Rodney Atkins Returns From Seven-Year Musical Hiatus, Talks New Single 'Caught Up In The Country'

Joseph Llanes
Rodney Atkins

It’s been seven years since Rodney Atkins has released a new studio album (Take A Back Road in 2011), but the Curb recording artist has been far from idle.

The singer -- best known for such '00s smashes as “It’s America” and “Cleaning This Gun” -- became a husband and a father for the second time during his time away from the spotlight. He married fellow performer Rose Falcon, and the couple welcomed son Ryder Falcon Atkins into the world in December. He says it’s been a period of renewal on the personal front.

“The moment that I met Rose, I knew there was going to be a grand adventure to follow,” he tells Billboard. “She’s everything to me, and my inspiration. We’ve got a ten-week-old little boy named Ryder, and a sixteen-year-old son named Eli. I’ve just been living life, and have just embraced the adventure of laughing and having more fun than I’ve ever had in my life.”

Now, the singer hopes to reclaim his position on the airwaves of Country Radio with his new single “Caught Up in the Country.” He says he hopes that listeners will realize that he is trying to remain true to the country format -- after all, that’s always been his mission. “If you go back to If You’re Going Through Hell, the response that we got at the time was that it didn’t sound like anything else out there," he recalls. "Take A Back Road was another record that people said the same thing about from a sonic standpoint.” 

He says he wanted to maintain that creative spirit: “I just wanted to raise the bar sonically and do something that challenges everything else that is out there – and me in the meantime. I always want to stay true to my roots. I’m Country. I don’t want to put out music that people will say ‘’Now, what kind of music is that? Am I on a Pop station here?’ I appreciate other kinds of music, but I know what I do and where I stand, and what I want to sing about. I value that. I consider it an honor to sing about country music." 

While remaining true to his country roots, Atkins says he didn't play it safe on his new music. "I challenged myself sonically on a lot of sounds," he explains. "I’ve produced all my records with Ted Hewitt. We brought in a young guy named Blake Bolinger on this record, who is a sounds guy. He created some different atmospheres on the record. It was fun. I spent hours just playing with sounds and trying to create a nod to the past, as well as push the envelope.”

At the same time, Atkins also wants to give audiences a message they can relate to. “I try to be conscious of that -- I don’t feel like I can just put anything out there and it will get played," he says. "I try to [be] relevant but also timeless. I think that the songs that we’ve put out are believable and also are just as relevant when they were originally released. That’s very important for your career, so when you’re going out on the road, people are still singing along with the lyrics of a song like [2006 hit] ‘Watching You.’ It’s such a simple song. It blows me away that people still want to come up and talk about that one. That’s always the goal."

Giving his new single a little different sound is the soulful sounds of the Fisk Jubilee Singers – one of Nashville’s most historic vocal groups, from Music City’s Fisk University. The singer-songwriter says the collaborative effort came about as a result of a performance at the “Mother Church of Country Music.”

“I was asked to do an event at the Ryman Auditorium with the Fisk Jubilee Singers," he relates. "I went in and did ‘Working On A Building,’ the old Gospel classic, and as I rehearsed with them, it was this old-fashioned, hand-clapping, foot-stomping feeling. Rose and I just looked at each other and said, ‘This is Church. This is the spirit. This is how music should make you feel.’ I had been working on this song called ‘Caught Up in the Country,’ and just thought, ‘These kids need to be a part of this.”

Atkins says the lyrics of the song are ones that he identifies with. “This is the spirit of being Country and why I love being outdoors," he offers. "Some people go to Church and think about fishing, and others go fishing and think about God. That’s what the outdoors is to me, and that’s what this song is about. They came in, and we just had a blast recording it. It just became an event, and was something that was infectious. It’s got some very different sounds to it from things I’ve done before, but it’s very organic and fresh. It captures a lot of elements that I love about music, period.”

Atkins tells Billboard that he has wrapped up work on his fifth studio album for Curb, which he anticipates being released later in 2018.