“So much music has been bleeding through my veins since I was young,” he tells Rolling Stone Country on the inspirations, from the Bee Gees to Justin Timberlake, that informed this song and others on his debut LP It Goes Like This. In the video, Rhett’s grooving through several incarnations of himself as he chases a dream girl — all the while sporting a tuxedo and busting out some John Travolta-inspired dance moves, sometimes joined by, well, himself.
But there’s one side of Rhett that he’s not looking to boast about anytime soon: his lineage. The son of country star and songwriter Rhett Akins, he didn’t want to succeed in Nashville on anything but his natural talent — not his family name.
“I think everyone expected me to do that, and it’s probably one of the biggest reasons I used the name I do,” says Rhett, whose birth name is Thomas Rhett Akins Jr. “You can name-drop all day. You can say you wrote a song with George Strait or you’re best friends with Eric Church, but, at the end of the day, you have to have the songs. My dad, he’s an amazing songwriter and was a great artist in the Nineties, and he’s the most supportive human being. But I did want to carve my own path.”
It was a smart choice. Rhett’s nominated for the CMA’s New Artist of the Year award, and he’s already plotting his second record (the dance vibes in “Make Me Wanna” are a preview of the direction he might be headed).
“For a new artist, the hardest part is making your mark and progressing rather than staying stagnant,” he says. “I put out my first record, and now I’m on my fifth single. The safe thing would be to make the same record over again. But to really make your mark, you have to do something a little different.”
Even if that means rocking a bowtie.