Since Thomas Rhett reached No. 1 on the Country Airplay chart for the first time with “It Goes Like This” in October 2013, things haven’t really slowed down for the country star. This is especially true in 2017, as Rhett reached No. 1 for a seventh time in February with “Star of the Show” — almost simultaneously with the kickoff to his first-ever headlining trek, the Home Team Tour, as well as his announcement that he and wife Lauren were both adopting a baby and expecting one of their own.
Continuing the good fortune five months later, Rhett celebrates his eighth Country Airplay No. 1 (chart dated July 22) with “Craving You,” his collaboration with rising singer-songwriter Maren Morris. Just two days before his latest achievement, Rhett took the time to surprise fans at Budweiser’s Brewery Open House event at the flagship brewery in St. Louis, Missouri, Saturday (July 8), delivering a stripped-down performance and even having his esteemed songwriter dad Rhett Akins joining him for a few tunes.
Although the event marked his first surprise gig in a while, he always loves being able to make such appearances for his fans. While they may see him as a superstar, he doesn’t feel like he’s changed much even after having eight chart-topping hits.
“I just don’t look at myself that way,” Rhett tells Billboard about his level of fame. “I feel like I’m just a pretty normal dude that sings songs and that happens to be successful.”
It won’t be long before Rhett will have another shot at maintaining his winning streak, as the 27-year-old plans to release a new album — the follow-up to 2015’s Tangled Up — in the fall. Ahead of his appearance at the Budweiser event, Rhett hopped on the phone to chat with Billboard about his latest No. 1 hit and share some details about what fans can expect from his upcoming project. Check out the interview below.
Can you believe you’re up to your eighth Country Airplay No. 1 already?
No, it is mind-boggling for sure. “Craving You” I think is definitely my fastest-rising song that I’ve ever been a part of — it really seems like yesterday when I signed a record deal, so being here, eight No. 1s later… I just feel super-blessed to have had that much success. There are a lot of good artists out there, but we’re excited to be where we’re at.
When you’re seeing so much success with each single you release, how do you approach your next set of material?
You spend so much time writing these songs and making them as good as you think they can be — you live with them for forever. When it hits the fans’ ears, they’re literally hearing every song for the first time. So, in that way, it’s kind of like, you wish you could tell the world, “Hey, listen to it three times in a row,” or “Try to listen to it in this order,” but you’re really just going to have to make the best product that you can, and at the end of the day be happy with it.
I think you are kind of a little bit nervous, because you want to continue to do the same thing that you’ve done in the past. But as an artist, I think we all have to evolve and move forward and try to create new things that are successful. This third record coming out in the fall, I definitely think it’s my best piece of work that I’ve been a part of, and I’m just really excited for people to hear it.
Did your recent transition to fatherhood have any impact on the music you’ve made for this record?
Yeah, a lot of the songs were songs that I wrote before I had any idea that I was going to get to adopt a child, and some of them were written after my wife and I decided to adopt Willa. There are a couple of songs that definitely allude to how much my life has changed over the past couple of years as far as career goes, and definitely as far as being a dad, too.
Going into the fourth and fifth record, I will have a whole lot more info as far as being a dad. I can definitely see my writing being shifted towards what my kids are into and transitioning into super-dad life.
Did you do anything differently musically or lyrically with these songs?
I wrote every single song for this record on my bus. I had a writer come on the road with me, I used a couple different producers that I never thought I would use. I was way more hands-on as a producer during the mixing and mastering process, so I kind of feel like I’m way more attached to these songs than I have been I guess in past records. I think that’s why I’m a little bit nervous. It is definitely my baby that I’ve been working on for six to seven months, so we’re just anxious to get it out there.
What can fans expect from the sound of the album?
I would say that this record is even more diverse and present than Tangled Up was. I feel like I always latch onto a couple of classic artists every year that I feel like I never fully got into as a kid, so I’m influenced by a lot of oldies, whether it’s kind of ‘50s doo-wop music, or more like James Brown funk/soul vibes.
It’s nice to to kind of keep taking chances and pushing those boundaries a little bit — but still, at the same time, being cohesively like a Thomas Rhett album. There really is a sound for everyone on this record.