The man from "Nashville" is trying to pump up the Nashville Predators during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Charles Esten, an actor/singer who plays Deacon Claybourne on the CMT drama "Nashville," teamed up with "Small Time Rock Stars," the in-house band at Predators games at Bridgestone Arena, to create a Predators-themed hard rock song called "Here Come the Predators," that was unveiled Wednesday.
"[The song] is a tribute to 'Smashville' -- to that insanity," Esten told NHL.com, referencing the team-titled fanfare that surrounds Bridgestone Arena during the Stanley Cup Playoffs. "It was the experience of that great time. That's where it came from."
The Predators have embraced the song, and it was performed during Game 4 of their Western Conference Final series against the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday. They intend to keep it in their music rotation for the rest of the postseason.
Esten, who was born in Pittsburgh and grew up in suburban Washington, D.C., was not a hockey fan until he met the band while recording the first season of "Nashville" in 2012. The band, who tours under the name "Sixwire," backed up Esten's character on "Nashville" during a scene at Grand Ole Opry. Steve Mandile, the band's front man, invited Esten to sing with them at some Predators games that year, which is how Esten became hooked on hockey.
"It wasn't until I went to a game that I suddenly got it, the sort of hockey epiphany," Esten said. "I was there because they were my friends and they offered me to go along and play, and I did that a couple of times but very quickly I was into it as much as anybody else."
Esten didn't introduce "Here Come the Predators" to Mandile until they were on tour together in January of 2016. When the Predators clinched a playoff berth this season, they went and recorded it.
The Predators and the city's music scene have come together this spring, with high-profile local acts such as Carrie Underwood, Luke Bryan and Keith Urban performing the "Star Spangled Banner" before playoff games. "Here Comes the Predators" will serve as a keepsake for the Predators' most successful season since they entered the NHL as an expansion team in 1998-99.
"We didn't want to overstep. We just kind of did it," Mandile said. "We had [Esten] sing it, and mashed it out and sent it to the people over at the [Predators]. ... I didn't want to make it awkward or anything, so I said 'we wrote this song, don't feel obligated to use it or anything, but this is kind of a present to the Predators.'"
Esten will host the CMT Music Awards in Nashville on June 7, an event that was supposed to be at Bridgestone Arena but has been moved to the nearby Music City Center to accommodate a potential Predators Stanley Cup Final game. From there, he will embark on an eight-show promotional tour of "Nashville" in Great Britain that starts June 9 and could interfere with his ability to watch the Predators.
"That's going to be brutal, but we'll find a way to do it," Esten said. "I would love to have that problem, trying to watch the Predators from England."