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Charles Esten Recalls Being Present for Kelsea Ballerini and Chase Stokes’ 1st Date (Exclusive)

Charles Esten had a front row seat to the beginning of Kelsea Ballerini and Chase Stokes’ love story.

Esten, 58, who stars alongside Stokes, 31, in Outer Banks and is friends with Ballerini, 30, revealed to Us Weekly that he was present for their first date. “He came to town and we ended up going to a couple of our favorite bars, including, if I’m not mistaken, Robert’s right down on Broadway,” the actor shared while attending CMA Fest on Friday, June 7, in Nashville. “I was just there to watch it blossom.” Esten noted that his wife, Patty Hanson, went out with them as well, and they were “all just hanging out.”

He added, “They’re just both such great people. Such good hearts, such kind souls, so creatively gifted that it was just kind of cool to be there. I love ’em both.”

The country singer and Stokes were first linked in January 2023 after they were spotted together at the College Football Playoff National Championship in Los Angeles.

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Ballerini confirmed the romance one month later during an appearance on the “Call Her Daddy” podcast, revealing that she’d slid into Chase’s DMs. “His handle is ‘hichasestokes’ and I just said, ‘Hi Chase Stokes,’” she shared.

Charles Esten Was on Kelsea Ballerini and Chase Stokes 1st Date
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Esten, who got to know Ballerini when she guest-starred on Nashville in 2016, has had his share of special memories with the singer — including an encounter with Taylor Swift. “When Taylor Swift came to town here, this was years ago when they were in high school and junior high I believe, and  my sweet friend Kelsey Ballerini, we went backstage and  got to hang out backstage at the big concert and everything,” he recalled.

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These days, Esten is hitting the road for his new tour, which will take him across the country, from Connecticut to Wisconsin. The actor credited his starring role as country singer Deacon Claybourne on Nashville for propelling his music career forward.

“​​I could have never imagined a show like Nashville bringing me to Nashville, reopening this musical career,” he shared. “I started out as a musician, as a singer songwriter in college. It was a long circuitous route, but in the end, I always feel like I’m where I’m meant to be. And that’s a good feeling.”

Reporting by Jeremy Parsons

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