NASHVILLE, Tenn. • Rhett Akins has helped pen numerous country music hits over the last two decades, but he’s jealous of his 23-year-old son Thomas Rhett’s natural ease at singing and songwriting.
"I feel like I’ve really had to practice hard to play guitar and to write good songs," Akins said. "And it seems like it has just been pouring out of his mouth since he was at least 17 or 18, like just way more natural at it. And I don’t know if that’s just the way that he was born or just a combination of that he was born with talent and grew up on a tour bus, and grew up backstage, and grew up listening to all my demos and records. It’s just probably a combination of both of those."
Father and son singer-songwriters aren’t that unusual in country music. Hank Williams, Waylon Jennings, Bobby Bare and Steve Earle all had sons who followed along similar musical paths.
But none have taken over the country airwaves at the same time like Akins and Rhett, who releases his debut album "It Goes Like This" on Tuesday. The two combined for songwriting credits on five of the top 10 songs on country radio earlier this month.
"I mean, that’s a dream come true for any songwriter or artist, but even more of a dream come true when it happens with your own son," Akins said. "That’s never happened in the history of music that we can figure out so far. That’s probably the highlight of my 20 years of being in Nashville, for sure."
The songs they charted with included cuts performed by Florida Georgia Line, Billy Currington, Lee Brice and Justin Moore. One Akins co-wrote turned out to be his son’s first No. 1 single, the title cut from the new album.
"He writes every day and he usually emails songs to me that he thinks are good," Rhett said. "It was one of those ones that just completely caught my ear and caught my attention."
Akins specializes in those kind of songs. He came to Nashville in the 1990s as a singer and had a couple of hits, including "Don’t Get Me Started." But he’s had his biggest success as a songwriter, regularly writing alongside Ben Hayslip and Dallas Davidson. That trio, also known as The Peach Pickers, has scored hits with Luke Bryan, Brooks & Dunn, Blake Shelton and many others.
Rhett, whose full name is Thomas Rhett Akins Jr., grew up in the glow of his father’s biggest successes as a performer, even appearing on television and on stage singing songs with his dad. Like many young artists trying to get a foot in the door on Music Row, he started out with a publishing deal and has written songs for Jason Aldean and Florida Georgia Line.
Rhett quickly drew notice and is considered a potential future star. He signed on with the Big Machine Label Group, home to Taylor Swift and Tim McGraw. He says growing up watching his father gave him some insight at a young age about how to navigate Nashville.
"I feel like a got to cheat a little bit and see a little sneak peak in the music business before I actually got into it, you know, watching not only a dad, but a friend," Rhett said.
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