BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. – To keep peace around the house, acclaimed musician T-Bone Burnett agreed to work on Nashville.
Since Burnett’s wife, Academy Award-winning writer Callie Khouri (Thelma & Louise), developed Nashville, she wanted him on board. He had success with various soundtracks – such as that for O Brother, Where Art Thou? – and his touch was something Khouri needed for her own show.
Burnett laughs when he says he wasn’t sure he wanted to do this at first. But he gets serious when he talks about how he’s actually learning about storytelling from the experience on the show about two country-music divas squaring off in Nashville.
He’s also learned a few thing about his wife’s artistic side.
Working this close to her, during her writing process, I have learned a lot about drama, Burnett said recently.
Seeing the characters grow, having the plot, watching them expand, I see a lot about development. I’m learning a lot of helpful things about characters from this.
Forty years of creating characters through his music and working alongside talents such as Bob Dylan along the way (and winning his own Oscar in the Best Original Song race for The Weary Kind from Crazy Heart), Burnett has worked with Hollywood’s top shelf.
He guided Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon for their singing roles as Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash in the film Walk the Line, and he’s been impressed by the level of talent he’s encountered on Nashville (10 p.m. Wednesdays, ABC).
Though less dramatic than what’s seen on screen, other issues about working in Nashville occupy Burnett. He’s caught up in how social media profits from singer-songwriters and gives very little back.
He’s particularly annoyed with Google.
Ten percent of their searches a year are music-driven, Burnett says. They share none of that money with the people that draw 10 percent of their traffic. That’s going to have to change. It’s all going to have to change. It has to change for all our benefits, too.
On the other end of things, Burnett says he doesn’t watch television much, though now he’s working regularly in it.
I don’t have time for television, he said, especially if it is (standalone) episodes. I like long-form storytelling, where I can sit down and watch it all at one time.