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The Sound

Thomas Rhett’s tangled evolution

1/20/2016

Thomas Rhett seems to be right out of central casting. The son of a successful country music performer and songwriter, Rhett is the Georgia boy with the guy-next-door good looks who literally married the girl next door whom he had known since first grade. Getting into music at a young age, Rhett got his first big break writing songs for Jason Aldean, which he parlayed into a record deal with Big Machine Records, which led to more co-writing credits, six Top 100 Billboard singles, and now a full-circle tour stint that sees him reunited with Aldean. Not bad for a guy who was not even sure what he wanted his first album to sound like.

Thomas Rhett opens for Jason Aldean on his “We Were Here” tour stop at Wells Fargo Arena on Thursday, Jan. 21 at 7:30 p.m.

Thomas Rhett opens for Jason Aldean on his “We Were Here” tour stop at Wells Fargo Arena on Thursday, Jan. 21 at 7:30 p.m.

“I feel like my whole approach into the business was a little bit off-kilter,” he told Rolling Stone late last year. “Making my first record was a complete shot in the dark. If you listen to that whole first record, it was literally produced by six different people because we just kept searching and searching for a signature sound.”

Those days are a long way off now. With his follow-up album, “Tangled Up,” Rhett taps into a distinctly R&B sound, mixes it with just a hint of country traditionalism and delivers an experience that taps more fully into who he is.

“There were definitely a lot of songs that were me pushing, trying to be progressive and the production on certain songs is so much farther advanced than the majority of the first album,” he explained. “We did take a lot of chances and risk, but there’s also that same Thomas Rhett that you knew from Record One.”

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Therein lies the challenge for any emerging artist — the ability to find one’s own signature sound while bringing your core group of original fans along for the ride, rather than alienating them along the way. It can be made even harder when the starting point is so successful.

“There’s a little bit of pressure,” he admitted. “But I think as long as we’re putting out good songs that the people are loving and they’re requesting at radio and downloading, we’re going to be all right.”

It is a mentality that seems to be paying off. “Tangled Up” has produced two more No. 1 singles so far, including its latest release, “Die a Happy Man,” which Rhett describes as an unrepentant love letter to his wife.

“She’s just a ray of sunshine,” Rhett said of Lauren, his wife of two years. “Lauren has never met a stranger. There will be a bunch of girls who come through a meet-and-greet, and they’ll say, ‘I love your music, but I really just wanted a picture with your wife,’ which is pretty hilarious. She’s a very happy person, and her energy is amazing around people she’s never met. I think that’s why people gravitate toward her so much.”

And as long as people keep gravitating toward Rhett’s music, he is happy to keep developing the sound that brought them in.

“I just feel so blessed to be at the point where I’ve had success as an artist, and I’m still getting booked to play shows, and people are still asking me to be on their tours,” he said. “We’re on this steady climb, and I really enjoy the steady climb. I guess there are still a lot of different things that I do, and I think it’s cool that they all kind of cohesively sound like me.” CV

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