With his highly anticipated independent debut album, Love Ain’t Pretty, out January 26, multi-talent Charles Esten is revealing the true dichotomy of matters of the heart with two new releases from the full-length project today (1/5). Available across all streaming platforms and digital retailers, listen to “Make You Happy” and “When Love Ain’t Love” here.

Both co-written by Esten, as his pen is credited on all 14 songs on Love Ain’t Pretty, “Make You Happy” – written by EstenGary Burr, and Jon D’Agostino – finds a stand-up guy lost in love. Soaked in an irresistibly romantic and restless desire, Esten offers a playful proposition with a hard to resist spirit. Produced by Marshall Altman with an upbeat mix of honky-tonk, beachy Doo-Wop and funky Soul, “Make You Happy” also features a bouncy Caribbean beat and a touch of whirring organ, plus Esten’s love-drunk vocal and a spirit-lifting hook. All along, he promises not to ask for the world – just to see a smile.

Like the album title suggests, “When Love Ain’t Love” – written by Esten and Jeffrey East – taps into the opposing side of love, as it explores the slow-motion unraveling of a relationship. Serving as a cautionary tale of a romantic fallout and the inevitably hard truths that accompany it, the Altman-produced confessional boasts Esten’s raw vocal cutting through the ‘80s Rock atmosphere, with reverb-soaked guitars that further create the woozy, disoriented feeling of a world turned upside down. The steady back beat continues to pound on like a desperate heart, hoping things might one day turn around, even through the stark resignation of the final chorus lyric: “When it ain’t like before, but there ain’t no because. Love ain’t love no more. It just is what it is, when it ain’t what it was.

Vividly detailed and filled with the emotional daring of a celebrated storyteller – both onscreen and onstage – Esten dives into wide-ranging themes of earth-shattering romance, big-picture reflection, and beyond, in Love Ain’t Pretty. Spotlighted as the High Note in Nashville Lifestyles’ The Music Issue on stands now, the diverse and richly textured full-length project was also just featured by GRAMMY.com and Parade. In addition, it’s been spotted on anticipated albums of 2024 lists by The TennesseanSTEREOGUMMen’s Journal, and Taste of Country. More than 10 years in the making, Esten explores life, love, and the passing of time through the lens of a traveled and tested everyman, who has never lost his innate sense of wonder, or his wide-open soul, with a rollout of already released songs including “One Good Move,” “A Little Right Now,” “In A Bar Somewhere,” “Down The Road (feat. Eric Paslay),” and “Somewhere In The Sunshine.”

Celebrating Love Ain’t Pretty with an album release show at Exit/In on January 26, limited tickets are remaining. Fans can purchase here.




Multi-talent Charles Esten is a global entertainer. Best known for his roles as “Ward Cameron” on Netflix’s Outer Banks and “Deacon Claybourne” in ABC/CMT’s Nashville, the artist-songwriter introduces his independent debut album, Love Ain’t Pretty, on January 26. Surpassing 21 MILLION streams to date, Esten is a 2018 Guinness World Records title holder for the “Most consecutive weeks to release an original digital single by a music act” after delivering 54 original songs once a week for 54 straight weeks. He’s made nearly 170 appearances at Nashville’s iconic Grand Ole Opry and performed multiple headline tours in the U.S., Germany, Amsterdam, and U.K., further embarking on his international headlining LOVE AIN’T PRETTY TOUR this spring. In addition, Esten serves as the National Honorary Spokesperson for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s annual Light The Night Walk, and is a board member and volunteer for Musicians On Call.