Interview: Unsurprisingly, ‘Life Changes’ Is Thomas Rhett’s Most Personal Record Yet
In a perfect example of life imitating art, Thomas Rhett's new album, Life Changes, couldn't be more true to his own experiences. Featuring songs written about his wife Lauren, the adoption of their daughter Willa Gray from Uganda and the birth of their biological daughter Ada James, Life Changes became a snapshot of Rhett's journey over the past decade.
"This is probably the most personal record I’ve ever written," Rhett shared with The Boot and other reporters at a recent media event. "[It's] very autobiographical and kind of all over the place, as far as sounds and production go. [I'm] very excited for it to be done and come out."
Rhett released his freshman album, It Goes Like This, in 2013 and Tangled Up, his sophomore record, in 2015, but it wasn't until Life Changes that Rhett found he was ready to share a more personal side of his life with his fans. That change is evident in some of the 14 tracks on the record, especially the title track.
"I think I just started to write more about my life in general, because I don’t think I’d ever experienced that many life-altering events in such a short span of time," shares Rhett. "And so, "Life Changes," the song, was actually written towards the end of the adoption process, and about four months into Lauren being pregnant. "Life Changes" and a song called "Sixteen" were kind of written just about life and basically ripping pages out of a diary; I don’t keep a diary, but if I did, those two songs would have been written out of that. I think "Life Changes" was a pretty perfect title for a song, and for the name of the record, just to describe what life has been for the last few years."
Rhett wrote 10 of the 14 songs on Life Changes, but he admits one stands out, for him at least, above all the others.
"As far as a story goes, I think "Sixteen" is my favorite story on the record," Rhett says. "I love songs that take you back. I love feeling nostalgic, whether it’s watching a movie about high school or college or whatever; I love traveling back in time. And that song I think is really just me going back and basically talking to my 16-, 18-, 21-year-old self, and wishing I could go back and tell you not to wish your life away -- being 16 and not dying to be 18, but really relishing what it feels like to be 16 and driving for the first time. I think we’ve all been there -- whether we are 16 or whether we’re 80 years old, we’ve all been in that situation -- and I think that is my favorite story song. I think it’s my favorite song on the record in general."
Thomas Rhett Shares Track-By-Track Insights Into Life Changes
Rhett also was influenced by his father, singer-songwriter Rhett Akins, while creating Life Changes, along with writers and producers with whom he may not have been brave enough to collaborate before now. Akins in particular is featured on a track called "Drink a Little Beer," which he wrote.
"I’ve always wanted my dad to be on my record, and I felt like this song was an ode to his era of country music, and it was really nice to be able to collaborate with my dad on a song," Rhett shares. "And as far as songwriters, every song I wrote on this record ... they were all written on my tour bus, somewhere, [while] playing shows. And so I got to write with a bunch of people I wrote with on the last record, and then I got to venture out moreso into LA writing world. It was really cool to get their perspective on certain songs."
Although Rhett is confident in the end result of Life Changes, he acknowledges that he still feels some trepidation about fans hearing at least a few of the tunes on the record. Specifically, the 27-year-old is anxious in regards "Leave Right Now," a song that features a bass drop, popular in EDM music.
"It was a song that we didn’t even write with the intention of having somewhat of a drop ... It started out [as] just three dudes on an acoustic guitar," Rhett recalls. "I was writing the song with a bunch of guys from LA; I’d been listening to a bunch of Chainsmokers songs at that point, and was obsessed with that kind of music and the way it made me feel. And I said, ‘Can we add something after the chorus in this song?’ and that’s what they added it. Never in a million years did I think it was ever going to make the record.
"The more I listened to it, I was like, ‘Why would I not want a song of mine that makes me feel incredible to be on the record?'" he adds. "Because anytime you go to a country music concert, everyone is more than likely playing hip-hop or EDM as their pre-[show music]. And I just got tired of my intro being way cooler than my show. So why not make one of mine that can be my intro that’s as cool as my show?"
I’ve been living with these songs for forever, so for it to finally come out is a huge weight off my shoulders.
While Rhett is eager to hear fans' reactions to Life Changes, he isn't going to dwell on the record for too long. Instead, the "Unforgettable" singer is already thinking about how to follow up this album.
"It feels like I’m already anxious to make the next one," concedes Rhett. "I’ve been living with these songs for forever, so for it to finally come out is a huge weight off my shoulders. I’m very excited for the fans to hear it, to finally get to play some of these songs live, but in my head, I’m like, 'Okay, that’s done.' Even though everybody else hasn’t heard it, I’m ready to start writing for the next one."
In addition to the above-mentioned songs, Life Changes includes "Craving You," a duet with Maren Morris, which is nominated for Vocal Event of the Year and Music Video of the Year at the 2017 CMA Awards. At the 2017 CMAs, Rhett is also nominated for Male Vocalist of the Year. Life Changes is available for purchase on Amazon and iTunes.
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