Thomas Rhett Is Happy to Kick It Old School

ACM New Artist of the Year Nominee Is an Old Soul

Sure, Thomas Rhett is one of the freshest faces and voices on the charts — and a contender for this year’s ACM new artist of the year award — but don’t be fooled.

He’s an old soul at heart.

While the delicious throwback groove and dang-near disco vibe his latest No. 1, “Make Me Wanna,” definitely lends itself to my theory, there’s another reason I’m convinced Rhett’s affinity for timeless melodies and sonic soul is no new development.


He was raised on the classics.

Rhett and I were recently discussing the good old days of music and the masterful artists of yesteryear. Along the way, I mentioned how baffled I was that even relevant, high profile artists like Super Bowl hip-hop stunner Missy Elliott are among those falling into that scary abyss of obscurity with so many people today. And we won’t even get started on the “who is Paul McCartney” trending topic that recently blew up the social media universe.

Rhett isn’t likely to forget the artists and music of the past.

“I was forced to like some of the biggest idols and the biggest rock stars ever,” he said of his childhood. “When you’re, like, 9 or 10 … and Will Smith is huge, you don’t think the Beatles are that cool. When you’re on your way to school and your dad’s forcing you to listen to Wings or “Yellow Submarine” or something like that — or the entire Rolling Stones collection or the Allman Brothers — you’re like, ‘Dad, this is not what people are listening to right now!”

Personally, this makes me wanna hug his famous dad, songwriter Rhett Akins, and say thank you for forcing such great music into his son’s childhood. My mama did the same thing to me, and I love her for it.

And Thomas is grateful for his dad’s efforts, too. He went on to tell me, “I grew up, and all that stuff was so in my brain that once I become of age to appreciate music, all of those things became my favorite things to listen to.”

Plus, all those classic tunes are a great foundation for his work now.

“When you listen to everything from Hank Williams to Aretha Franklin to Led Zeppelin or AC/DCMuddy Waters, Frank Sinatra — there comes a point where you can kind of channel those parts of your childhood and be like, ‘Maybe we should incorporate a little bit of that into today’s co-write.’

“Or maybe somebody throws up a throwback beat that sounds like a ‘70s song. … That’s kind of how ‘Make Me Wanna’ was written. My grandmamma loved the Bee Gees, therefore I love the Bee Gees, and that song just kind of came out of ‘why don’t we write a country Bee Gees song?’”

I’ll bet that is something you don’t hear every day in a Music Row writing room.

And the ingenuity of it all paid off big time. Bigger than disco, baby.

“Make Me Wanna” became Rhett’s third consecutive No. 1 single, making him the first solo male to score a trio of toppers from a full-length debut album since 1994.

I think we can all kick it old school and groove to that.

Samantha is a country radio insider with a deep love for the music and its stars. She can often be found on a red carpet or at a late-night guitar pull.