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"I watched my dad play a million shows," Thomas tells The Boot. "I've always been that kid that is ready to entertain, whether I'm at a bonfire or in classroom. I was always that kid cracking jokes and getting in trouble left and right, trying to be the center of attention. I guess I was always that way."
Now that Thomas has been opening shows for Chris Young, Miranda Lambert, Dierks Bentley and Jason Aldean, that charisma on stage is really paying off. Not one to stay in one place, he roams the stage and entreats the crowd to get a little rowdy with him. The audience loves it and the singer is right there with them in their enthusiasm.
"When I started playing music, being on stage came naturally," says Thomas, who took the first half of his full name, Thomas Rhett Akins II, as his stage moniker. "I can't be anyone but me up there, that's just what comes out. I love it, it's such a rush walking out on stage. There's no better feeling than a crowd yelling after a song, or when you sing a song that you wrote that they know."
A good example of that would be "1994," the Jason Aldean hit. Unfortunately Thomas won't be singing that one too often in the coming months because he's opening for Jason, but the singer-songwriter doesn't mind that at all; he's having fun standing by the side of the stage and watching the crowd's reaction when Jason performs it.
Thomas wasn't always sure he would follow his father into the music business. He went to college for three years, not really knowing what he wanted to do.
"I thought I would sell insurance of something like that," he says. "It just so happened I was doing a show, opening for Frankie Ballard, with a cover band singing Jason Aldean songs. [laughs] A guy named Ben Vaughn saw me and signed me to a publishing deal. When that happened, I didn't have to work another job to make money to go to college."
After being signed to that deal, Thomas got his first song recorded by Jason. "It just went like wildfire from there," he says with a grin. "I started writing and started to get more cuts on people like Scotty McCreery and Joe Nichols. The cuts just started falling in place."
After his songs started being recorded by other artists, Thomas took another step in his father's shoes by looking for a record deal. It didn't take too long for that to happen. "It honestly snuck up on me in a weird way," he says. "I had no idea this is where my life would take me but I'm so glad it did, because I can't imagine myself doing anything else."
Thomas' understandably proud dad can't help but brag about his talented offspring. "He amazes me every day," Rhett Akins says. "He plays me new songs he's written. I, for sure, wasn't writing those caliber songs at 21, and I'm not writing a lot of them now at 41. He had four cuts his very first year after he got signed, with Jason Aldean, Lee Brice, Scotty McCreery and Joe Nichols. Then he got his record deal on Valory. He's just a good boy and he's just got that 'it' thing."
Thomas is currently on Jason's Night Train tour with Jake Owen. The trek takes him to Madison, Wis., Thursday (March 21) and on to Grand Forks, N.D. on Saturday (March 23). After a short break, the tour resumes April 19 in Louisville, Ky.