Thomas Rhett Returns To His Roots on His New Album: “It’s a Breath of Fresh Air for Me”

The star discusses his renewed focus on family, and the new album's plethora of Eric Church references

For Thomas Rhett, Country Again is more than just the title of a two-part project (the first of which, Country Again: Side A, releases today). For an artist who has become known for polished, pop-country smashes like “Die A Happy Man” and “Craving You,” the phrase encompasses an ethos of returning to his emotional and creative center, and delving into the musical influences that first inspired him to pursue music. And, as the reigning ACM Male Artist of the Year tells CMT, those influences include plenty of ‘90s country and Eric Church songs.

“I was born in 1990, and I grew up in a household with a dad [prolific songwriter and “That Ain’t My Truck” hitmaker Rhett Akins] that was a big part of the ’90s country era and there was just something so cool about ’90s country to me. Even songs on the new album like ‘Blame It On A Backroad,’ that I feel like was definitely yanked right out of 1997. I think it’s just kind of a breath of fresh air for me, because I haven’t really recorded music like that in quite awhile, so it felt not only nostalgic, but it felt fresh for me to do something like that.”

Thomas Rhett co-wrote every track on the 11-song album, and as he sings on another track from the project, “Growing Up,” this singer, songwriter, husband, and father of three has done a lot of living and maturing since he put out his first single nearly a decade ago.

Thomas Rhett chatted with CMT via Zoom about his renewed focus on his family, writing during quarantine, the album’s plethora of Eric Church references, and what is ahead for his next project, Country Again: Side B, which releases later this year.

CMT: There are a lot of Eric Church references on this album.
Thomas Rhett: I actually got a text from him because “Country Again” came out, and I obviously dropped his name and that song. He just said, “Man, what a great song.” And I said, “Sorry I had to name drop you. It was a true story.” And he said, “I’m honored.” That was a really, really cool text to get from one of my heroes.

He’s been such a part of my life, and such a part of my career and somebody that I’ve really looked up to as a songwriter and an entertainer, and so it only felt natural to name drop him a couple of times.

You’ve co-written with Eric before.
Yeah, this was probably three years ago. Me and Eric and my buddy Luke Laird wrote a song that ended up never coming out, but we talk with every record that I put out. I’m like, “Hey man, how do you feel about this song? Would you sing on this?” And I think it’s just a matter of time before me and Eric get back in the room, and we actually do get to write something. If I do have a bucket list, that would be on it for sure, to do a song with Eric.

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