- "Well you can kiss my decision as it's walking out the door."
- —Rayna James to Marshall Evans
Rayna Jaymes is a country singer/songwriter who lives in Nashville and is trying to maintain her place as "Queen of Country", but is losing her top status to her rival, Juliette Barnes. She was born in 1971. She is portrayed by Connie Britton.
IntroductionEditAfter two decades of topping the charts, Rayna Jaymes’ career has begun to wobble: Her last album tanked and ticket sales are soft. But Rayna is not ready to surrender the crown as the “Queen of Country.” Rayna’s going to try to reclaim her career, all while juggling the responsibilities of being a mom to Maddie and Daphne, and supporting her husband, Teddy Conrad, who’s trying to rebuild a career of his own.
Rayna remembers a time when it didn’t used to be this hard. In the early days, she and Deacon Claybourne would write together, and within months those songs would ring out on radios across America. Those days seem distant now but she's not giving up. Rayna Jaymes has still got something to say.
Rayna Jaymes is "Queen of Country", but the head of the record label she's with, Marshall Evans, wants her to team up with a younger star on the rise, Juliette Barnes. Juliette is compelled to meet Rayna, but she snubs her by paying her attentions to Rayna's friend Watty White first, and then tells Rayna her mother had been a fan of hers. Rayna isn't all that happy that her girls, Maddie and Daphne are fans of Juliette. And she certainly doesn't want to be opening act for Juliette Barnes.
When she turns down Marshall Evans's plan, the record label stops pushing her records. Watty White comes up with a plan for her to tour more intimate venues with her guitar player, Deacon Claybourne, back like they used to do when she was starting out, a plan inspired by seeing and hearing Deacon's niece, Scarlett O'Connor, and Gunnar Scott sing together at the Bluebird Cafe.
Rayna isn't totally on board with that plan. She doesn't want to be unfaithful to her husband, Teddy, by falling back into love with Deacon. And there's also some friction between Rayna and Deacon due to Juliette trying to woo him over to playing for her. Rayna seeks out a rock star with an interest in country music, Liam McGuinnis, to help her re-invent her sound. He succeeds by getting her drunk.
The record label gets Rayna and Juliette to team up for an awards show. They write a song together and it's a hit. A tour is organised with the two stars alternating as main act. Rayna fires Deacon, following a verbal altercation between him and her husband. She has trouble adjusting to a new guitar player, but gets Liam to fill in at least for a few shows. Juliette hires Deacon, re-opening tensions between Teddy and Rayna. Teddy asks Rayna for a divorce.
It's not all her fault. Teddy's ambition to become Mayor, encouraged by Rayna's wealthy father, Lamar Wyatt, had led to Teddy confessing to her a past indiscretion: To cover a cash flow problem with a troubled Cumberland Plaza deal, he and Peggy Kenter had illegally borrowed some money. Rayna had been shocked, and even more upset to find out later from her daughter Maddie that Teddy was sweet-talking Peggy whilst she was on tour. Peggy leaks news of the divorce to the tabloids, who spread gossip that Rayna had slept with Deacon and Liam. When a publicist asks her whether she had, Rayna gets up and leaves the room, saying something like "You know what? I refuse to dignify that with a comment".
Her sister, Tandy, helps her through this difficult time. It's through Tandy, who is closer to their father, Lamar, than Rayna is, that Rayna finds out why Lamar had not been supportive of her ambition to become a country singer: their mother had had, or been suspected of having, an affair with one. But she learns from Lamar, himself, that he had, unbeknownst to her, paid for her first album.
Rayna strikes a deal with Marshall Evans whereby she can have her own record label if she signs up two great acts. She remembers the duo Watty White had gotten her to listen to, and invites them to audition. Scarlett shows up alone, with her banjo, but is good enough to get offered a deal, even though Rayna had had to race off to be with her daughter Maddie who had snuck out to attend a Juliette Barnes concert and gotten injured at the overcrowded venue. Rayna tells off Juliette; Juliette mends her ways. At the hospital, Rayna and Teddy are greeted by Deacon who had come to Maddie's rescue. It's a little awkward for them, both knowing that Deacon was Maddie's biological father, whereas Deacon is oblivious to that.
Rayna gives Maddie a guitar that had been given to her by her own mother, in hopes that Maddie will be able to channel her teenage feelings into music. Maddie gets ambitious to be a singer, and her younger sister, Daphne, also wants to be like their mother. When Rayna lets them sing during a soundcheck, they impress Marshall Evans enough that he suggests they could be the second act Rayna's looking for. She tells him to back off. She wants her girls to grow up outside the spotlights.
Lamar has a heart attack. Rayna brings the girls back to Nashville. Lamar tells her the show must go on, but she's cancelled, leaving Juliette to handle the booked-out event. Attempting to leave hospital before he should, Lamar spots Watty White and gets irate. Tandy explains to Rayna that Watty had been their mother's special friend. Watty assures Rayna that that wasn't why he'd helped her (Rayna); he'd spotted her talent. He also reveals that the day Rayna's mother had crashed her car, she was packed to leave Lamar. Deacon lends his support too, after seeing the show through. Alone with her unresponsive father, Rayna tells Lamar that she'd long thought he'd been mad at her, when he'd actually been angry at her mother. He opens his eyes. Later, out of hospital, Lamar credits Rayna with having been there for him; he shows her his collection of clippings from her career.
