Interview: Thomas Rhett

by Ceylan Kumbarji
Interview: Thomas Rhett

One of the biggest names in country music at the moment, Thomas Rhett is everything: husband, father, country music award-winner and headliner at massive stadiums and arenas around the world. He landed his first No.1 single in 2013 and ever since then, he’s been responsible for the most upbeat, exciting and heartstring-pulling songs for fans to listen to, and fall in love with. Over the years since he first came onto the country music scene, he’s had over eight chart-topping singles, and most recently he’s released his new album, Life Changes.

His newest album captures a whirlwind period of his life, with many new and exciting things happening for him and his family. The album was recorded while Thomas and his wife, Lauren, were in the middle of adopting their daughter Willa Gray from Uganda, and also awaiting the birth of their second child, Ada James. Thomas Rhett’s songwriting skills and soulful vocals showcase a true artist who’s willing to shine a light on his own personal milestones and mistakes through life. We’re big fans of Thomas Rhett’s music and wanted to learn more about his song-writing process, how he handles being on the road and what his proudest career moment is.

“The title track ‘Life Changes’ is pretty much a page out of a journal, so I love playing that because it is so, so personal – personal to the point where no one else could sing it. It’s definitely my favourite.” – Thomas Rhett

Taylor Magazine: To begin with, tell us a little bit about how you got started with music.

Thomas Rhett: Well, I grew up with a dad that sang country music so music has always been a passion and first love of mine since a young age. I’ve always been in bands – I was in a rock band in sixth grade and I did all sorts of bands through high school and college. My dad is a full-time songwriter so I got the opportunity to co-write with him and a bunch of great songwriters so I eventually learnt the craft of doing that. Midway through college, I decided that I didn’t want to do school anymore and instead, I pursued songwriting – I knew I wanted to be a writer forever and as I got going with it, I started going on the road and got addicted to the show life. Looking back, I can’t imagine doing anything different.

Taylor Magazine: When you were younger did you have anything else in mind, in case songwriting didn’t work out?

Thomas Rhett: I don’t remember – I only went to college because all of my friends did. While I was there, I was just searching for a passion studying things like business or communication. Music was all that I had, and paired with a bit of good timing and luck, I started to write songs and that was that!

Taylor Magazine: How old were you when you realised you were going to pursue music and how long did it take from there until you felt like you were on the right path?

Thomas Rhett: I think I was 19 when I first realised I was doing well and then at age 21, I signed a record deal. I don’t really know what my definition of ‘making it’ is, but I think we’re doing ok for ourselves now! I would say after the song ‘Die A Happy Man’, it definitely felt like we were on a path upwards.

Taylor Magazine: What was the most memorable concert you went to where you remember being inspired by the artist?

Thomas Rhett: My dad definitely had a lot to do with my inspiration, but my first concert was The Rolling Stones. To this day, they’re still my favourite band. I think Mick Jagger has had a lot of influence in the way that I move around stage. This is also such a random concert that I got inspired by because I was around seven years old, but it was this band called The Darkness. They were in Nashville and at that time, they were my favourite band (I was such a rock n’ roll kid) and I remember being really inspired by them.

Taylor Magazine: Talk to us a bit about your songwriting process – how do you deal with writer’s block if you ever get it?

Thomas Rhett: I get it… a lot! I’m a big fan of co-writing. I’ve written a few songs by myself, but I don’t trust myself to finish one all the way through. I like validation, which is why I co-write so much because if my brain isn’t fully on then hopefully the other person’s is! If I don’t have an idea, hopefully someone else does. That’s why co-writing is so special – you can sit and hang out for an hour and suddenly someone will say something that becomes the title, or at least the idea.

Taylor Magazine: When you sit down to write a song, where do you draw your inspiration from?

Thomas Rhett: It used to be from watching fans, meeting people and experiencing new cities and towns or I would just refer back to high school. Love in general – I’ve been married for five years – so I try to write about what I know about or what I have experienced myself in the past.

Taylor Magazine: This album has been really well received – how different is it to your previous work?

Thomas Rhett: It’s very different to the last two – mostly in the way that there is so much personal stuff on the record. I didn’t realise that was something people cared about before. So for this one, I went pretty autobiographical and wrote about my past, my failures and my successes. It’s so nice to have your fans really care about what you want to say and your experiences.

Taylor Magazine: Do you have a favourite song that you’ve written on this album?

Thomas Rhett: The title track ‘Life Changes’ is pretty much a page out of a journal, so I love playing that because it is so, so personal – personal to the point where no one else could sing it, so it’s definitely my favourite.

Taylor Magazine: What’s your favourite thing about what you do?

Thomas Rhett: Playing shows – I love it so much.

“This job can be very exhausting, but me and my band have something really special. Every night we go on stage, it’s a new adventure. It’s never just ‘another show’ because you can improve from the last one, or have new ideas for the future. I love putting a show together and then being able to perform it.”

Taylor Magazine: Do you ever get stage-fright and how do you manage it?

Thomas Rhett: I do – every time! When stage-fright goes away, I probably shouldn’t do this anymore… You just need to find a way to turn it into positive energy.

Taylor Magazine: What’s your favourite song written by someone else?

Thomas Rhett: Something by Frank Sinatra – ‘The Way You Look Tonight’ is probably my all time favourite.

Taylor Magazine: A good classic! What is your go-to music at the moment? Who are you listening to right now?

Thomas Rhett: I’ve been diving back a little bit… I’ve always been a Tom Petty fan but ever since his death, I’ve gone back and listened to a bunch of his stuff. I’m really trying to listen to the classics and submerge myself in those types of genres because I didn’t when I was younger.

Taylor Magazine: Do you have someone that you would really like to work with?

Thomas Rhett: Working with Bruno Mars would be really fun! I think we’d have a good time writing and working together.

Taylor Magazine: As a magazine, we are focused on simple living and minimalism. If you had a day off, anywhere and doing anything, how would you spend it?

Thomas Rhett: My perfect day, as boring as it sounds, is sitting at home with nothing to do. That’s something that my family and I don’t get to do much anymore. When we get those few days during the week where we can just sit at home, that’s a really good day.

Taylor Magazine: How do you balance and manage your work and home life?

Thomas Rhett: You have to just keep doing it and trying different techniques, because it is super hard! My family has started to come with me on the road – we have a crib for our two year old and our two month old sleeps with us in the bed, so that makes it easier. I mean, I don’t get as much sleep as I used to, but at least when I finish a show I can go back onto a bus with my family there.

Taylor Magazine: What’s been your proudest career moment so far?

Thomas Rhett: Headlining arenas was a huge thing for us, because you start out playing for nobody, then you play for a few people in a club and once you can pull off arenas and see what a sold out arena looks like it’s pretty special.

Taylor Magazine: What advice would you give to your 16-year-old self?

Thomas Rhett: Enjoy life more! I always look to the future so much. I wish I could say to my 16-year-old self: ‘Dude, just cherish the moment. Really live at 16.’

Taylor Magazine: What advice would you give to your two daughters if they came to you and said they were having a bad day?

Thomas Rhett: The advice I would give to them is that you can’t add a day to your life by worrying about it – that’s something I’ve had to learn the hard way.

You can subscribe to Thomas’ YouTube channel and follow him on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

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