Thomas Rhett on Being First Country Act to Top Billboard 200 This Year: 'It Blows My Mind'

John Shearer
Thomas Rhett

Marking a first for 2017, a country act has rules the all-genre Billboard 200, as Thomas Rhett's third full-length album, Life Changes, roars in atop the chart dated Sept. 30, earning 123,000 equivalent album units in the week ending Sept. 14, according to Nielsen Music.

Rhett scores his first No. 1 on the Billboard 200 as well as on Top Country Albums. With 94,000 sold, Rhett also records his best sales week.

Rhett is the first country artist to rule the Billboard 200 since Jason Aldean a year ago, when his They Don't Know arrived atop the survey dated Oct. 1, 2016 (138,000). That set was the only No. 1 by a country act in 2016.

"It blows my mind to have a No. 1 album," Rhett tells Billboard. "I feel like we started working on this project the moment we put out [prior album] Tangled Up in 2015, so it's the end of a couple of years of hard work and growth. It's an autobiographical album in a lot of ways, which makes it really personal. So for it to be received the way that it has is extra gratifying. And to be the first country artist this year to have a No. 1 on the all-genre chart is really humbling."  

Rhett had a hand in writing 10 of the 14 songs on Changes, which melds styles from contemporary pop to traditional country. "I'm influenced by a wide variety of genres and it's reflected in my songwriting," he says. "When we went in the studio we just allowed each song to be whatever it was when we created it, without feeling the need to try and change it and make it fit into a certain box."

Changes follows It Goes Like This, Rhett's first full-length, which debuted and peaked on Top Country Albums at No. 2 on Nov. 16, 2013 (36,000 sold), and second LP Tangled Up, which arrived at No. 3 Oct. 17, 2015 (76,000 units; 62,000 sold), and peaked at No. 2. Rhett made his first of his four Top Country Albums appearances with his 2012 self-titled EP (No. 24).

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"Unforgettable," Changes' Coldplay-referencing sophomore single, hits the Hot Country Songs top five (7-4) and becomes Rhett's 10th Country Airplay top 10 (24.2 million in audience, up 8 percent). Lead single "Craving You," featuring Maren Morris, topped Country Airplay and reached No. 3 on Hot Country Songs.

ALSO NEW Top Country Albums welcomes three additional top 10 debuts, led by Dustin Lynch's third studio set, Current Mood, bows at No. 2 (36,000 units; 27,000 sold). It follows 2014's Where It's At, which debuted and peaked at No. 2 (31,000 sold) and his 2012 self-titled first album and lone No. 1 (23,000). Lynch's new set arrives on the strength of second single (following the Country Airplay No. 1 "Seein' Red") "Small Town Boy," in its third week atop Country Airplay (44.1 million, down 5 percent).

Kip Moore's Slowheart starts at No. 3 on Top Country Albums (29,000), where it's his third top 10, following Wild Ones (No. 2, 2015) and Up All Night (No. 3, 2012).

Meanwhile, Toby Keith's The Bus Songs rolls in at No. 6 (12,000), marking his 23rd Top Country Albums top 10, a total that includes 10 No. 1s.

BLAKE UNLEASHED As Sam Hunt's "Body Like a Back Road" crowns Hot Country Songs for a record extending 32nd week, Blake Shelton banks his 29th top 10, as "I'll Name the Dogs" zooms 40-10. Following its first full week of tracking, it launches at No. 2 on Country Digital Song Sales (27,000 sold) and No. 20 on Country Streaming Songs (3 million U.S. streams) and lifts 23-22 on Country Airplay (10 million, up 5 percent).

'FOUND' FLIES IN Kane Brown earns his highest debut on Hot Country Songs as "Found You" enters at No. 13. It arrives at No. 1 on Country Digital Song Sales (33,000), where it's his first leader. It also boasts 2.2 million U.S. streams for the week.

"Found" is one of four new tracks on the deluxe version of Brown's self-titled debut album, due Oct. 6.