On "Nashville," he plays musician Deacon Claybourne. For a guy who was in a band in college, mixing acting with singing strikes just the right chord.
"That's the amazing thing about this, is it was always a dream and at a certain point, you think, 'Well, that dream's passed. That's not going to ever happen. I'm not going to be on the iTunes chart any time soon,'" Esten said.
But now Esten is on iTunes with several singles. Plus, there's a "Nashville" soundtrack with the whole cast coming out next week. He also just made his debut at the Grand Ole Opry.
"I feel as though I have snuck in some side door into Nashville," Esten said. "This is how I got to sing these amazing songs by the best songwriters Nashville has to offer, played with the best musicians that Nashville has to offer, on stage at the Ryman Auditorium or the Grand Ole Opry. That doesn't happen without this."
Coincidentally, Esten started writing country songs about five years ago with a friend who lives in Nashville. Now there's talk one of his own songs might make it onto the show - something far beyond what he ever imagined.
In one scene earlier this season, the character played by Hayden Panetierre gifted him with an expensive guitar. It was a kids' glove moment.
"Believe me, if you watch that scene again, I knew that was a $50,000 guitar and she hops off the truck to go swimming, taking her shirt off, and most guys would go, 'Here I come,' but I'm putting that guitar gently into that case," Esten said.