When the fate of the television show Nashville was being decided, Clare Bowen had other events on her mind, like playing a sold out tour in her home country of Australia.
“We didn’t know what the Australian market was like over there we said so let’s just put out like three shows and we’ll see what happens,” Bowen shares with Sounds Like Nashville. “They sold out very quickly which was a bit of a shock. So we put some more shows on.”
The initial reason for the trip isn’t as good news as a sold out tour, though. Bowen took the trip in the first place to visit her brother, Timothy, who was recently diagnosed with cancer.
“My brother was diagnosed with cancer around Christmas time. So the initial reason for going back was to give him as much of my bone marrow as I could,” she continues. And not too long after, Timothy was getting better. So much better, he even jumped on stage with his sister. “Timothy was actually well enough to open for us and he did so great.”
While on her sold out trek, the 32-year-old singer/actress took a trip down memory lane. She stopped at an old bar where she served drinks, waiting for her big break. But this time around, she was on the other side of that bar top.
“I actually got to play in one of the places where I used to work behind the bar,” the singer and actress admits. “I have the deepest and utmost respect for everybody in hospitality and service jobs. While I was playing, I was like ‘I cleaned up wet feathers right there after the Bacardi festival. It was really wonderful.”
Bowen is currently in the studio working on her upcoming debut album. During a stream of the online-series Skyville Live, she shared one of the songs that will be featured on the project, titled “I’m Still Here.” The humbling track was written about her ill brother and is an anthem of hope for those who need it most.
They’re Back! Skyville Hosts the Stars of Nashville
We’re livestreaming the concert tonight at 8/7C.
Rated Red’s Paxton Elrod sits down with the stars of Nashville—including Charles Esten, Clare Bowen and Chris Carmack—to talk about tonight’s special reunion at Skyville Live. “The Magic of Music City” should tide you over until the hit show’s fifth season debuts on CMT.
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!
It is odd, but not so surprising these days, that Australian actor Clare Bowen convincingly plays, in the TV series Nashville, a one-time-waif from Natchez, Mississippi, who becomes a highly successful country singer and songwriter. Hell, if you don’t find an Australian convincingly playing a regional American character on a modern TV show – hello Ryan Kwanten in True Blood – you start to question their casting choices.
It’s odder, if you grew up with shows and movies full of miming “musicians”, that when playing Natchez girl Scarlett O’Connor, Bowen, like the rest of the cast, is actually singing and playing the songs. Though as Bowen says, “I don’t know any different. I came from classical and musical theatre and if you can’t sing, you don’t get the job.”
It may be more mind-turning for some traditionalists that having been an actor who sings (having trained in opera initially then later film and TV), Bowen, who turns 32 this month, is now touring and playing the songs her character sings – usually with her on-screen musician boyfriend – along with a few more originals co-written with her real-life musician boyfriend, Brandon Young.
But what must really be weird if you think it all fantasy, is how much the Natchez girl has in common with the actor who is often referred to as coming from Wollongong but really grew up all over the place, and in no place.
Let’s start with what Bowen calls Scarlett’s “self-esteem issues and being frightened of people”. This was someone who – “from the backwoods of Mississippi, content to be a housewife” – had no belief in her abilities. Across the Pacific, Bowen remembers that she “got told for a long time that I couldn’t sing anyway. So when I got this job it was even more of a surprise”.
Was she told when she was training in opera that she may not have a long-term future with her voice?
“No, it wasn’t as constructive as that,” she laughs. “I think being young and being in a big group of people who were all really … [she pauses] … people get told that if you destroy your opponent then you’ll be just fine and it’s completely wrong.
“So being picked up for a show like this was like an awakening. I had been conditioned so much to think that I wasn’t very good that it was still a shock, even after playing Wendla [in the original Australian production of the musical Spring Awakening for the Sydney Theatre Company].”
Then there’s the way cancer stalks her character: not directly as it did Bowen when she was four years old and diagnosed with end-stage nephroblastoma affecting her kidneys, but via Scarlett’s uncle and tangentially her mother, while she dates an oncologist.
As well as her own long and tough treatment and recovery before she’d even turned 8, Bowen’s younger brother Timothy, a promising singer and songwriter whose girlfriend is studying medicine, is also in remission from a more recent cancer.
“I don’t know why this is happening to my family twice but I do know that he will come out of it on the other side the person that he is meant to be. Because that’s what it did to me,” says Bowen, who adds that Chip Esten, who plays Scarlett’s uncle, is recording one of Timothy’s co-written songs, From Here On Out, which appears in a pivotal moment of the fourth season.
