Country star Thomas Rhett has a new motto: “Pure joy.”
The mantra refers to his shows, his music and his life.
“I don’t look at this as playing a bunch of songs,” Rhett says about gigs like his Thursday, August 4, date at Ak-Chin Pavilion.
“We’re there to bring joy to people. We’re extremely energetic. We don’t stop bouncing around the stage for about 105 minutes.”
Rhett is changing his tune thanks to the pandemic lockdown. He and his band tried to perform during that time via Zoom, but, he says, “It got pretty old.”
He played 20 shows in 2021, and it proved to be a “nice re-entry into the touring world.”
Rhett is hitting stages in support of his sixth studio album, “Where We Started,” for which he collaborated with Katy Perry, Riley Green, Tyler Hubbard and Russell Dickerson. The current single is “Half of Me” with Green.
“I love to overcollaborate,” he says with a laugh.
“Maybe I collaborate too much. It’s way more fun. I love recording songs by myself. But when something organically happens when another artist — in or out of genre — wants to do something together, it’s amazing.”
The collaborators on this album may seem “all over the place,” but there is a commonality, he says.
“These songs resonated with these artists,” he says. “It’s what music was intended to do: share with your buddies and friends.”
Family is wedged in there, too. Rhett’s dad, the legendary Rhett Akins, opened his world to Motown and soul, while his grandmother turned him on to doo-wop.
“My dad is a huge influence on me musically,” Rhett says.
“My grandmother taught me how to do the twist in her living room. There’s always been a lot of doo-wop elements, strictly because my grandparents love it. ‘Crash and Burn’ is highly influenced by the 1950s. It’s a simple song.
“Every record has an ode to the ’50s — at least one song on the record has to be that way.”
Rhett doesn’t always funnel his collaborations through music.
Recently, he started working with Chaco Footwhere: Chaco x. The limited-edition sandals are inspired by Rhett’s love for the outdoors and memories on the river with his family, featuring the vibrant colors of the rainbow trout and the brook trout.
“This year was our second collaboration with Chaco,” he says.
“I’ve been wearing their sandals since the seventh grade. As a 30-year-old, it was super fun to collaborate with something that brought me so much joy.”
He and his cousin, Jeff Worn, founded Dos Primos tequila and the new Dos Primos tequila reposado. The easy drinking reposado tequila is made from hand-harvested 100% blue agave sourced from estates in Los Altos and the valley area of Jalisco, Mexico, and aged for at least six months in used bourbon barrels.
“My tequila brand is in year two,” he says. “I started it with my cousin, hence the name. It’s been really cool to watch it take off. At the show, we have a large presence there.”
As for Rhett, he’s a “sipper” when it comes to tequila.
“You can do anything with tequila that you can do with bourbon. You can make an old-fashioned by adding tequila instead of bourbon. There’s just something about it that I love so much. I love drinking in the wintertime, sitting by the fire, in the woods or on a mountain somewhere.”
Rhett: The mentor
At Ak-Chin Pavilion, Rhett will be joined by burgeoning stars Parker McCollum and Conner Smith. Rhett says this just adds to the fun.
“Conner is 21 and just signed a record deal,” Rhett says.
“I was 21 years old when I signed a record deal. I know about being green in the business. I could tell him about some of the things I’ve learned over the years.
“Parker, I met a couple years ago. I didn’t listen to a whole lot of Texas country as a young kid, but five or six years ago, I dove really hard into it. He quickly became one of my favorite Texas country acts.”
For McCollum and Smith, Rhett will serve as a mentor of sorts.
“I love it. Maybe that shows I’m kind of getting old,” he says.
“I think turning 30 did a lot for my brain. I’ve had enough time to find a lot of success and make a lot of mistakes, and share what I’ve learned from those mistakes. It brings me joy to share a little bit of knowledge form the last decade of my career so, hopefully, they don’t make the same mistakes.”
Rhett’s biggest regret is allowing big moments to slip by. He admits he’s played some cool shows, met amazing people. But he never took the time to cherish great moments when they happened.
“I don’t think I soaked enough in,” he says. “In that, I think it brought a bunch of weight and stress to keep up with the Joneses instead of sitting back and saying, ‘Dang. As a 19-year-old kid, all I wanted was to write songs and play small shows.’
“I wish I had taken more time to see how awesome it was, instead of looking back at it as a 32-year-old man. Young kids need to embrace what’s happening. If you sign a record deal and do a tour, you’re in a very small percentage of people who get to do that.”
Full time, he spends his time acting as a cheerleader to his daughters — Willa Gray, Lennon Love, Ada James and Lillie Carolina — with wife, Lauren Akins.
“Our kids are all involved in 48 million different things, whether it’s gym, ballet or horse lessons, soccer camp or tennis camp — whatever they love to do,” Rhett says with a laugh.
“I love so much getting to take them to all these different camps. I let them decide if they love it or not and if they want to continue. They’re amazing.”
Thomas Rhett w/Parker McCollum and Conner Smith
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, August 4
WHERE: Ak-Chin Pavilion, 2121 N. 83rd Avenue, Phoenix
COST: Tickets start at $35.50