We were lucky enough to be front and centre during the press conferences at the recent C2C Festival in London. Thomas Rhett stopped by to talk about visiting the UK and other parts of the world, collaborating with Dave Stewart, his father Rhett Akins, his diverse musical influences, taking in the moment, working with Brett Eldredge, and doing CMT Crossroads with Nick Jonas. You can read what went down below.
RW Publicity: There’s a test question, because there’s a right answer and a wrong answer: how did you get to the O2 today?
Thomas: The tube. Is that the right answer? (laughter)
RW Publicity: It’s the correct answer, because it’s the quickest way. Rihanna, Coldplay, all kinds of people. The second thing, because people may have missed this – this morning Thomas was on the Chris Evans show with a number of other people, you may have heard it. And you met a British musician on there, and I think when you’re in America you tend to meet other people in the same genre, so can you just tell these good people who you met and a little bit about what happened?
Thomas: I met Dave Stewart, and we basically wrote a song together today. It was one of the strangest things I’ve ever – I mean I’m sitting there behind him, and in my head I’m going “Am I really sitting behind him right now? Listening to him talk about everything that he’s done, all the songs he’s written, all the records he’s produced?” So after we were done playing, he picked up my guitar and just started looking at me and strumming. I said “What are we doing?” He said “We’re writing a song.” I said “Is this how you do it?” He said “Yeah, we just write as we go.” It was one of the coolest moments of my life.
Think Country: I’ve seen you in Vegas, Nashville, wherever I go you seem to be there playing!
Thomas: I’m glad we’re not in Vegas! It’s a two-day town. (laughs)
Think Country: How is it being able to travel so much as part of your music career, and you look like you always make the most of everywhere you travel. I follow you on Snapchat, and some of the pictures you look like you’re genuinely having the time of your life. Is that something that you always wanted to do, travelling as part of your life in music?
Thomas: Yeah, for sure. You can get really bored if all you do is wake up and look at the back of an arena, or a club. Any town where I am, whether it’s Podunk, Kansas or it’s LA or it’s New York… especially when my wife’s with me, we try to get out to see the town, and really try to be as touristy as possible, and see everything that we should see. Then do a lot of things locally. I move around a lot, so for me to sit around all day would be not fun for anybody else. Especially since I’ve been in London I’ve done nothing but go, and actually fallen in love with the city. I’ve only been here for five days but it’s been great.
2Country Radio: You come from quite a pedigree, with your dad, a fantastic singer-songwriter in his own right. What’s the most valuable piece of advice he gave you when you were starting to make that jump, following in his footsteps of a music career?
Thomas: Me, probably like most artists that you’ve met, are extremely impatient people. I think that when you’re a musician, patience truly is a virtue – just like in anything. I think that what Dad taught me in his ten years of touring and then now ten years of songwriting is that patience is key. Really soak in the good moments. It seems like a lot of the time me and my other artist buddies, when we have a good bit of success we don’t ever take time to celebrate it, we’re always moving on to what’s next, what’s the next single, what’s the next show. But this year I really tried to soak in the great moments, cause you never know how many of them you’re gonna have, and really just have a great time playing shows and making people happy.
Sounds Like Nashville: I’m curious to know, do you change your set coming over here? One thing I didn’t know is they don’t really have trucks here! And tailgates don’t really resonate with them here. So do you change your set when you play here?
Thomas: At the beginning of this year and at the end of last year, we worked really hard on our set for this year, in America we’re out with Jason Aldean the whole year, the opening slot for him. Son we really wanted to try to bring that same show over to Europe to really just give European fans exactly what we’re doing in America. I am doing a couple of acoustic songs tonight just cause I want to, this arena is massive and I just wanna kinda take both my ears out and sing and listen to people. But we put so much effort and time into this set, I really wanna play it this year for sure.
RW Publicity: This morning you had to do covers, didn’t you? So can you tell people what you sang?
Thomas: Well, they wanted a classic country song and then they wanted a current – whatever I wanted to play. So I played ‘Your Cheatin’ Heart’, which is one of my favourite Hank Williams, Sr. songs, and then I played ‘Uptown Funk’. You probably can’t get any more different than that! But we had a really great time doing it.
W21 Music: With everything that has happened, with ‘Die A Happy Man’ and ‘Crash and Burn’ doing so well, what’s been your favourite moment?
Thomas: You know I think after you put your second record out, you really hope that you don’t fall into this thing they call the “sophomore slump”. But for us, ‘Crash and Burn’ being so successful and being #1 out of the gate, and then I think ‘Die A Happy Man’… the fact that it is a song that I wrote 100% about my wife, and a song that is so personal, to have that resonate on a large scale to so many people was one of the coolest moments of putting that record out for sure.
UKcountrymusic.net: You’re friends with a lot of artists you have already appeared at C2C. What have you heard about the UK fans and their reception to US artists?
