Thomas Rhett on Bucket-List ‘SNL’ Appearance, New Album & the 54th Academy of Country Music Awards

Thomas Rhett
John Shearer

It has been a whirlwind few weeks for Thomas Rhett as the country singer-songwriter performed in places like Australia and Hawaii, further proof that country music knows no bounds, with one of the largest and most dedicated fan bases around. Rhett has made the road a family affair, often taking wife Lauren and their children Willa Gray and Ada James with him. Their adventures around the world are chronicled throughout social media.

And the jet-setter is showing no signs of stopping, with more dates leading into a headlining tour in support of his upcoming new album, Center Point Road, out May 31. However, before he gets there, the 29-year-old is set to take the stage of the 54th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards. Rhett is also up for Male Artist of the Year.

Reba McEntire will host the 54th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards. (Photo: Cliff Lipson/CBS)

Days away from the big show, the recording artist sat down to talk about what he has been up to, and the future.

The ACM Awards are a celebration and showcase of the top artists in the genre. How would you describe the landscape of country music today?

Thomas Rhett: Country music is home to me, and I bet a lot of the artists would describe it similarly. I’m proud of the music my friends are putting out, and I love that we all have different ways of expressing how the format connects and reveals itself to each of us.

Host Reba McEntire has remarked about the lack of female representation in the ACM Entertainer of the Year category. Do you think something needs to be done to level the playing field?

To me, it’s an important conversation and topics that we all continue to put effort into in a positive way. There are a lot of really talented and really great female artists in our genre – it makes me excited to think about the day we get to see them in this category.

You’re nominated for Male Artist of the Year. What would it mean for you to take home another prize? Also, is there anything you can tell us regarding your performance that night?

This would be a really cool category to win again, but it’s been a big year for the other guys in that category. I’d love to win it, but there’s some tough competition. We’re looking forward to performing and really hope to have everyone on their feet dancing during this one. It’s going to be a good time.

You’ve toured with Jason Aldean and have song credits like “I Ain’t Ready to Quit” and “1994” on his albums. What do you think of Jason Aldean receiving the honor of Artist of the Decade? Do you have a favorite Aldean memory?

When I started out as a songwriter, Jason was one of the first big artists to cut a song I wrote, and then he was also one of my first major tours as an artist after I got my record deal. He took a chance on me, but to me, that’s the core of who he is across the board. He knows who he is and what he likes and has never backed down from that. He helped open a lot of doors in our genre, and I’m glad he’s being recognized for that.

Speaking of memories, you recently got to perform on SNL. What did that appearance mean to you, especially being able to introduce new material on such an iconic platform?

Oh, man, that one will be tough to beat! It was honestly surreal, and in some ways, I still can’t believe it happened. There are so many different ways to share new music and discover new music today, but to do it on probably my biggest bucket-list show was one of the coolest moments in my career.

We are only a few weeks away from the release of your new album Center Point Road. What was the process like putting the songs together? Has becoming a dad changed your approach?

Songwriting is such a huge part of who I am, so I write a ton. It’s a huge part of sharing where I am in my life and what I want to say. I’m really looking forward to sharing more of the album and getting feedback from our fans!

Fans are already digging the single “Look What God Gave Her.” How many times have you used, “Well, I write love songs about you” to help win an argument with the wife?

[Laughs] I don’t think it’d work even if I did! But I do love getting her feedback when I’ve got a new song, and her feedback is always really important to me.

Give us some insight on preparations for your Very Hot Summer Tour and maybe some things you learned from past ones. With lots of competition out there, what do you think makes your tour stand out?

The biggest thing for me and my team is, “How do we make this thing bigger and better than ever before?” We definitely have some tricks up our sleeve for the Very Hot Summer Tour. I want people to be on their feet, hug on someone they love and leave feeling like they’ve gotten every penny’s worth. I really cannot wait to play these new songs.

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You have collaborator and father Rhett Atkins on dates, making this road adventure a true family affair. Does the atmosphere of the road change, knowing dad is there?

I will say our tour atmosphere today looks nothing like it did a few years ago! I’m juggling bedtimes and diaper duty before hitting the stage, which makes for an interesting combination. Adding dad into the mix just adds to our family circus, and I love it. They all keep me centered in the middle of the chaos.

What’s the best advice you’ve received from him both in music as well as becoming a father yourself?

Dad has always been a source of encouragement and support – whether its songwriting or my show, he’s right there to let me know what he likes and encourages me to push myself.

54th Annual ACM Awards, Sunday, April 7, 8/7c Live (tape-delayed PT), CBS