Fulfilling a lifelong dream that began back in a college band in his 20s, multi-talented entertainer Charles Esten today (1/26) delivers his highly anticipated independent debut album, Love Ain’t Pretty. Available across all streaming platforms and digital retailers, listen here.

“This is a beautiful and special day for me. This album that I have poured myself into over the last number of years is finally out into the world. I’m feeling a million different emotions because of that, but by far, the overriding one would be deep gratitude,” shares Esten. “It’s hard for me to convey how thankful I am for the myriad of people, without whom, this album does not exist, but I will definitely do my best in the coming days. Love ain’t pretty and life is hard, but when you’re surrounded by the kindness and talent that I’ve been blessed to be lifted by, it sure is beautiful.”

Marking a new pinnacle in a storied career of creative achievement, Love Ain’t Pretty is a culmination of a lifetime of growth. Co-writing all 14 songs with acoustic guitar credits on the Marshall Altman-produced full-length project, Esten dives deep into wide-ranging themes of earth-shattering romance, big-picture reflection, and beyond. Vividly detailed and filled with the emotional daring of a celebrated storyteller – both onscreen and onstage – he 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. And like its title suggests, it hasn’t always been pretty, but it has been a beautiful ride. 

Stacking a New York City doubleheader with a CMT Premiere on Monday (1/22) of his Make You Happy” music video with a broadcast debut on CMT, CMT Music, CMT.com, and the Paramount Times Square Billboard, he’ll next reunite with host Kelly Clarkson after his headline-making appearance on NBC’s The Kelly Clarkson Show last spring. Fans can tune in for a sit-down interview about Love Ain’t Pretty and a performance of “When Love Ain’t Love” on Monday (1/29). Check local listings for timing.


Featured by ParadeCowboys & Indians, and more, early praise from critics for Esten’s Love Ain’t Pretty is stacking up:


“the album is the purest representation of his artistry possible.” – GRAMMY.com


“being his true self has brought some of Esten’s biggest success, and that same spirit now powers a remarkable debut album.” – Nashville Lifestyles


“loose, rough-cut country” – Billboard


“Written with the wisdom and breadth that comes with time, Esten captures the dimensions of love, loss, growth, and hope.” – Forbes


“An emotionally connective album” – The Tennessean



1. “Love Ain’t Pretty” (Charles Esten, Marshall Altman, Jimmy Yeary)
2. “A Little Right Now” (Charles Esten, Jacob Lyda, Brian Maher)               
3. “One Good Move” (Charles Esten, Sam Backoff, Zarni deVette, Elise Hayes
4. “In A Bar Somewhere” (Charles Esten, Jason Gantt, Neil Medley)                              
5. “I Ain’t” (Charles Esten, Brad Crisler, James LeBlanc)
6. “Another Song About You” (Charles Esten, Colin Elmore
7. “When Love Ain’t Love” (Charles Esten, Jeffrey East)
8. “Candlelight” (Charles Esten, Kenny Alphin, Eric Paslay)
9. “Back In My Life Again” (Charles Esten, Marcus Hummon, Bryan Todd)
10. “Make You Happy” (Charles Esten, Gary Burr, Jon D’Agostino
11. “Willing To Try” (Charles Esten, Gary Burr)
12. “Maybe I’m Alright” (Charles Esten, Leslie Satcher)
13. “Down The Road (feat. Eric Paslay)” (Charles Esten, Eric Paslay, Dylan Altman
14. “Somewhere In The Sunshine” (Charles Esten, Jon Nite)

All Songs Produced by Marshall Altman

Directed by Erika Rock, Esten also releases a music video today (1/26) to complement the title track which packs a powerful thematic punch. Walking the winding road of romantic transformation in “Love Ain’t Pretty,” it’s a swaying Soul rocker – co-written by EstenAltman, and Jimmy Yeary – that aims to capture the unexpected, unpredictable, and completely unstoppable wonder of falling in love. Produced by Altman with the reverent feel of sharing some sunset wisdom with a loved one, Esten’s tender vocal matches a mix of guitars and a stirring organ, as the simple (yet contrasting) truth comes to light. “Love Ain’t Pretty,” that’s a fact – but only because it’s so much more.



Celebrating Love Ain’t Pretty tonight (1/26) during his SOLD-OUT debut performance at Nashville’s Exit/In for his album release show, he’ll continue bringing this new music to the stage worldwide with the LOVE AIN’T PRETTY TOUR this spring.




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. 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 LOVE AIN’T PRETTY TOUR worldwide 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.