Art imitates life imitates art imitates …
“I’ve been into the writers’ room a couple of times, they’ve been really collaborative with me,” says Bowen. “At the beginning I was asked to write a back story, so I did that, and the writers took it, put their own mark on it, but stayed really true to what I had written.”
A lot of it was Bowen discovering herself inadvertently.
“Scarlett was this very introverted person [and] I didn’t know I was one when I came to Nashville. People thought I was a bit strange because I was quiet: I felt good on stage and I felt good around animals but around people I always feel a little bit awkward.
“So without knowing, I was writing this character who was very much related to myself, except her struggle came from a really rough childhood with a mother who didn’t know how to treat her with love; mine was that I wasn’t raised around too many people my own age [because of the hospitalisations and recovery]. There were parts that were really scary and sad but it made me who I am.” – Source
Clare did the press circuit last week in Australia while promoting her tour and videos have been scattered and surfacing. A lot are difficult to watch because they are region based meaning unless you live in that country you are unable to see them. I posted one video like this last week and have come across another and thought I would share! Check out new Australian interviews of our favorite Pixie!
• 2016: 05/27 Ten Eye Witness News Interview – Sydney, Australia | Watch Video (same as above)
• 2016: 05/27 Breakfast Show Interview – Sydney, Australia | Watch Video
• 2016: 05/27 Mamma Mia Podcast Interview – Sydney, Australia | Watch Video | Listen to Podcast
Clare was on a morning show in Sydney Australia today called The Morning Show. I’ve added a video and screencaps from her interview and live performance. Enjoy!
• 2016: 05/27 The Morning Show Interview – Sydney, Australia
Cosmo spoke to Clare Bowen, aka Scarlett, on the eve of her Australian tour – and BIG NEWS Nashville fans – there could be a fifth season yet!
When we got news last week that the show had been cancelled after four seasons we were all the sad emojis. Cosmo was in mourning.
Until the lovely Clare Bowen gave us hope, y’all (except she doesn’t talk like that because she’s actually Australian – born and bred).
“It was a really big shock,” she tells us. “But you can’t take these things personally and I do know for a fact that Lions Gate [the show’s producer] is working their hind ends off to find us a new network home. They are doing everything in their power to find us a place, the show is so fantastic and it has such a wonderful, wide audience and appreciation that I have great faith. I have to have great faith.”
Especially since her on-screen persona Scarlett has grown into a pretty kick-arse, country-singing character. “It’s been so good seeing her stand-up for herself and I want her to keep doing that,” says Clare. “You’ve seen her go from this really timid person with no self-esteem to speak of, she really had a very low opinion of herself…into a girl who ditches the boyfriend who is so jealous he can’t think straight and she’s come such a long way. The greatest thing is she’s grown this self-respect and she doesn’t let herself get treated like dirt, she’s not a doormat. It’s wonderful to play a character who has stood in her own boots and fought for her own well-being when others have tried to take it from her.” PREACH!
“It’s not over, Scarlett is always going to be within me, she has always been a piece of my heart.”
Pass the tissues, please. #BringbackNashville.
Bowen has lived the life of the struggling actress.
From her days studying at the University of Wollongong and living in Minnamurra to working four service night jobs, she remembers the days of when she would decide whether to buy ‘a new book on acting or dinner’. Wind forward to 2016 and the 32 year-old is preparing to perform a sold-out Australian tour on the back of her role as Scarlett O’Connor in the hit television show Nashville.
After that, she’ll play a sold-out tour through the UK. “Home for me has never been a place, it’s the people, but this and Nashville are my homes,” she said.
“I met the man I’m going to marry in Nashville and my family is here, and it’s nice we’re all here together at the moment.” The girl who once sat up the back of lecture theatres and eventually lost her passion for singing has found self-discovery and success in equal parts.
The dream, breakout role
Nashville is an American musical drama series that premiered in 2012 and ran for four seasons. Last week, American television network ABC announced it would stop producing the series. However the four-year ride has given Bowen an international profile, priceless publicity, a reinvigorated music career and a fiance.
“I fell in love with [the character] Scarlett O’Connor — she wrote things down and never showed anybody and that’s what I’ve been doing since I was nine years old,” she said. “I’m buggered if I know why they cast me, and at the audition I thought there’s no way I’m going to get this, so the most I can hope for is going in and having fun and give it my all.” She went in and sang an Australian folk song she cannot remember the name of, but it worked.
