NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Rhett Akins has helped pen numerous country music hits over the past two decades, but he’s jealous of his 23-year-old son Thomas Rhett’s 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 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 similar musical paths.
But none took over the country airwaves at the same time like Akins and Rhett, who released his debut album, It Goes Like This, on Tuesday. The two have songwriting credits on five of the top 10 songs on country radio.
“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 include cuts performed by Florida Georgia Line, Billy Currington, Lee Brice and Justin Moore. Akins co-wrote his son’s first No. 1 single, the title cut from the new album.
“He writes every day and he usually e-mails 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 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. Like many young artists trying to get a foot in the door on Music Row, he started out with a publishing deal.
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.