Ever since the release of his debut album It Goes Like This nearly a decade ago, Thomas Rhett has moulded the concept of mainstream country music into his own custom model.
Having so consistently developed the format of traditional country into his own unabashed pop, slow-burning RnB and aching boyfriend-country-infused sound, it's understandable how he could be a target of the conservative, traditional advocates who challenge the authenticity of modern country artists.
But what they either don't realise - or may choose to ignore - is the genuineness behind Thomas Rhett's progressive approach to country music.
Take his new album, Where We Started. Sure, its full of unapologetic hits that'll feel just right when driving with the top down - 'Bass Pro Hat's tribute to small town livin', the sultry date night romance of 'Bring The Bar' or the thirsty 'Anything Cold' all ensure the casual beer or two will go down all the more sweeter than they already do.
But you also won't find a more candidly evocative narrative about childhood sweethearts than 'Mama's Front Door', or a more heart-wrenching deliberation on credence and good and evil than 'Death Row'.
Thomas Rhett pours his love for his wife, his kids and his faith into joyous songs that aren't afraid to test ground, making a more complete country project than most of his contemporaries in the process.
It's this balance of sincerity and experimentalism that makes his choice of influences all the more clear. Sitting down to mull over the songs that have inspired him, a theme becomes apparent in his selections. These are artists who have continuously re-evaluated and refined their sound, carving their own path through sheer individuality.
But, most importantly for Thomas Rhett, it's the honesty they offer that speaks most to him. Just as his music does to us.
I’m a massive Eric church fan, and 'These Boots' is one of my favorite country songs of all time. I listened to this song, and the whole Sinners Like Me album, so much in my truck in high school that I wore the CD out and had to buy another copy.
I’m a nostalgic guy, as you can tell from my music, and this song always takes me back to those high school days. Every step along the way has brought me to this point.
I think Ed is an absolute lyrical genius. I love when every line in a song genuinely feels like it's about something that actually happened. 'Castle on The Hill' is one of my favorites of his. The lyrics are so honest, in a way most artists can’t pull off, and Ed is just an incredible storyteller. I love the message too - it’s about always remembering your roots and going back home to the places and people who made you who you are.
I listened to Aretha Franklin all the time growing up, and I still do. Listening to her always puts me in a good mood. It’s hard to pick a favorite, but I always really loved 'Day Dreaming'. It’s just got a fun vibe and her voice is incredibly captivating on it.
This, for me, is maybe the perfect country song. Merle is the master. His songwriting and storytelling were such an inspiration to me. Whenever anyone who doesn’t listen to country music asks why they need to, I tell them to go listen to 'Misery and Gin'.
It’s classic country through and through, and it checks every box.
The Rolling Stones were my first ever concert. I went with my Dad, who is about the biggest Stones fan you’ll ever meet, so they’ll always hold a special place in my heart.
'Miss You' is one of my favorite Stones songs. They were trying something a little different with this one and it's inspired me to not be afraid to try new things with my music. Experimenting and pushing yourself is how you grow and endure as an artist, and the fact that these guys are still out there crushing it is testament to that.
This one is pretty self-explanatory. I think Bruno is a genius, from all his solo stuff to Silk Sonic. He is just an all-round entertainer and exudes cool. This song, especially, is just pure swagger. It’s impossible to not want to move when you hear it.
Thomas Rhett's 2022 album, Where We Started, is out now via Big Machine Label Group. You can read Holler's 8 out of 10 review here.
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