The only thing more demoralizing than getting dumped on “The Bachelorette”? Getting rejected by network executives.
We may never know exactly what happened behind ABC’s abrupt switch for the upcoming season of “The Bachelor”: All signs pointed to dreamy Texan Luke Pell, 31, getting the coveted spot, but to the surprise of everyone, the network announced last week that perpetual runner-up Nick Viall, 35, would be the new “Bachelor.”
Pell, who came in fourth place on JoJo Fletcher’s season, was as shocked as anyone — contracts were signed, and producers said “actually, never mind” only hours before he was supposed to fly to Los Angeles for the announcement. Now, he’s gone from potential reality superstar to the much more common “rejected ‘Bachelorette’ contestant.”
“I was really frustrated, not going to lie,” Pell said during a SiriusXM radio interview Tuesday with “The Highway” host Storme Warren. He added that the network didn’t handle the sudden change in the best way.
However, Pell said, he’s still “completely happy” with how everything turned out. That’s because he has a secret weapon: an aspiring country music career.
Country music and “The Bachelor” franchise are strangely intertwined, as country singers frequently show up to serenade contestants on dates; this season alone featured Dan + Shay and Lady Antebellum’s Charles Kelley. ABC has a strong relationship with Nashville because the network airs the Country Music Association Awards (and used to have the show “Nashville”), and the producers know what viewers like.
In other words, a post-“Bachelorette” country music career is a pretty smart back-up plan — better than shilling for random products on Instagram, which is where many franchise participants wind up. Luckily for Pell, his Nashville goal was already in the works.
As Pell explained this week while making the rounds on country radio shows, his lifelong dream has been country music. After he graduated from West Point in 2007, he requested to be assigned to the Fort Campbell military base in Clarksville, Tenn., to be closer to Nashville. He stayed there for a couple years, but then his military service took him around the world, including Afghanistan. After his service was complete, he moved back to Nashville in early 2015 and got to work on writing songs.
Though he never talked about it on “The Bachelorette,” he played in a band in his native Texas. While playing a wedding, he met the bride’s brother, Brandon Kinney, a longtime Nashville songwriter with cuts for Luke Bryan (“Beer in the Headlights”), Randy Houser (“Boots On”) and Craig Campbell (“Outta My Head”), among others. Kinney has been helping develop his career; Pell currently has a couple songs on Spotify and hopes to release an EP this winter.
— SiriusXM The Highway (@SXMTheHighway) September 6, 2016
During the Highway interview, Pell explained he wound up on “The Bachelorette” on a whim — his hairdresser and his friend’s wife both submitted applications on his behalf. Once he was cast, he was concerned it might look like he was trying to cash in on his 15 minutes of fame and wasn’t serious about a music career. As a result, he decided to never bring up his Nashville dreams, unlike some contestants, who shamelessly plug their future aspirations.
“We wanted to not even let that be the conversation,” Pell said.
On Wednesday, Pell stopped by “The Bobby Bones Show” and revealed that his real goal is to be a famous songwriter. Darius Rucker recently put a hold on one of his songs, meaning Rucker could possibly record it for a future album. While Pell mostly talked about how excited he was to be back in Nashville, he admitted it was “weird” the way ABC passed him over for Viall. He still doesn’t know why.
“Do you think you’re too nice?” Bones offered, then theorized that producers “couldn’t find enough super-crazy girls, so they had to go to a guy that would bring more drama.”
Pell agreed that the producers do try to stir up insanity among the 25 “Bachelor” and “Bachelorette” hopefuls each season. “Those producers, they’re really geniuses in terms of what they do and making that show a hit show,” he said.
In terms of his love life now, as Bones pointed out, Pell shouldn’t worry: When you have “Bachelorette”-contestant looks, you’re probably fine.
“You live the real-life ‘Bachelor,'” Bones joked. “You can go out and do ‘The Bachelor’ every Friday night.”