Nashville's best guest star performances
Despite 85 episodes filled with perpetual drama, several Emmy and Golden Globe nominations, and a dedicated following of die-hard fans, ABC abruptly canceled Nashville on May 12 at the tail end of the show’s fourth season. The popular country music drama, created by Oscar-winner Callie Khouri (Thelma & Louise) and starring Connie Britton and Hayden Panettiere, is currently seeking a new distributor as a viewer-fueled petition aimed at saving the series continues to grow, garnering more than 100,000 signatures in just under two weeks.
Throughout its run, Nashville also featured a revolving door of high profile cameos by real music industry figures. From pop legends like Christina Aguilera and Elton John to country staples like Sara Evans and Brad Paisley, revisit some of the most memorable performances from Nashville‘s constellation of guest stars in the clips below.
Christina Aguilera – Season 3, Episodes 18-20
With roots in pop music, Aguilera brought her signature chart-topping pipes to the series’ third season as Jade St. John, a popular musician on tour in Nashville, for a small season 3 stretch. Jade gets the courage to sing at Luke’s (Will Chase) Bluebird Café with a rendition of one of his songs, “Shotgun,” and does it justice.
Elton John – Season 4, Episode 20
Autumn (Alicia Witt) is apparently well-connected, as her friendship with superstar Elton John leads to Gunnar (Sam Palladio) performing with him onstage at a Boston tour stop. While no footage of the performance, from the fourth season’s 20th episode, is currently available online, a few behind-the-scenes clips have been shared to social media, and Panettiere can be seen posing for a few photos as John warms up his vocals prior to shooting the scene.
Steven Tyler – Season 4, Episode 1
After judging American Idol for multiple seasons, the Aerosmith frontman returned to music-themed TV on the first episode of Nashville‘s fourth season, playing himself as he surprises Juliette (Panettiere) at one of her concerts. The pair launches into a cover of Patsy Cline’s “Crazy” as Rayna watches off-stage.
Florida Georgia Line – Season 3, Episode 1
Before Aguilera stepped into The Bluebird Café, Florida Georgia Line did it for a live, broadcasted gig. They took the stage with Charles Esten, who plays Deacon Claybourne, and kicked into their song “Dirt,” kicking off the series’ third season with a country-fied bang.
Brad Paisley – Season 1, Episode 21
Rayna Jaymes (Britton) closed season 1 right, bringing Paisley in to sing back-up and lend guitar work. There’s some hidden star-power to the joint “Bitter Memory”: Singer-songwriter Lucinda Williams wrote the tune, while Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys produced it.
Kellie Pickler – Season 2, Episode 21
The former American Idol contestant made a quick stop on Nashville‘s second season. Her performance takes place at Fort Campbell as a special show simulcast to military members around the world, as she croons through a rendition of “Closer to Nowhere” from her 2013 studio album The Woman I Am.
Kelsea Ballerini – Season 4, Episode 18
Shortly after scoring Best New Female Vocalist at the 51st ACM Awards, Ballerini brought her award-winning pipes to one of Nashville’s final episodes. The 22-year-old country singer’s performance of “Peter Pan,” from her debut album The First Time, provides a sonic backdrop to a tense conversation at a bar.
Sara Evans – Season 3, Episode 6
Luke wants to celebrate his CMA nominations the right way, so why not grab Evans, playing a fictionalized version of herself, to belt out her stirring “Put My Heart Down?” Evans also filmed a music video for the track, which appears on her 2014 studio album Slow Me Down.
Zac Brown Band – Season 2, Episode 12
Scarlett (Clare Bowen) joined the Zac Brown Band in a performance of their cut, “Free,” during season 2. As Bucky tells Rayna, it was really nice of the group to let her on stage to show her off to a new audience.
Kesha – Season 4, Episode 19
Though she doesn’t sing during her guest appearance on Nashville‘s fourth season, Kesha’s performance as a fictionalized version of herself greeting Juliette (Panettiere) on the red carpet, was a welcome return to the limelight for the pop star, who previously worked with ABC as a judge on the first season of the network’s Rising Star competition series alongside fellow Nashville guest-starrer, Brad Paisley.
The series finale of Nashville airs Wednesday, May 25 at 10 p.m. ET on ABC.