We all watch ABC’s Nashville for various reasons and one of those reasons is the very complex characters. They’re all flawed and all go through journeys that take them far from where they started. One of the characters that changed the most over the course of Nashville’s first three seasons is Avery Barkley. But is it really true? Has he changed so much? We resume our “Nashville Characters Defense” series with a look at
Juliette’s baby daddy Avery Barkley.
At the end of Nashville season 3 finale Avery took his baby and left Juliette. He did it to protect his daughter after Juliette chose fame over, well, everything and refused to even acknowledge she had a problem. It’s hard to believe this devoted caring man that puts his family’s needs first is the same self-absorbed narcissist we met three years ago. And yet, looking back at Avery’s journey we see that the ability to make these types of difficult decisions and follow them through was there all along and that in fact, this ability is the key for understanding his character.
One thing most characters on Nashville have in common is that their motivation for a perusing a career in music wasn’t solely their love for music; it was also the fact music was their only ticket out of the places they came from and their one chance for a better life. Deacon and Juliette explicitly admitted it, with Luke it was implied and the same goes for Gunnar and Will.
Avery Barkley is different. He didn’t need music – he chose music.
Unlike Deacon, Juliette and Gunnar he didn’t come from an extremely abusive or neglecting home. Unlike Luke, he didn’t grow up in poverty and unlike Will his parents didn’t disown him or kicked him out of the house when he was a teen.
Avery grew up in what appears to be relatively normal and functioning environment. He finished high school, graduated from college and afterwards when he moved to Nashville to pursue his dreams, he didn’t even have to do it alone since he had his then girlfriend and band mates with him.
Sound like a pretty promising and healthy beginning, right?
Ok true, back in season 1 we found out that Avery’s father disapproved of his career choice and thought he was a waste. We even witnessed the tension between them this season during the CMA awards episode. But we also know that when Avery needed an advice regarding his relationship with Juliette or help with the baby, he turned to his mother. Having even one parent you can count on is more than what most characters on Nashville can dream of.
All of this portrays a person with solid foundations in life. That can either mean many things or nothing at all, because every person is different but for Avery, it appears to be something that helps him achieve things that a lot of the other characters, which came from very different backgrounds, struggle with.
For example, it makes him much more present in the moment than many others, since he’s not constantly getting pulled back by his past or his demons. That gives him more opportunities to seize the moment and not miss out on the things his wants. All it takes is one look at Gunnar that keeps missing out the big moments in his life and Deacon to notice the difference.
It also makes it easier for him to clear the mind and make conscious choices that are based on his real needs and desires rather than mostly reacting since there are fewer things that are getting in the way. Avery sure made plenty of them right from the start.
Even the initial decision to choose music as a profession didn’t just happen to him because at least potentially a career in music wasn’t Avery’s only option. As I mentioned earlier, he didn’t NEED music the same way the others did – he simply really wanted it. It was his inner conviction and determination and not a necessity or a highly developed survival instinct that turned music to his vocation.
When all his resources were directed to support this choice it’s no wonder that when we met Avery he was so self-absorbed and focused. Making that decision, standing behind it despite his father’s wish and having to prove himself to himself, seem to have only made him more driven.
In this type of situation, when all your resources are directed to this one goal and you also have a great support system, if you’re not careful, you can turn into a tunnel vision narcissist …and that’s exactly what happened to Avery.
Add to that the frustration that comes from the failure to get a breakthrough despite working hard for a long time when for others, like Scarlett it just miraculously happen and you’ll get a self-absorbed narcissist whose also very jealous, petty and impatient.
He sabotaged Scarlett and Gunnar’s audition by deliberately overshadowing them, jeopardized his relationship with Scarlett in order to sign with a morally questionable agent, ditched his band mates to get a record deal and after signing and getting his first song on the radio acted like he’s entitled. He was willing to step on other people, take risky unnecessary shortcuts and jeopardize his relationships with those nearest and dearest to him just to make it big and for it to happen fast.
The shortcuts he took eventually led him to a crossroad – compromising his music or leaving it all behind.
Now, let’s stop for a moment and think about it – Self-absorbed, obsessive, determined and impatient musician with unbridled ambition that’s willing to risk everything for success…reminds you of someone? Yes, thought so!
Juliette Barnes and Avery have lots in common and that’s one of the things that explain their strong pull. They don’t just love each other; they also understand one another in a very deep level.
And yet, as we are very much aware by now , they’re not the same.
Avery’s “big break” in season 1, came with a price – he had to change his sound. He could’ve kept on going down the same road he’s been going and dance with the devil a little longer. He chose not to and literally blew up his career.
Juliette however made a different choice. When we first met her she maintained a false image of who she is as an artist. She was willing to make that sacrifice for “the greater good” – success.
Why am I mentioning this? Because there’s a reason Juliette chose one way and Avery, who wanted success just as much, chose another. That reason is the same one I described earlier – because Juliette needed the music and Avery wanted music.
For Juliette (and not just her), music is literally everything. Without the work, the spotlight and the applause, she is nothing; her whole life and definitely her entire self-esteem are built upon it. That’s also why she struggled so much when her sales dropped and her fans turned against her in season 2 – she really did feel invisible without it.
And that’s also the reason parenthood is such a struggle for her. Yes, postpartum depression is part of it, but not all of it. Being a parent means, among other things, putting someone else’s needs before your own. That requires her to mature and move beyond that place of an abandoned child that will do everything to survive and crave for attention and a hug. Juliette doesn’t have the tools to do so.
On the other hand, when Avery lost his record deal, money, friends, girlfriend and any prospect for a career in the near future, it was difficult but not the end of the world. That’s because he still had something – himself.
Avery’s self-esteem was never based solely on that so for him, starting over was challenging but not impossible. In a way, it was even liberating because it reminded him why he did it all in the first place – because he loved music. So instead of discouraging him it simply pushed him to try new things and become more creative. After all, being a huge superstar is not all there is to music and sometimes “you got to do what you got to do”.
As a result we saw him experimenting with all kinds of directions and collaborations. Some were temporary like being a roadie on Juliette’s tour but some, like producing opened a whole new world for him.
For Avery, his brush with fame made him more humble but left him just as determined.
This humility and flexibility also affected other aspects of his life and I believe that it’s also how he ended up with Juliette. Since he was no longer that self-absorbed, he could really see her; since he saw his own dark side – he could truly understand, accept her as she is without judgement and even support her; since he learned how to be flexible in his career he learned how to also have a more flexible ego and was not intimated from being with such a strong woman.
When we look at all of this it’s not hard to understand how season one Avery became season 3; in his core he’s the same guy – only far more mature.
Related: Avery is Also Comedy Gold
It will be interesting to see where Avery’s journey will take him next.
Ever since he learned his lesson in season 1, he went into great lengths to stay true to who he really is and what he values. It opened new doors for him in his career and his relationships. It also made him assume the role of the “responsible adult” and care-taker in most of his relationships and especially with Juliette. Now that he left with the baby, it’ll be interesting to see if it will lead to a change in this dynamic as well.
Last, but not least, Avery is a musician and when we first met him he was indeed kind of a jerk but he also had something to say as a musician – he had his own distinct sound! He still has it but he rarely shows it and for the last two years we have seen him mostly collaborating with others and contributing his musical knowledge in other ways.
But has this dream to put his music out there gone away? Maybe now, after he learned from his mistakes, it’s time to try again.Or as Juliette said the first time they met: “Let’s try it again sometime – only slower”