Thomas: The biggest thing I’ve heard – I’m really good friends with the guys in The Cadillac Three. I’m really good friends with Charles Kelley from Lady Antebellum, and my buddy Brett Eldredge. I don’t think he’s done C2C, but he did come over and he did a bunch of clubs. I think the main thing that has resonated from my friends is to me, is you’re gonna be amazed at how certain people are singing your album cuts louder than your singles! Which makes me wanna move over here and never go back. I just think that’s cool. I think that when you put a record out in the UK, at least from what I’ve been told, people really fall in love with the entire album and the story you were trying to tell when you were making that album. Instead of just like, 1, 6 and 9. So I think that’s been the most talked about thing.
RW Publicity: Cause this album, it sort of has a theme to it. It’s music that influenced… give us a little bit of a talk about that.
Thomas: Yeah, so going back to my dad. My dad on the way to school in the mornings, would play me everything, it was Led Zeppelin, it was the Rolling Stones, it was Aretha Franklin – then it was Tupac, then it was DMX, then it was Hank Williams, then Merle Haggard. I grew up with such a diverse music background that I think when I started writing songs when I got to college, everything I love from all those genres sort of seeped out of me when I was writing songs and making music.
Danse Floor Magazine: One thing about your music that I noticed – I guess you are a fan of Bon Jovi, and Tom Petty. Is that right?
Thomas: I love Tom Petty, yeah, and Waylon. And Merle Haggard – probably my favourite songwriter that ever lived.
Chris Country Radio: We had Brett Eldredge at the station recently, when he was over here touring. On his album ‘Illinois’ there’s a song that you’ve done with him, but rather than being country it’s more like disco, studio 54. How did that come about, and what was the thinking behind it?
Thomas: He sent me that – I think my record was done, and he was in the final stages of finishing his project. I guess songs like ‘Make Me Wanna’ and ‘Crash and Burn’ sort of have that throwback, somewhat disco-y kind of sound. I think for me that comes from my grandmother being such a huge fan of the Bee Gees, and I guess that’s where I get my love of dance music. But when Brett wrote that song ‘You Can’t Stop Me’, I think I just came immediately to his mind because he thought it’d be right down my alley, and my vibe. It was a really fun song to sing on, and it makes me move.
Think Country: Following on from that saying it makes you move, when you’re on the stage you like to party. I’ve got an amazing picture that looks like you’re levitating! Are we gonna see some moves tonight?
Thomas: Probably. (laughter) Depends how much Jameson I drink before the show. (laughter)
RW Publicity: Can we just ask you about – you talked about your father. I don’t think you planned this – you weren’t thinking “I wanna be like my dad.” I think your first success was a songwriter?
RW Publicity: Did you secretly want to be a singer or did it just happen?
Thomas: You know I think when your dad does anything, whether your dad’s a doctor, a lawyer, he sells insurance, whatever he does you either wanna follow in those footsteps, or you wanna do something completely opposite. So for me music was always a love, but growing up my first instrument was the drums in a rock band called the High-Heeled Flip-Flops. My musical background like I said was very diverse. But I always music and I was always playing in my talent shows in high school, and learning how to play the guitar. Never in a million years did I dream it would be a profession, but when I got to college and started to write songs, and figured out that I was really bad at school and that I wasn’t gonna finish college, I got my first cut on a Jason Aldean record and that sort of spurred me to wanna continue in that path.
RW Publicity: And you had a band at college, but that was more for fun I think.
Thomas: We were terrible. We played the worst Jason Aldean and Eric Church covers you have ever heard.
Planet Country: You talked about other country artists, but one pop artist you’re going to do CMT Crossroads with is Nick Jonas. How did that collaboration come about, and what have you got planned for it?
Thomas: Randomly at certain events I’ve done over this past year – his manager and my manager are actually friends – me and Nick have crossed paths doing certain events, and have just become decent acquaintances. When we were thinking about who we wanted to pick for Crossroads, it just seemed like an easy fit. I think that me and Nick first of all get along as friends, second of all musically I think we were influenced by a lot of the same things growing up. And we’re sort of in a way as far along as each other in both of our career paths, so it seemed like a pretty fun fit.
Radio Slovenia: How off are you willing to wander off from the country genre to achieve global stardom, in the future?
Thomas: I think that growing up country music was my first love, and it will always remain my first love, and I think what I fell in love with about country music was the stories and the genuineness behind those stories. I think that that part of me in country music will never leave. Will the sounds of my music get crazier, and will you see me venture out and try certain things? Absolutely. But who knows what the future holds man, I want my music to be heard by as many people as possible, and I think that’s the ultimate goal. Somebody asked me the other day, do I ever see myself leaving the country genre and doing what Taylor Swift did and go to the pop. My voice is too undeniably twangy, I don’t know if you could hear me next to Katy Perry and pull it off!