Country Music’s Hottest Star Opens Riverbend – By Susan Pierce – 6-10-16


Thomas Rhett - 600x400

The country singer who Rolling Stone magazine claims “is ushering in country’s future” will open the 35th anniversary year of Chattanooga’s Riverbend Festival tonight.

Thomas Rhett will play the Coca-Cola Stage at 9:30 p.m. — and considering his recent and upcoming schedule — Chattanooga’s lucky to get him. The singer, justifiably country music’s hottest rising star right now, is in demand on TV just as much as he is on radio and in concert.

He kicked off this year touring for three months with Jason Aldean. Then, on off nights, he made high-profile TV appearances on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” and “Late Night with Seth Meyers” before NBC’s “Today” picked him to announce the CMT Music Award nominees on the morning show.

In April, he won the Academy of Country Music’s award for Single of the Year, “Die a Happy Man,” which he wrote about his love for his wife. Hip-hop star Nelly has since recorded a cover of the song.

On Monday this week, it was announced Rhett had notched his sixth consecutive No. 1 on Billboard’s Country Airplay chart for “T-Shirt,” the third No. 1 off his sophomore album, “Tangled Up.”

On Wednesday, he performed on the CMT Music Awards. Last night, he hosted CMA Music Fest in Nashville’s Nissan Stadium, and he’s also been tabbed by ABC to host “Country’s Night to Rock,” the network’s annual special that replays highlights of CMA Music Fest week.Co-hosting with him will be Brett Eldredge, who plays Riverbend on Wednesday.

After his Riverbend show tonight, Rhett performs at a country music festival in Minnesota on Saturday, then has to be back in Nashville Sunday night for another CMA Music Fest performance. Beginning June 15, he’ll be touring until mid-November.

Rhett’s schedule may be non-stop, but lately he’s taking fans on “Vacation,” his newest single released Monday. Not since Craig Morgan’s “Redneck Yacht Club” in 2005 has one song seemed so destined to be a summer anthem.

“‘Vacation’ is fast becoming one of my favorite songs to play live,” Rhett recently told The Boot website. “It’s all about letting loose and having fun, wherever you are, and that’s what we want people to do at our shows. We want our shows to be a mini-vacation for everyone, from the front to the back.”

Thomas co-wrote “Vacation” with Los Angeles songwriters, but later decided the bass line sounded so much like War’s “Low Rider” he contacted that band, then listed all of them in the songwriter credits, which eventually added up to a total of 14 writers.

“It’s pretty cool to even have them be mentioned on the record,” Rhett told iHeart Radio.

The humor in “Vacation’s” lyrics is comparable to the clever, unexpected plays on words that make Kelley Lovelace’s songs so successful. Lovelace is the former Hixson resident who is now a sought-after Nashville songwriter. Rhett and Lovelace have the skill to make listeners literally laugh out loud at the surprise twists in their lyrics.

For example, in “Vacation”:

“Got a couple bucks but I’m spending them like pesos;

“Might be Motel Sixing, but it feels like Turks and Caicos.”

“That’s the sign of a great songwriter when you think the singer is going one place and you go someplace else,” says Dex Poindexter, on-air personality at WUSY-FM/US 101.

And no wonder. Rhett learned from one of Nashville’s best, his dad Rhett Akins.

It wasn’t unusual for the son to come home while growing up and find Tim McGraw or Blake Shelton in his home because Dad wrote for many of country’s superstars. Shelton hits “Honeybee,” “Boys ’Round Here” and “All About Tonight,” Brooks and Dunn’s “Put a Girl In It,” Luke Bryan’s “I Don’t Want This Night to End,” and Billy Currington’s “Hey Girl” are examples of Dad’s work.

Dad also had a hand in two of his son’s No. 1 successes: “It Goes Like This” and “Get Me Some of That.”

“At one time, about a year or a year and a half ago, of the top 10 songs on Billboard’s Top 100 Country chart, Thomas or Rhett had written or performed eight of the top 10 songs,” says Poindexter. “That had never happened before.”

Contact Susan Pierce at spierce@timesfreepress. com or 423-757-6284.


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