"I came out in a Green Bay Packers toboggan, a big shirt and baggy pants, and rapped Gettin Jiggy Wit It," he remembers.
There were other perks. Thomas Rhett went to Reba McEntires Halloween parties. And he once got help on his English homework from some guy named Blake Shelton. Seems glamorous from the outside, but the entertainment business can be ruthless. And the good times soon soured for his dad. Rhett Akins eventually rebounded, but in the meantime, that period in his dads career soured Thomas Rhett on that pursuit.
"My whole life," he insists, "I swore I was never going to do music."
But that destiny thing kept guiding him in that direction. For starters, Thomas Rhett took up drums during junior high in a band called the High Heeled Flip Flops.
"We were a punk-rock band, there were four of us and we were terrible," he laughs. "Our lead singer sang in a British punk accent, and we all dyed our hair black. My Uncle Eli, who does work for Zac Brown now, came into Nashville and we recorded our first record in my dads living room."
Thomas Rhetts focus, though, remained on a more conventional future. He played sports in high school, and ripped up his knee in one major accident. That set his thoughts on kinesiology the study of human movement when he enrolled at David Lipscomb University in Nashville. He soon changed his mind about kinesiology and shifted direction in fact, he ran through four different majors at David Lipscomb, none of which quite fit.
Meanwhile, a friend had roped him into playing a frat party at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, which led to more frat parties at the Universany of Tennessee in Knoxville and the University of Georgia in Athens. In the process, he was able to mesh those seemingly disparate parts of his musical influences: country, hip-hop, classic rock and modern rock.
"Frat parties can be awesome or tragic," he says. "Those dudes just get so drunk, and they get on stage with you and take the mic from you. All of a sudden, youre at the back of the stage and just playing so they can have a good time."
Helping them have a good time is, of course, what the gig is about. And Thomas Rhett picked up that ability in short order. He also discovered there was a whole culture of kids whod been raised on the same improbable mix of musical cultures kids who had been looking for someone like Thomas Rhett, or Brantley Gilbert, or Jason Aldean, who could put all those influences together.
"Those are the kids that are the trend setters," Thomas Rhett says. "Those kids are the ones downloading music on their iPod, jamming it in their car and playing it with their friends. Those people become loyal, and they want to be the people that said they found you first."
Nevertheless, Thomas Rhett didnt take any of that music thing seriously until his dad talked him into doing a one-time show. Rhett Akins had reinvented himself quite successfully as a songwriter in fact, he would become BMIs Country Songwriter of the Year in 2011. And Rhett enlisted Thomas Rhett to open at a music-industry showcase for singer-songwriter Frankie Ballard.
There was no pay for the gig and Thomas Rhett got a parking ticket while loading his equipment into the venue. But it did pay off in other ways. EMI Musics Ben Vaughn liked what he heard and asked Thomas Rhett after the show if hed be interested in a publishing deal.
"Really!? I dont know what that is," Thomas Rhett says. "Well, if it pays more than me laying hardwood floor, then Im in."
In February 2010, Thomas Rhett signed with EMI and soon had his first co-writing session with his dad and Bobby Pinson, whos written songs for Toby Keith and Sugarland. In short order, he was writing with the likes of Craig Wiseman ("Live Like You Were Dying"), Luke Laird ("Undo It"), Lee Thomas Miller ("Youre Gonna Miss This") and Chris Stapleton ("Loves Gonna Make It Alright").