Rayna makes out with Liam in a recording studio. Liam urges her to be spontaneous and fly off to St. Lucia with him for a few days. She eventually agrees, and tells Deacon, who'd gotten into trouble with Stacey for not telling her that he'd come back to Nashville for Rayna's sake, that he should be patching things up with her (Stacey). Then she changes her mind, and tells Deacon she loves him. "Are you trying to kill me?" asks Deacon, with reference to the changing signals he'd been receiving from her. She says that she loves him, she felt that he should know that she loves him, and he can do what he wants with the information. She starts to leave. He cusses quietly. She returns to him. They kiss. They undress each other slowly. They sleep together. But Rayna wants to keep their relationship slow. Deacon breaks up with Stacey. Teddy tells Rayna to honor the promise they (Teddy and Rayna) made when Maddie was born.
Scarlett convinces Rayna to give Gunnar a second chance as a performer for her record label, but he tells her (Scarlett) that he isn't ready. Whilst Gunnar is busy getting a demo cut, Scarlett takes her new upstairs neighbor, Will Lexington, to an Edgehill Records party celebrating its CMA nominees, who include Rayna and Juliette, both nominated for Female Vocalist of the Year. Scarlett also lets slip to Will that Rayna will be holding a secret audition session, to which he turns up unannounced. He wows Rayna enough that she decides she'll announce her new label, Highway 65 Records, when Scarlett makes her Oprey debut.
Rayna has Deacon to dinner with her and her girls. Teddy pops by, and he's furious. He even has a temporary restraining order served against Rayna to keep the girls 100 feet away from Deacon. She asks Lamar for help. He facilitates an early private hearing. The judge grants Rayna unrestricted custody, with the restraining order to be given a fuller hearing in a fortnight's time. Afterwards, Rayna tries to reassure Teddy that he'll always be Maddie's father. However, Maddie, snooping in her mother's wardrobe finds a paternity test that seems to prove that Teddy is not her biological father.
Rayna tells her girls that Deacon has asked her as her date to the CMA Awards. The girls affirm that they like Deacon. Maddie drops hints about having found out about Teddy not being her father, before turning up at Deacon's door and asking him if he is. At the CMA ceremony, to which Deacon turns up with hardly a moment to spare, Rayna performs with Brad Paisley. Then Deacon questions her about Maddie. Has she been lying to him every moment for the last thirteen years? Maddie's his. How is that even possible? Rayna explains that the fact that he doesn't remember is exactly how it's possible.
On her way back early from the CMAs, Rayna contacts Teddy so that they can talk to Maddie together. Maddie blames Rayna. "You lied to Deacon and to me." She leaves the room still angry. Rayna starts to follow her, but Teddy holds her back advising that Maddie be allowed to work it off. He promises Rayna that she won't lose her daughter.
Rayna, concerned for Deacon, seeks help from Coleman, who advises her to let him find Deacon alone.
At the funeral for Juliette's mother, Rayna attempts to console Juliette. Juliette says she (Juliette) knew she'd never be good enough. Rayna says, "That's not true. You're good enough." Juliette enquires after Deacon. Rayna had also wanted him to be there.
Rayna tells Maddie that she doesn't want her to be mad at her forever, because they need each other. She tells Maddie that she married Teddy because she loved him, but also because she wanted Maddie to have a father who loved her as much as she (Rayna) did, and that she loves her more than anyone else in the world. A crying Maddie hugs her.
At a memorial service for Juliette's mother at the Bluebird Cafe, Rayna spots Deacon by the door, and makes a move to join him. Deacon tries to avoid her by going out to his car, but she catches up to him, and won't let him drive drunk. He drinks as she drives him. They argue. He covers his eyes Both of them have their eyes off the road as a car starts to cross at an intersection ahead. Rayna manages to avoid a collision with that car, but the car she's driving goes off the road, rolls over, and lands in a ditch.
Rayna is put in a medically induced coma and hanging on to life for two weeks following the wreck. Deacon believes he was the one driving and pleads guilty for driving under the influence. Rayna wakes up and is able to say that she was the one driving the car and Deacon is set free. There are several flashbacks showing Rayna and Deacon's life around the time she got pregnant with Maddie. During the flashbacks it's revealed that Deacon proposed to Rayna followed by Maddie's conception. The morning after Rayna realizes that Deacon had been drinking and he didn't know that he had proposed. She gives back the ring and leaves him, Rayna finds out that she's pregnant and goes to tell Deacon. She sees him drunk, tearing up his place, and Tandy suggests not telling him about the pregnancy.
Rayna struggles to get out of her contract with Edgehill and butts heads with the label's new CEO, Jeff Fordham because he steals Will Lexington from "Highway 65" and threatens to release a Rayna James album against her will. Her father was going to loan her money to get her out of it but Lamar was sent to prison before he had the chance to. She is eventually able to get out of her contract by using her mortgage. Tandy finds out that Lamar was involved with the car crash that killed their mother but can't say anything about it. Rayna eventually finds out. Soon after Lamar is released from prison he suffers fatal heart attack while visiting Teddy at his office.
During the season Rayna and Deacon are able to get back to good terms following the events of the wreck and him finding out that he is Maddie's biological father. Maddie and Deacon spend more time and he gives her music lessons much to Teddy's disliking. Also during the season, Rayna begins dating fellow country music singer, Luke Wheeler. When Maddie posts a video of herself singing, using Deacon's last name the media soon finds out the truth about her being his daughter. Rayna, Teddy and Deacon go on GMA to talk about the situation and Deacon says that Teddy did a great job raising Maddie.
After Rayna and Luke get done singing "Ball and Chain" at her show at LP Field, Luke proposes to her on stage and she accepts. Later that night Deacon visits her telling her not to marry Luke because he now knows how to love her. He also proposes to her.
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- "Momma's got a headache" - (to her girls, Pilot)
- "Did you try to murder the father of my children?" - (to Lamar, Too Far Gone)