Charles Esten
Bob D'Amico/ABC

As Deacon Claybourne, a semirecovered alcoholic who has lost the love of his life and discovered he fathered a now-teenage daughter, Nashville’s Charles Esten has a lot to worry about. But in real life, the 48-year-old actor is doing just fine, enjoying a critically acclaimed show (the ABC hit returns next month), a little downtime with his guitar and, if he’s lucky, a gut-busting brunch on Sundays. Here are a few other things that light Esten’s fire.

Best thing about Nashville (the city):
The people — so much talent and even more kindness 

Best thing about Nashville (the show):
The heart and high aspirations of everybody that works on it

Singing or songwriting:
That’s the cool thing about Nashville: You don’t have to choose. First you write it. Then you sing it.

Playing on your car radio:
My friend Buddy Miller (executive music producer of Nashville) just gave me a Merle Haggard box set that I’m wearing out.

Favorite country band:
There are obviously so many. But it’s hard to beat the sound and musical excellence of The Time Jumpers with Vince Gill.

Favorite way to spend a Sunday:
1. Church with family.
2. Big brunch.
3. Hold on, I’m still eating.
4. Watch a little football.
5. Nap.
6. Some outdoor family activity.
7. Remember Breaking Bad is finished and won’t be on that night, or any other night.
8. Sigh deeply.

Best pet:
I didn’t really have pets as a kid, but I do now. He’s a 1-year-old yellow lab named Blue. He played Deacon’s puppy, Sue, on Nashville. Now he plays my dog in real life, and he’s awesome.