Thomas Rhett’s Dad on a-ha, Wham!, Spandau Ballet

And Why His Bedroom Was Covered in Kiss Posters

Thomas Rhett might’ve taken his early influences from his dad, country singer-songwriter Rhett Akins, but who did Akins take his influences from?


In an interview with industry publication Country Aircheck, Akins revealed that even as he was starting to discover country music, there were a lot of bands and genres that played a part in his career aspirations.

“The first album I ever got was Alive II,” Akins said of the 1977 live album from Kiss. “You opened it up and the stage was on fire, Gene Simmons was spitting blood and smoke’s coming out of the drum kit. I loved music before Kiss, but this was the first time a band made me want to be an entertainer. They were from outer space. My mom hated them. My entire bedroom, including the ceiling, was covered in Kiss posters. I could put it on right now and know every sound, every feedback squeal, everything Paul Stanley’s going to say.”

Akins also love the Rolling Stones (“I’ve seen them 11 times. They are the greatest rock, blues and country band in the world. They combined everything, and they’re the best at it. I’m a huge fan of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards – their attitudes, lyrics, music and longevity.”), the Allman Brothers (“The guitar playing of Duane Allman and Dickey Betts spoke to me. Every note that came out of Gregg Allman’s mouth hit you straight in the heart. They are the epitome of southern rock and southern blues.”), and an eclectic mix of modern rap and classic pop (“Run-DMC, Kendrick Lamar. And I love ‘80s pop, like a-ha, Wham! and Spandau Ballet.)

Growing up, Akins shared that he was listening to pop radio, Motown, and the Beatles. But then he heard Hank Williams, Jr.’s “A Country Boy Can Survive” when he was 12, and he knew he’d want to add country to his repertoire. “He was talking about hunting, fishing, farm life. His was the first music I could relate to. This dude was singing about what I know,” he said, adding that around the same time, he also discovered Dean Dillon and Hank Cochran.

“As a kid, you thought every artist wrote their songs. But once I got old enough to study the album covers, I kept seeing the names Dean Dillon and Hank Cochran. Kiss made me want to be an entertainer,” Akins said, “but Dean and Hank made me want to be a great songwriter. Not only did they write fantastic songs, they were hits. They’re my country songwriting heroes.”

After a lifetime of collaborating at home, Akins and his son finally cut a song together — “Drink a Little Beer” — which is on Thomas Rhett’s 2017 Life Changes album.

Alison makes her living loving country music. She's based in Chicago, but she's always leaving her heart in Nashville.