(CMT Hot Dish is a weekly feature written by veteran columnist Hazel Smith. Author of the cookbook, Hazel's Hot Dish: Cookin' With Country Stars, she also hosts CMT's Southern Fried Flicks With Hazel Smith and shares her recipes at CMT.com.)
Do yourself a big favor. If you're a true blue country music fan, you need to see Thomas Rhett's video, "Something to Do With My Hands." Listen to the 22-year-old lad giving us a piece of his young heart with his wonderful first single.
Born in Valdosta, Ga., he says music has been a part of his life as long as he can remember. His daddy is Rhett Akins, who had a No. 1 hit as a songwriter and artist in 1996 with "Don't Get Me Started." Along with Dallas Davidson and Ben Hayslip, his dad is one-third of the songwriting trio known as the Peach Pickers. Considering the success they've had with cuts by Luke Bryan, Blake Shelton, Rodney Atkins, Josh Turner and others, a lot of hits were played in the Akins family home long before they were ever heard on the radio.
I reside north of Nashville, and Thomas told me he passed my house twice daily for 12 years going to and from Goodpasture Christian School. He also recalled his dad working at the family's oil and gas distributorship in Georgia before they moved to San Antonio, Texas, where Rhett Akins performed in the "Music Country Music" show at the Fiesta Texas theme park. In 1992, they moved to Nashville.
Thomas grew up watching his dad work as an artist and eventually become a hit songwriter. While attending high school at Goodpasture, Thomas dabbled in songwriting and playing guitar. He and some friends formed a band. After high school, he was accepted at Lipscomb University in Nashville. While attending college, a music exec heard him perform and sent him to EMI Music Publishing, where he signed a deal as a songwriter. Shortly thereafter, he got his first cut when one of his originals -- "I Ain't Ready to Quit" -- landed on Jason Aldean's platinum-selling My Kinda Party album.
Barely out of his teens, he signed a record deal a year later with the Valory Music Co., one of the hottest new labels in Nashville or any other town. The imprint is part of the Big Machine Label Group, home to Taylor Swift, Rascal Flatts and Reba McEntire, among others.
I really wanted to know how Thomas Rhett got an appointment with Big Machine CEO Scott Borchetta. (Those meetings have become as scarce as hen's teeth.) Well, he got a 10-minute meeting through Allison Jones, whom I met over a dozen years ago when she worked at Giant Records. She continued to work hard and ended up becoming Big Machine's VP of A&R.
Yep, Allison got him 10 minutes, but his talent and charming personality turned it into an hour-long visit with Borchetta. He got his recording contract, and his five-song EP will be released Aug. 21. He and producer Jay Joyce are in the studio getting ready for a full album.
Thomas is engaged to a girl named Lauren. They went to school together and plan to marry in October following his busy summer on the road as an opener on Toby Keith's Live in Overdrive tour. Lauren is finishing work on her nursing degree in Knoxville, Tenn. He showed me a photo of himself and Lauren -- a beautiful girl.
"She's a fine Christian girl," he said, showing a sweet smile he inherited from his dad.
When was the last time you heard that statement? It just about took my breath away.
Carrie Underwood Going Strong
Carrie Underwood keeps going strong. Her new album, Blown Away, is happening big time, and she's set to appear on Aerosmith's new album, Music From Another Dimension, to be released Nov. 6.
CBS has announced that Carrie and Dierks Bentley will be a part of its upcoming Teachers Rock special set to air Aug. 18. The live show will also feature Josh Groban, Usher and Adam Levine, along with actors Meryl Streep, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jennifer Garner and Matthew Morrison.
Taylor Swift, Hunter Hayes, Lady A Win Teen Choice Awards
I see where the Teen Choice Awards reached out to several of our favorite young artists. First off, Taylor Swift won five awards on July 22 in Los Angeles, including movie voice for her role as Audrey in Dr. Seuss' The Lorax. She also won in the categories of female artist, female country artist, single by a female artist for "Eyes Open" and country song for "Sparks Fly." Taylor now has 20 Teen Choice Awards, the most for any female artist.
Also at the awards show, Hunter Hayes won for male country artist, and Lady Antebellum won country group honors.
Willie and Jamey Will Be Working on the Railroad
The legendary Willie Nelson is taking the scenic route on the 2012 Railroad Revival tour. Joining him are my good friend Jamey Johnson, Band of Horses and actor-musician John C. Reilly & Friends.
The train departs Duluth, Ga., on Oct. 20 and arrives in Oakland, Calif., on Oct. 28. Along the way, the artists will travel in vintage railcars from the 1940s. The outdoor performances will take place in parks, fields and lots around the railroad tracks where they stop. Stops include Memphis, Tenn.; Oklahoma City; Old Town Spring, Texas; Tempe, Ariz., and San Pedro, Calif.
Jay and Allison DeMarcus Welcome Another Rascal Flatts Fan
Jay DeMarcus was in Detroit for the Rascal Flatts concert on July 20 when he got word that his wife, CMT Insider correspondent Allison DeMarcus, was in labor. Jay rushed to the airport, hopped a plane and made it to Nashville in time for the baby's birth.
Jay kissed the baby and the baby's mama before bolting back to the Nashville airport and boarding a plane and arriving in Detroit in time for the concert. The only problem was that there was no place and no time for Jay to change out of the blue hospital scrubs, so he played his bass wearing the scrubs he wore when he assisted the delivery of his son, Dylan Jay DeMarcus, who weighed 7 pounds and 11 ounces.
The next day Jay finally found time and tweeted, "Thanks everyone for all the well wishes! He's gorgeous just like his dad."
Dylan's sister, Madeline Leigh, was born the spitting image of her dad on Dec. 17, 2010.
Congratulations to the DeMarcus clan. A former Miss Tennessee, Allison is a beauty, a real Southern belle. As for Jay, he may be the only star in country music who ever wore a hospital bracelet out of state.
Jason Aldean sold out his Cleveland concert in 30 seconds. Ticket sales were slower in Dallas, where the concert sold out in four minutes.
"I Like Girls That Drink Beer" is the first single from Toby Keith's next album.
Opryland Hotel began decorating for Christmas mid-July and Lorrie Morgan announced that she'd debut the Christmas Show at the iconic Gaylord Opryland Resort in November.
I see where singer-songwriter Sarah Buxton and her husband, session guitarist Tom Bukovac, are expecting their first child. Her songwriting credits include Keith Urban's "Stupid Boy."
See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Beef Stroganoff.