When Chris Carmack sings, “There’s nothing free about being alone,” on the world-weary opener of his new EP Pieces Of You, it’s with conviction. At 34, Carmack, who also stars in ABC’s Nashville, isn’t exactly a greenhorn, and his age helps with his music. Over five songs, he unfurls powerful explorations of heartache and loneliness that his voice has lived long enough to sing.
The delicate remorse on “Being Alone,” with the particularly wrenching line, “I don’t trust myself with life’s beautiful things / My stone hands and heart can break whatever it brings,” come from someone who has endured wrecking another heart. And while inspired by a friend’s break-up rather than his own, the title track, where Carmack sings of being haunted by the ghost of the woman who left him, breaks wide open with self-aware vulnerability as he howls, “I’ll be here if you call.”
Now, EW is thrilled to premiere the set in full before its release this Friday, Dec. 11.
Carmack earned his place in the history book of great TV lines with, “Welcome to the O.C., bitch!” back in 2003 as Luke on The O.C. and now spends primetime each week in a proper Stetson as country singer Will Lexington on Nashville. He first got into songwriting between modeling and acting gigs while living in Los Angeles. “I didn’t know anyone…and I did not find myself very apt at making friends,” he says with a laugh.
But he wasn’t trying to make it in music. “I was always doing it for myself, keeping it hidden,” he says of evenings spent with his six-string. “It was what kept me sane between acting gigs.” That all changed when he moved to Music City for his role on Nashville in 2012. “I found myself spending a lot of time in recording studios with the voice of Will Lexington and the music of Will Lexington and performing live a lot,” he says of his change of mind. “I was playing my music at these shows and decided I needed to put it out there, so fans coming to the show would have the opportunity to hear it outside the live performance.”
And what a treat it is to hear. Carmack might be convincing as a pop-country star on TV, but it’s not what pours out of him. Nope, Carmack picks blues music in the vein of Continuum-John Mayer with screaming electric guitar riffs and jazz melodies.
Pieces Of You is streaming below.