just being able to be out there and be real with people and tell stories that are real. Probably the most important thing is to be able to make people feel welcome and let them know that they’re not alone.
You made headlines last year when you cut your long hair to show a poorly little girl that she could still be a princess with short hair. Did the public support blow you away?
It was not a decision that I made lightly. It took a year for the network to say yes, because they had to write it in. But the support of my family and Brandon and my team in Nashville who said go ahead and do it was amazing. I’d wanted to do it for a while. The thing that was the inspiration in the end was this video of a little girl who’s Dad called her a princess and she said ‘No Daddy, I’m not a princess, I’m not pretty and I don’t have long hair.’ I thought this kid is like four years old, where the hell did she get this from? How does a four-year-old child decide that she’s not enough. So I thought if any time is good it’s now.
So I had two of my best friends hack it off with a pair of childrens scissors and my friend Luke O’Connor in LA did the rest of the cut for me. It was lovely, I was overwhelmed by the response. But the best part was on social media, for a while I didn’t know what to say… the best thing for me was that they were directing love and gratitude… sharing photos of their own struggles. Then the kindness of the fans who had also been through this kind of stuff. All these people bonded together and showed compassion to each other. That was the best part for me.
Lastly, is there anyone you would love to perform with on Nashville?
Dolly Parton! She’s so lovely, I met her recently and I was just really inspired by the way she treats people. When she does her meet and greets she makes you feel like you are the only person that she wants to be talking to in the whole world. She’s just so full of love. You can’t really pick on Dolly!