George & Tammy is full of singing, from live performances of the fictionalized country music stars to studio recordings and beyond. Naturally, viewers wonder if that’s really Jessica Chastain and Michael Shannon singing in the Showtime limited series. Both actors performed their own vocals while playing George Jones and Tammy Wynette. Find out how they trained to become fictional versions of country music’s most famous singers.
Michael Shannon sings in the indie rock band Corporal
Before George & Tammy, Shannon was already a singer. He sings and plays guitar in Corporal, a folk rock band. Shannon plays alongside Ray Rizzo and Rob Beitzel. According to their website, Corporal has also featured musicians like Matt Scobee, Dave Wnorowski, Patrick Eckart, Corn Mo, Jonathan Mastro, JD Green, Roadie Rodahaffer, John Woodland, Paul Sparks, Brian Henry Schreck, and Jeff Tweedy through the years.
Shannon’s band formed in 2007, but he started playing music in 2002 while acting in a play about “a band that self-destructed.” The band released their self-titled album in 2010.
Jessica Chastain and Michael Shannon sang live while filming ‘George & Tammy’
There’s no shortage of Wynette and Jones’ greatest hits in the Showtime series. In an interview with Variety, Chastain said, “We did all the singing live.”
“It was so scary, but I felt like I was in really good hands,” she added. “I’m excited to celebrate [Wynette]because just in the same way that it was tough for Tammy in 1960s Nashville, it’s still tough for women in country music in Nashville.”
T Bone Burnett told Jessica Chastain her Tammy Wynette vocals needed work
As Chastain revealed to Variety: “I came onto this job in 2010 or 2011.” But it wasn’t until six years ago that she sat with record producer T Bone Burnett, who rose to fame as Bob Dylan’s guitarist in the 1970s.
“I sat with T Bone maybe six years ago and sang ‘Stand by Your Man’ and said, ‘I just want to know… Is this ridiculous?'” At the time, Burnett said Chastain’s singing was “fine” but was “gonna work.” He clarified: “We have work to do, but it’ll work.”
Allison Krauss’ vocal coach helped with ‘George & Tammy’
To help them prepare for the show, Burnett introduced Chastain and Shannon to Ron Browning, a celebrity voice and performance coach who has worked with country stars like Alison Krauss, Carrie Underwood, and Terri Clark. “… We worked with Ron and T Bone up until right before we started shooting, up into the pre-records,” Chastain said. “Once we got on-set, it was [music producer Rachael Moore] and Ron every day.”
Singing in ‘George & Tammy’ created a bond between Jessica Chastain and Michael Shannon
In an interview with TV Insider, Shannon spoke about the connection singing with Chastain created behind the scenes of George & Tammy. “Singing with somebody, particularly duets with intricate harmonies and songs about love and the difficulties of being alive, creates a bond different than any I’ve had with a performer,” the Nine Perfect Strangers actor said. “You practice technique, but it’s got to be from the heart to move people.”
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His favorite duet from the series is “Golden Ring,” which pops up several times in the six episodes of George & Tammy. “To see songs revisited by people who were realizing the songs may not mean the same thing they meant 10, 20 years ago was fascinating,” Shannon concluded.
Watch George & Tammy on Showtime Sundays at 9 pm ET.