Even the weather was cheering Thomas Rhett on Wednesday afternoon (Oct. 9) as he stood in the crowd, chatting with his co-writers on the wide sixth-floor balcony of the BMI building overlooking downtown Nashville.
A horde of friends and associates from Music Row had gathered to celebrate the No. 1 chart success of Rhett’s “Sixteen,” which he had written with Sean Douglas and Joe Spargur, and “Look What God Gave Her,” his composition with Rhett Akins (his dad), Julian Bunetta, Josh Ryan, Jacob Kasher and Ammar Malik.
A cool breeze blew through the crowd, nudging the cotton-candy clouds overhead and obliterating memories of the blast-furnace sunshine that had scorched the city in recent weeks. Guests lingered at the bar and food table or relaxed on the overstuffed couches and chairs arranged in circles near the improvised stage.
New RIAA multi-platinum certifications were also revealed: “Die A Happy Man” (6x platinum); “Marry Me” (3x platinum); and “Crash and Burn,” “T-Shirt,” and the album Tangled Up (2x platinum).
“The real secret of [Thomas Rhett’s] success,” BMI’s Leslie Roberts told the gathering, “is that he knows what matters—his family.” Indeed, besides his dad, who stood near him on stage, Thomas Rhett’s wife Lauren was also on hand to share his joy.
Roberts noted that the two songs being spotlighted are Thomas Rhett’s twelfth and thirteenth No. 1’s and complimented him for having recently sold out Madison Square Garden. She was even more expansive in her praise of the artist’s dad, “Nobody tells a story like Rhett Akins,” she proclaimed. “He’s had [at least one] song on the charts for the last eight years.” To date, she added, Akins has had 30 No. 1 hits.
One of Thomas Rhett’s publishers likened him to the trailblazers memorialized in Ken Burns’ “Country Music” documentary who triumphed by going against the musical grain. The artist has stood apart from most of his peers by the extent to which he brings his personal life into his songs.
“If I had to describe Thomas Rhett in one word,” said Scott Borchetta, who heads Thomas Rhett’s record label, “it would be ’collaborate.’ He includes everybody.”
Akins told the crowd that he would be opening for his son, as he has been throughout the tour, when he plays Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena on Saturday (Oct. 12). And, he pointed out, at midnight on that day he will turn 50 years old. Akins was a promising country artist himself in the mid-1990s when he scored with such songs as “That Ain’t My Truck” and “Don’t Get Me Started,” both of which he co-wrote.
Thomas Rhett began his closing remarks by acknowledging his wife, whom he couldn’t immediately spot in the crowd. “She’s back there somewhere,” he said. “She’s 23-weeks pregnant. You can’t miss her. I just want to take a second to say ’Thank you so much’ to my wife and to my two little baby girls. We’ve got one on the way due in February. Three little girls. I can’t believe my life has turned out this way. I’m just so fortunate.”
Then he turned his attention to his fellow songwriters. (Of the songwriters being honored, only Kasher and Malik were absent.) “Me and dad talk about this all the time—how you can sit in a room with people and come up with an idea and then four hours later there’s exists a song that one day, by the grace of God, an arena will sing along to. It’s the most mind-blowing thing to me. … It’s just been really fun to go to work with people that are a little bit outside the box and being able to take my vision and what I have to say on a record and take it to the next level.”
He concluded on a practical note everyone could relate to. “I’ve got three weddings and three colleges to pay for. So I really appreciate it.”
Lead Photo: Back Row (L-R) The Valory Music Co.’s Athena Puharic, Adams Burnes and Brooke Nixon, Big Machine Label Group’s Scott Borchetta, The Valory Music Co.’s George Briner, Christy DiNapoli, Chris Palmer; Bottom Row (L-R) BMI songwriter Sean Douglas, BMI songwriter Joe London, BMI songwriter John Ryan, Thomas Rhett, BMI songwriter Rhett Akins, BMI songwriter Julian Bunetta
Second Photo: Back Row (L-R) SonyATV’s Josh Van Valkenburg, The Valory Music Co.’s George Briner, BMI’s Leslie Roberts, Big Deal Music’s Pete Robinson, BMI’s Spencer Nohe; Bottom Row (L-R) – Big Machine Label Group’s Scott Borchetta, Thomas Rhett, BMI songwriter Sean Douglas, BMI songwriter Joe London, co-producer Jesse Frasure
Third Photo (L-R) The Valory Music Co.’s George Briner, Big Deal Music’s Pete Robinson; Middle Row (L-R) – Warner/Chappell’s Jessi Vaughn, Prescription Songs’ Katie Fagan, BMI’s Leslie Roberts and Spencer Nohe, SonyATV’s Josh Van Valkenburg. Bottom Row (L-R) Big Machine Label Group’s Scott Borchetta, Thomas Rhett, BMI songwriter John Ryan, BMI songwriter Rhett Akins, BMI songwriter and co-producer Julian Bunetta