On The Cover – Thomas Rhett & Rhett Akins (June/July 2014)

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• June 19, 2014

One week last fall, father and son Rhett Akins and Thomas Rhett more or less had the market on Country hits cornered—having either written, co-written, or recorded five of the Top 10 songs on Country radio, including Florida Georgia Line’s “Round Here,” Billy Currington’s “Hey Girl,” Lee Brice’s “Parking Lot Party,” and Justin Moore’s “Point at You.” One of Akins’ hits that week—“It Goes Like This”—was especially monumental, as it became his 24-year-old son’s first No. 1 single and the title cut from his debut album. (Rhett has since scored another No. 1 hit, “Get Me Some Of That,” also co-written by Dad.)

Of this top-of-the-charts father/son success story, Akins told Billboard earlier this year, “That’s a dream come true for any songwriter or artist, but even more of a dream come true when it happens with your own son. That’s never happened in the history of music that we can figure out so far. That’s probably the highlight of my 20 years of being in Nashville.”

The landmark occasion was a big cause for celebration for Akins, 44, and Rhett (born Thomas Rhett Akins Jr.) and their performing rights organization, BMI, which toasted the brown-eyed, brown-haired, baseball-cap-wearing pair with a No. 1 shindig at Marathon Village.

Tending to a family tree full of songwriters is nothing new for BMI, which has also represented Hank Williams, Sr. and his family members, among so many other families in the industry: Bobby Bare and Bobby Bare, Jr., Billy Ray and Miley Cyrus, Dean and Jessie Jo Dillon, Waylon Jennings and Jessi Colter and their son Shooter Jennings, as well as brothers Brett and Jim Beavers, and Brett and Brad Warren. Still more bold-faced family names tied to BMI: the Presleys, the Bradleys, the Bergs, the Louvins, the Tillises, the Whitleys, the Morgans, and the Scruggs.

“Usually a songwriter’s longest-lasting professional relationship in the music industry is the one they have with their performing rights organization,” says Jody Williams, BMI’s vice president of writer/publisher relations. “If a successful songwriter who joined BMI has kids of his own, and those kids follow in his footsteps, they also will come to BMI many, many more times than not.”

Southerners are known for their loyalty, most especially to family and tradition—values that apparently extend to the region’s songwriters, most of whom show their allegiance to their performing rights organization by passing the relationship down to their songwriting children. Signing to the same performing rights organization as the songwriter parent who came before you serves as both a comfort and a convenience for artists, though BMI also views it as a larger responsibility, says Williams, whose own children have established strong careers in the industry. Williams’ youngest son Ed develops talent at Sony/ATV, while his eldest son, Driver, plays lead guitar for Eric Church and writes songs for Big Deal Music.

“For someone to bring their child to sign with you, it just shows you what confidence they have in you,” says Williams, who signed Rhett Akins to BMI in 1990, the same year Thomas Rhett was born. “It encourages you to do the best job you can for them—not that you wouldn’t do it anyway, but that’s pretty cool to be entrusted like that. We take that seriously.”

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Kelsey Grady is the Web Graphic Designer/Production Manager with MusicRow Enterprises. She started with the company in 2014 with an educational background from Purdue University and School of the Art Institute Chicago. [email protected]

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