The last few episodes of Nashville have revolved around a Rolling Stone feature profiling Rayna Jaymes. The story must have been pretty intense, as it incited Deacon and caused Rayna to reevaluate her life decisions. Since Nashville fans must be dying to know what exactly it contained, here are imagined excerpts from this controversial Rolling Stone piece.
“Excuse us,” Rayna Jaymes says, steering a distraught Juliette Barnes into a soundproof office with the composure of a paramedic. “I’ll be right back,” she shouts over her shoulder. “Don’t go anywhere.” And right before closing the door she flashes her arena smile.
The loft space that houses Jaymes’ new label, Highway 65, is so new, most of the desk chairs haven’t been unpacked, but her artists already know to find her there during her 48-hours back in Nashville, on break from doing publicity for her latest single. And this is the distraction that has gotten Barnes so furious. Jaymes has apparently not gotten around to listening to her artist's new songs and Barnes is demanding to know why.
To say that nine-time Grammy Award-winner and six-time CMA Award-winner Jaymes spreads herself thin is an understatement. She is liquid. In addition to her new label and new single, she is planning a 500-person wedding to fellow country star Luke Wheeler. (Producer Liam McGuinnis describes her as, “not only dancing backwards in heels, but also spinning plates while riding a unicycle, while staying totally focused on the person in front of her.”)
Minutes after a calmer Barnes leaves, Jaymes gets a call from her daughter Daphne, asking to go to a friend’s house. “No, not even for an hour,” Jaymes says. “I’ll be home at two today.” Jaymes’ phone vibrates again with a call from her manager, Bucky Dawes. Then Wheeler, the wedding planner, and Dawes again. “I don’t even put my phone in my pocket anymore. Its attached to my hand.” It balances out the weight on her other hand — an engagement ring the size of an ice cube. “But I shift gears based on who I’m with: mom, artist, CEO.”
Despite, or maybe because of, that gear shifting, Jaymes maintains her beauty pageant grin. Highway 65 is her dream. “The longer I’m in this business, the more I want to call my own shots,” she says. “It can be stressful, but the freedom is worth it.” She has to yell that last part over the drilling in her office.
Her phone vibrates again. “Excuse me,” she says, smiling.
“Ruke” (how fans refer to Jaymes and Wheeler) is an obvious merger. From the framed platinum albums that hang harmoniously in their home to their shared fanbase, venues, and award nominations, Jaymes and Wheeler have found themselves thrown together for years. Even their kids — all accustomed to private schools, private jets and private chefs — merge easily.
“Our timing was never right,” Luke says, “But even a blind hog finds an acorn now and then.”
Part of that poor timing was Jaymes’ on-again, off-again relationship with Deacon Claybourne, who is currently playing backup on Wheeler’s tour. Claybourne is a recovering alcoholic who fell off the wagon two years ago after 12 years of sobriety. The incident was prompted by his discovery that Jaymes’ 15-year old daughter Maddie was also his biological daughter (ex-husband Mayor Teddy Conrad is father to Jaymes’ other daughter, eight-year old Daphne). He learned the news the week of their famous car accident, which landed Claybourne in jail and Jaymes in a two-week coma.
“Deacon was the most self-destructive person I’d ever met,” says Jaymes. "I begged him to be careful. I lost my mother, I know that people aren’t invincible, but I couldn’t watch him every minute and it got to be that whenever I left him alone, I’d come back to his breath smelling like booze. And those were the times he wasn’t lying facedown on the floor holding an empty bottle.”
Jaymes says that when she met Claybourne, she was certain he was her soulmate. “Lots of people are talented but Deacon is music. There’s no separation. And that’s probably what gets him into trouble. He can’t switch back and forth like me. He’s all in. That’s why his fans love him so much. That’s why I loved him so much. I love him because I love music.” When Jaymes talks about Claybourne there is no megasmile on her face or cellphone in her hand.
There is a rumor that Deacon falls asleep holding his guitar, which Jaymes confirms. “When I was living with him, music was the last sound I heard when I fell asleep at night and the first sound I heard in the morning. That’s how I grew up with my mama, so it was all very familiar to me.” She sighs, “But it’s a mistake to assume that someone that can write tender songs will be tender to you.”
She recounts the incident that ended their relationship 15 years ago when he proposed to her but was too drunk to remember it in the morning. “I didn’t even realize he had been drinking when I said yes, because I was just seeing what I wanted to see.” But she doesn’t harbor any anger towards him, admitting her role in the relationship. “I didn’t have to choose the guy with the drinking problem who landed me in a coma. That part was my choice. And however late in life, I finally learned to make responsible choices.”
Despite their tumultuous past, Jaymes continues to write with Claybourne. Their recent collaboration, “This Time,” was, not surprisingly, an instant hit. “There’s an advantage to knowing someone when you’re young,” Jaymes says. “We had no other obligations besides writing songs. I’ll probably never have as much free time again as I did then.”
And although Maddie is Deacon’s daughter, Jaymes says, “She’s Teddy’s daughter too, and now she’s part of Luke’s family too. What I have with Luke is different because I’m different. People change.” Jaymes says there’s no such thing as too many loving parents. They all have their scheduled time with the girls, Claybourne’s mostly takes the form of guitar lessons with Maddie.
Although Jaymes wishes Claybourne the best, she also hopes he can let go of any chance of romantic reconciliation with her, if he hasn’t already. “That book is closed,” she says. “With Luke, my brain and my heart are finally aligned.”
It’s dinnertime, and Jaymes and Wheeler are finally at the wedding cake tasting they’ve rescheduled six times. The wedding is a few weeks away and seating assignments, party favors, and final dress fittings are just some of the to-do’s that the duo hasn’t gotten around to yet.
“I’m looking forward to [the wedding] being over,” Luke says. “I haven’t seen her in a month of Sundays and frankly, I’m sick of planning it. I don’t any have more time than she does but she doesn’t care about the details. It’s been a long road, but it’ll all be worth it when she’s my wife.”
But while Jaymes is discussing the guest list, Wheeler is getting antsy. “I could really use your help here,” Wheeler says, examining the cakes.
She nods again, finishing her sentence.
Suddenly, Wheeler storms out of the room.
“Excuse me,” she smiles. “I’ll be right back.” She runs out after him, glancing at her hand to make sure she’s holding her phone.
Images: Mark Levine/ABC (6)