Thomas Rhett‘s debut It Goes Like This album was released in 2013, two years before Chris Stapleton released his freshman Traveller record. Still, Chris had been around as a songwriter for years before his first record came out, and got to know plenty about the music business, which is why Thomas reached out to him for advice.
“I think Stapleton told me this one time, because I was asking him about what it felt like to collaborate with Justin Timberlake, right when Stapleton was about to really explode,” Thomas said on Apple Music Country’s Little Bit Country Radio with Jesse Frasure. “And I was just like, ‘How do you do that balance of going, ‘I am a country singer, but I also love this other type of music? How do you do it?’
“And he said, ‘Man, always remember that you’re a guest,'” he recalled. “‘And when you’re a guest in another genre, it just shows that you respect what they do and you’re diving into what they do, but you’re also putting your own spin on what they’re doing.'”
Thomas could have used someone’s advice before he released his debut single, “Something to Do With My Hands.” Although Thomas wrote the song with Chris and Lee Thomas Miller, he admits he doesn’t really even like the song, nor does his wife, Lauren Akins.
“I don’t even talk about that song anymore,” Thomas said of the tune. “I think it might be my wife’s least favorite song I’ve ever written. I started in this career only wanting to be a songwriter. I had no intention of being an artist. And so, once I did become an artist, ‘Beer with Jesus,’ it was my second single and that was to me what I wanted the world to know of me. After ‘Beer with Jesus’ died at 15, I was like, ‘Well, now what do we do?’ And a song going to 15 … it’s a win. You know what I mean? Especially for a brand-new artist, that’s definitely a huge win. But I’m a perfectionist, and it was not going to be suitable until it was at the top.”
Thomas released two more singles after “Beer With Jesus,” before releasing the song he always wanted to release, “Make Me Wanna.” Although he went against the advice of a lot of people on his team, he stuck to his gut, and it ultimately paid off big for him.
“‘Make Me Wanna’ had always been one of those songs that I loved, but at the time it was a very different song for country radio,” Thomas recalled. “I remember going to the label and being like, ‘Guys, I want to put ‘Make Me Wanna’ on the radio.’ And they were like, ‘That is a death threat. Literally, it is a career ruiner of a song,’ in the nicest way, because they obviously wanted me to succeed. And in my gut, I remember I called Virginia, my manager, one night and I said, ‘I think we need to do this.’ And she goes, ‘Here’s the deal. If you are still going to be happy, if the song dies at 45, then you should definitely put it out.’
“And I had to think about that because I was like, ‘Well, if it dies at 45, I don’t know what we’re going to… I guess we’re just going to make a new record,'” he continued. “And the song sat at 40 for six weeks. It sat at 40 for so long. And then all the sudden, every week it started creeping up on the iTunes chart, creeping up, creeping up, creeping up. And the next thing you know, we’re in the Top 10, we’re in the Top 5, and then all the sudden, it was a two-week No. 1.”
Thomas just released his latest single, “What’s Your Country Song,” from his upcoming new album.