♦ 10 p.m. March 8
♦ Joe’s Bar, 940 W. Weed
♦ Tickets, $15
♦ (312) 337-3486;
Going from opening for Jason Aldean in New York’s Madison Square Garden to headlining his own show at Chicago’s Joe’s Bar over a span of just a few days, country singer/songwriter Thomas Rhett admits his head is spinning.
But heck, he likes it that way.
Riding high off the attention he’s been receiving as of late as the co-writer of Aldean’s new single “1994” and the success of his own singles “Something to Do with My Hands” and the Top 15 country hit “Beer with Jesus,” Rhett says he loves where his career stands at this very moment.
“It was kind of a risky mix of songs to release, but “Beer with Jesus” really branded me as this guy that’s not going to be afraid to sing about what he believes in,” says the 22-year-old hailing from Valdosta, Ga. “The song stirred up some controversy. It seems to happen whenever you talk about God or politics. But at the same time, it helped me make a name for myself. Whatever that song was meant to do, it did it . . . by impacting one person’s life or 30 people’s lives.”
Of course, Rhett’s seemingly instinctive nature to know which songs are going to work when just might be in his musical genes. The son of country artist and hit songwriter Rhett Akins, Rhett admits of a time when he questioned whether he really wanted to follow in the footsteps of his somewhat famous father. “I’d go out on the road with him or see him co-writing with somebody after I got home from school, so I definitely knew what I was getting myself into,” says Rhett, who will release his full length debut album this year. “I remember starting writing songs in college and my dad asking if I was sure I wanted to be an artist . . . and my answer was ‘not really.’ It’s stressful. You never know what the right move is. You have to trust your gut and put a song out there that you believe in and hope to God it works.”
The support of hit makers within the country music industry has also helped in building and strengthening his musical instinct. As an opener earlier this year on Dierks Bentley and Miranda Lambert’s “Locked and Reloaded” tour, Rhett says he loved absorbing advice from the two. “As big as they both are within this industry, they are the most down to earth people you will ever know,” he says. “They would watch my show and hang out afterwards. Miranda [Lambert] even sent me a cookie cake wishing me good luck on the first night of the Aldean tour. They taught me how to treat fans and how to treat your openers and definitely showed me who I want to run my own tour someday.”
But for now, Rhett’s mind is on his return to Chicago at Joe’s Bar March 8 and later this summer at the iconic Wrigley Field. “Joe’s Bar was the first bar that paid me to play without a record deal and without a song on the radio,” laughs Rhett, who takes his Giordano’s pizza with pepperoni, sausage, Canadian bacon, jalapeños and tons of Tabasco splattered on top. “I’ve played at Joe’s more than any other bar in the country and I’m anxious to see if we can sell the place out. Besides being incredibly loyal, those fans are the most rowdy people I have ever seen. And the chance to play Wrigley is just unbelievable. To be able to see that many people in one place for a country music show in Chicago is going to be crazy. I’m not sure if I’m nervous or excited.”
Tricia Despres is a local free-lance writer.