Valory Music Co. singer-songwriter Thomas Rhett welcomed industry members to a very appropriate setting for his private album preview taping for Sirius XM The Highway–Nashville’s songwriting mecca, The Bluebird Cafe. Rhett’s debut album, It Goes Like This, releases Oct. 29.
Storme Warren hosted the event, and, unbelievably, the taping marked only the second time that Thomas Rhett has ever performed at the Bluebird Cafe. Among the songs he performed in the intimate setting were “It Goes Like This,” “Beer With Jesus,” “Something To Do With My Hands,” and his upcoming single, “Get Me Some of That,” which his father Rhett Akins co-wrote with Cole Swindell and Michael Carter.
Before introducing another song from the project titled “Whatcha Got In That Cup,” Rhett recounted some sage advice from songwriter Craig Wiseman on the importance of carefully selecting songs to record as an artist. “I was a new writer, and Craig told me, ‘I write a lot of songs. I might not remember writing this song tomorrow, but you will be singing this song for the rest of your life.'”
Of course, being the songwriter behind hits including Florida Georgia Line‘s “‘Round Here” (co-written with Rodney Clawson and Chris Tompkins) and other songs can get confusing when Rhett performs his version of those songs for fans. “They will come up to me and say, ‘Why are you singing cover songs?'” he said, laughing.
He went on to perform another song he co-wrote with Luke Laird and Barry Dean, “1994,” which was later recorded by Jason Aldean. “We were trying to write a ballad that day, and we didn’t like what we were writing,” says Thomas. The ballad was a love song involving a guy, his girl, their preferred romantic spot, and Joe Diffie music spilling from their boom box. “Luke is one of the best at making beats, so he played a loop he’d been working on and sang that line, ‘1994/Joe Diffie comin’ out the stereo,’ and we started writing the song from there.” Rhett recalled being floored when he got the call that Aldean wanted to record it. “They said it was the only song in the listening session that he had wanted to hear more than once,” said Thomas. Rhett also revealed just how the song has impacted his life. “Joe Diffie texted me after that. We text maybe once a month. We actually have a photo of his face next to our tour bus that we hit as we are getting onto it, like they do in sports. It’s mullet Joe Diffie from the Regular Joe record.”
Thomas Rhett’s original career plan was to get a job selling insurance; he studied communications at Lipscomb University while getting more serious about his songwriting, and credits Warner/Chappell’s Ben Vaughn with spurring him into songwriting. “I was playing shows with my cover band at the time, and Ben saw me play. He asked if I could write songs and said that I should try it more. I said, ‘How much are you going to pay me?’ and so they signed me up as a songwriter.”
He invited his father, songwriter Rhett Akins to the stage for several collaborations. Rhett performed his own 1995 hit, “That Ain’t My Truck” before trading lines with Thomas on “Boys Round Here,” which was recorded by Blake Shelton. Rhett commented on the recent father-son accomplishment of having a hand in half of the songs in the Top 10 during one week. “You can’t plan that,” said Rhett. “To have songs written by one of us and recorded by Justin Moore, Billy Currington, Lee Brice, Thomas, Florida Georgia Line to all be recorded and released around the same time and to all go that high on the charts. I don’t know why God allowed that to happen, but it did. Even Scott Borchetta can’t make that happen–or maybe he can,” Rhett quipped.
Rap and rock influences are evident in Thomas’ music and songwriting, and he says it just comes naturally. “The first rap song I heard when I was about 9-years-0ld was DMX‘s “Ruff Ryder’s Anthem,'” said Thomas. “My dad is a songwriter, so of course, I couldn’t escape Country. I knew every Tim McGraw, Garth Brooks and Brooks & Dunn song on the radio when I was growing up.”
They ended with a rendition of “Parking Lot Party,” recorded by Lee Brice. “Lee wasn’t scheduled to write with us that day,” said Rhett Akins. “Luke [Laird], Thomas and I were writing that day, and Thomas didn’t like anything we were coming up with,” he laughs. “We took a lunch break and came back, and Lee happened to walking out of the building as we were walking in. He asked if we had an hour or so to write a song and said he needed an uptempo song. He’s got a fun-loving personality, and had been doing a lot of emotional ballads, so he wanted something uptempo, and we came up with ‘Parking Lot Party.'”
The pride that Rhett Akins took in seeing his son’s success was evident throughout the event; the family collaboration is one more of those classic Nashville moments that the Bluebird Cafe can now add to its fabled history.
Another fun tidbit: racecar driver Danica Patrick was also in attendance.
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