It's a pretty safe bet that Thomas Rhett was within earshot of a radio this past weekend, as "American Country Countdown" host Kix Brooks announced the Georgia native as the owner of nation's top country song, in terms of radio airplay, with his latest release, "It Goes Like This." Rhett told Billboard that it was truly a magical moment, especially with the track being co-written by his father, Rhett Akins.
"It's a crazy thing," he says. "Every artist dreams of having their first number one, and it really took me by surprise. I had no idea it was going to go, then I got the phone call. I think the first thing I did was call my dad, who wrote the song. For us to have my first number one song together is a very special thing."
Though he didn't have a hand in writing his chart-topper, it's been a great year for Rhett. He has hit as a songwriter on three occasions this year – Jason Aldean's "1994," "Parking Lot Party" from Lee Brice, and the song that put him at the top for the first time. "I had my first number one as a writer with Florida Georgia Line's 'Round Here.' That was a cool experience."
He admits the irony that he didn't write the song that became his first chart-topper. "For the longest time, I wrote all of my material, and didn't take outside songs. When my dad sent me this song, I knew it was going to be a game changer. I knew it was going to be a hit, but I had not idea just how big it was. Now that it's gone number one, I don't care that I didn't write it."
The singer credits his father with encouraging him along his career path. "I grew up going on the road with my dad, and watched him in the studio. I learned a lot from him. I didn't know that being a performer and a songwriter was where my life was going to go when I was a young age. I was around it, and always loved music. He played me so many kinds of music growing up, so I had so many different influences running out of my ears. When I started writing my own songs, a lot of different stuff was coming out melodywise. My writing and performing were definitely diverse. In a lot of ways, we write the same. He's kind of caught on to what I like to do, and we make a good team together," he says.
Writing "1994" for Aldean served two purposes for Rhett. It gave him a hit, but also helped to raise awareness of vocal stylings of 1990s hitmaker Joe Diffie. Rhett takes pride if he did indeed educate a younger audience on the singer. "I was in Vegas for the ACM's this spring, and I was talking to Joe's booking agent, and he said he was playing a ton of shows this year. He said that Joe felt a lot of it was due to the song, and the fact that a bunch of kids my age wanted to hear Joe's greatest hits. In my opinion, he was one of the best artists of the 90s, and he's also one of the best of all time. That song was not really written on purpose. It just kind of fell out. We were talking about Joe, and all of his song titles just kind of happened to rhyme with the kind of song we were writing. That song opened up a lot of doors for me."
On Tuesday, the singer will release his debut album, also titled "It Goes Like This." He said he can't wait for his fans to get their hands on it. "I'm probably going to buy at least a hundred copies, and try to clear the shelves of every Walmart. Every artist dreams of putting out that first record, and it's like your introduction to the world. I think we've got a lot of hits on the record. I've been working on it for a couple of years. I'm looking forward for fans to have a physical copy on their hands."