She was called the following day and offered the role. “It was nuts — they told me I was moving to Nashville and I didn’t know where it was. “I knew it was a wonderful place but I didn’t know where it was.” The show has since been screened in over 70 countries.
Making a home in Nashville
Bowen met her partner Brandon Robert Young while performing to 17,000 people at a concert. “We were like ‘hi, this is really intimate’, and then I fell in love with him writing a song,” she said. The pair are now engaged, Bowen sold a small farm she had bought in Nashville and they have bought a house together in the world’s country music capital. It is all part of everything falling into place for the girl from the New South Wales South Coast who said she had an unconventional upbringing either in hospitals [she had a form of liver cancer as a child] or national parks.
“Now I realise that everything I ever wanted to do revolved around making people’s lives better,” she said. “It’s about love and kindness and making the most of it while you’re still here, because from a young age, I knew that could be taken away pretty quickly.”
Clare Bowen spoke to ABC Illawarra Mornings presenter Nick Rheinberger.
The stars of ABC’s “Nashville” were in Detroit on Sunday, May 1 for “Nashville in Concert” at The Fox Theatre. Clare Bowen, who plays Scarlett O’Connor, talked with Stephen Clark about how she is both the actor and the singer, and how Scarlett is apart of her.
Before she became Scarlett O’Connor in TV show Nashville, Aussie actress Clare Bowen had a decidely unglamorous job.
While working in Sydney’s Metro Theatre, Bowen, who now stars in the hit TV show, came close to giving up on her acting and singing dreams completely. “I’d been working four service jobs and auditioning during the day and I was so tired and worn down, and just heartbroken at everything,” she told AAP.
Bowen contemplated packing it all in to go work with horses in the countryside, but her brother, Tim, wasn’t so supportive of her plan to give up. Realising his sister was losing sight of her goals, he took action. On the back of a sandwich wrapper, he wrote a list of all the things she had hoped to achieve. Bowen framed the list and was pleasantly surprised when she looked at it recently.
“I have ticked off everything on that list except for writing a childrens’ book, so I’m eternally grateful to him for kicking my arse back into gear and making me believe in myself, and that’s how I got to Nashville,” she said.
Into the fourth season of the hit TV show, Bowen enjoys success as both an actress and a singer in the series. She’s just wrapped a north American tour with the show’s cast and will be coming back home to Australia for her first ever headline tour later this month.
The homecoming seems particularly poignant as Tim, who has written music used in the show, was diagnosed with stage four lymphoma. Bowen remains positive and has offered her help in an incredibly self-sacrificing way. “He’s on his last round of chemo and I’m going back there soon so they can run all my bloods to make sure that I’m a good match for stem cells and whatever they need,” she said. “I said I’d give him whatever they need if I can. I can’t wait to get back there and help him heal.”
The actress admits it can be hard being so far from home during a time like this but she’s been fully integrated into the Nashville community, that’s thriving thanks to the show’s popularity. Tourism has never been higher in the Tennessee capital. The shy actress has embraced it, moving from her farm on the outskirts of town to a recently purchased loft apartment in the heart of the city with her musician fiance, Brandon Robert Young.
“It’s really nice to be a part of something that has done a lot of good. Nashvillians are constantly telling us that the show has done a really good thing for the city so that’s the most important part, I couldn’t be a part of something that isn’t positive in that way,” she said. There’s a sense that for Bowen, being settled somewhere is particularly important.
At four-years-old, she was diagnosed with a rare kidney cancer, end stage nephroblastoma, and had to undergo experimental treatment as her only hope of survival.
“I did some of my growing up in the city but it was highly unconventional mostly being in hospital,” she said. It was her own childhood experiences that prompted her to cut off her beautiful long blonde locks last year, surprising her fans when she revealed her new pixie haircut.
The move was Bowen’s attempt to shift the emphasis away from outer beauty and towards inner strength, something this actress has in spades. “You can be pretty, you can be Aphrodite, but if you’re mean on the inside then it doesn’t count for anything,” she said.
Clare Bowen Austrlaian tour dates:
May 24 – Corner Hotel, Melbourne
May 25 – Corner Hotel, Melbourne SOLD OUT
May 26 – May Oxford Art Factory, Sydney SOLD OUT
May 27 – Anita’s Theatre, Thirroul SOLD OUT
May 28 – Metro Theatre, Sydney
May 30 – The Triffid, Brisbane SOLD OUT
May 31 – The Triffid, Brisbane