March 08, 2018 at 09:00 AM EST

If you’ve been looking to fill the Hills-sized hole left in your TV viewing schedule since the MTV series ended in 2010, creator Adam DiVello is hoping he’s found your replacement.

Set in Nashville, Music City follows a group of friends in their late 20s pursuing their dreams and navigating relationships. In the first episode, we meet Rachyl, the show’s narrator (read: this version’s more mature Lauren Conrad), who put her career and passions aside to support husband Kerry and his burgeoning country music career. The cast is rounded out with Jessica, a singer who’s been saving herself for “the one” and begins dating spin instructor Jackson, as well as soulful singer Alisa, an L.A. native also pursuing music and love in the Southern city.

“They’re all trying to get that goal of eventually reaching stardom, and I think it’s a great town; it’s a great place to start,” DiVello tells EW.

Read on for about Music City.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Where did the idea for Music City come from?
ADAM DIVELLO:
My idea with this always started with the scripted show Nashville. And I was such a huge fan of that show when it was on ABC. And then it went over to CMT. I was trying to put together a reality version of Nashville back when it was on ABC. I had an overall deal with Lionsgate… They produced Nashville, and I said, “Please, let me go do a reality version of this.” I love doing these in aspirational cities and aspirational locations like The Hills in L.A. and Laguna Beach and The City in New York City. Music City, Nashville, was just the next perfect city, I think, to do it in.

How did you go about casting?
There are a million ways that we could have approached this. We could have approached all recording artists that are already signed and already have deals, that are living in mansions, and showing what it was like to be rich and living here. But I think, for me, the interesting part of Nashville, the scripted series, was that they had the upstairs-downstairs with the Rayna Jaymes and [then] the younger cast that was struggling and living in bungalows in a bad part of town. And that’s the part I wanted to focus on. But who knows? Maybe we’ll wind up getting a Rayna Jaymes-type on our show. Kelly Clarkson lives there now, so…

Who did you cast first?
Kerry Degman was the first person we found. We started doing a ton of research and we had come across this photo. He was in an ad for the Thompson Hotel. And I remembered him from when he was a model in New York because I had done another project for Bravo about modeling in New York. So we started with him. And then we brought his wife in… and they brought their little boy Wolfgang. And we just fell in love with the whole family. We thought they were incredible.

Did you know you’d want Rachyl to be the main focus right away?
We asked Rachyl to come back later by herself because we couldn’t get everything we needed out of the two of them with them both together. And she just sat down, and she goes, “I’m going to be quite honest with you, I have absolutely no filter. I just say everything I’m feeling.” And I think at that moment, we’re all just like, “This is going to be perfect.” So she just told us all about their life and how she really didn’t want to move [to Nashville] and she followed [Kerry] and all the struggling she was going through. And it’s kind of like when we found Lauren and Steven and Kristen [on Laguna Beach]. It’s like lightning in a bottle when you find that and you have that as the basis of your story. And then from there we just asked them who their friends are and who they hang out with and who else is in their circle. Everybody else just fell into place from there.

The voiceover gives it Laguna vibes.
We went back and forth with it a lot. We talked about not having any voiceover at the top. We talked about having some third person that you didn’t know who it was. We talked about having someone maybe famous, like a Taylor Swift. Or somebody [with] a very Gossip Girl kind of vibe. But, I think at the end of the day, out of the entire cast, Rachyl’s the only one who’s not a musician. She’s the only one not there chasing a dream. Her dream was to go law school and to finish and to be a lawyer. So we felt like if you’re entering into this world, why not enter into it with Rachyl, who’s kind of there along with us?

What can you tell us about the rest of the cast?
Some of the cast is transplants from other places, and then we found Jackson who we’re all such huge fans of. And his cousin Alexandra is amazing. Jackson and Alexandra are from Nashville and… they just live in a more established part. We didn’t know Alexandra at all until Jackson told us about his cousin and he said, “She’s running for Miss Tennessee,” which we’re all like, “All right, this is too good to be true.” So we go to the pageant and we follow along with Alexandra all the way, and it’s a very, very surprising ending.

Give us a tease for the rest of the season.
Their stakes are really high and, and the decisions that they make affect everything. Rachyl’s going to be with a decision on whether she wants to stay there or whether she wants to go off to law school because Kerry does travel more and more for music. And you meet some new characters along the way… and you’re going to see some budding relationships within the cast that nobody, I think, expected. It’s an exciting roller coaster. We did eight half-hours and I’m so proud of all of them. I think they’re just so much fun and I hope the audience thinks so as well.

Music City airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. on CMT. Watch a sneak peek of the next episode up top.

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