HomeEF CountryInterview: Thomas Rhett talks headlining C2C 2023 and pushing the boundaries of...

Interview: Thomas Rhett talks headlining C2C 2023 and pushing the boundaries of Country music

Thomas Rhett has worked his way up to headliner status in the UK over the past few years so it’s no surprise that he’s just been announced as one of the headliners for C2C: Country to Country 2023.

As he prepares to return to the UK for the first time since the pandemic, Rhett is also releasing the music video for ‘Where We Started’ featuring Katy Perry, the title track from his latest album, later today.

I caught up with Thomas to discuss headlining C2C, talk about the way he’s built up his fanbase in the UK, and to find out how he feels about the impact he’s had on the Country music genre…

The news is out – you’re coming back to the UK in March 2023 to headline C2C. How are you feeling about that?

This is a big dream come true of mine. I’ve toured in the UK several times doing clubs and all The O2 (venues) in and around London, Dublin and Glasgow. I’ve gotten to play C2C once in 2016 and I got to open for Dwight Yoakam and Miranda Lambert, which was pretty awesome. To be coming back to headline this thing is is a big big bucket list of mine. Especially because on my night, Jordan Davis has become a good buddy and Lainey Wilson is absolutely incredible. Getting to headline alongside Lady A and Zac Brown Band is going to be such an incredible few days. I’m getting to bring my kids over there, it’ll be their first time to the UK, and my wife. We’re going to make a big spring break out of this whole trip. We’re looking forward to it big time.

Before the pandemic, you were getting into a really good groove in terms of touring here in the UK regularly. What has your experience been like as you’ve watched things build for you here?

It’s just been so fun. As a kid, I was so pulled to to the UK. I don’t know why, maybe it’s because I listened to so much Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin growing up (that) I just wanted to see the homeland. I’ve been over there five or six times touring, and every time we’ve been we get to play something just a little bit bigger every time, and every time we come over, we end up selling them out somehow. It just still blows my mind that our music can can make it that far away from North America. Every time I see it on the calendar, it’s the one that I get the most excited about. I love landing, getting on the double decker tour bus with 16 of my band and crew guys, and just traveling all across Europe. It’s always one of my favorite times of the year. We had plans to come in 2020, but I think a lot of people had plans to do a lot of things in 2020 that got absolutely destroyed. We’re coming back in 2023, better late than never, but getting to come over there and do a festival of this stature and to be doing it on the 10 year anniversary of C2C is hands down one of the coolest things in the world. We’re getting prepared for it and getting very excited.

Katy Perry and Thomas Rhett
Credit: John Shearer

You’ve got the music video for ‘Where We Started’ featuring Katy Perry coming out this week. What was it like to work with Katy on that song and video?

Man, it was scary. I grew up listening to Katy, I was 14 or 15 years old, and never in a million years when I started in this career did I think that I would have a duet or a feature with Katy. The next thing you know, we’re FaceTiming each other in the studio trying to get the song right. Then the next thing you know, she’s in Nashville and we’re shooting a music video, and we’re hanging out. I think when you meet your heroes, you always hope that they’re as cool as you always thought they would be and Katy completely surpassed that. (She’s) one of the most down-to-earth, humble, talented human beings I’ve gotten to work with in my entire career. We recorded this video almost six months ago so I’m glad that it is finally coming out for the world to see. It’s been awesome to get a lot of love from her fans and for her to get a lot of love from my fans. I think it just further keeps mixing the genre and continues to grow country music in a lot of different spaces. This has been something I’ve been looking forward to for a long time and I’m glad that it’s finally on the horizon.

‘Where We Started’, the album, has been embraced by your fans and like all of your albums, it’s done extremely well commercially. With several albums under your belt, it must be getting harder to try and top what you’ve put out so far…

Yeah, man, it’s the hardest thing in the world. I would tell any artist that once you’ve had five or six number ones, now the real work begins. You spend your whole life and your whole career trying to get those first few under your belt. For me, I had a really big hit early on in my career called ‘Die a Happy Man’ and I’ve had a few since then that were big game changers. At this point in my career, six albums in, 10 years, 20 number one songs… it’s kind of like how do you continue making music that (makes) your fans be like, ‘Okay, what else does he have to say?’ This year on the road I was really nervous going into a bunch of the co-writes because I’ve covered a lot of territory. I’ve covered a lot of sounds, a lot of different fields, a lot of different vibes and I just told the writers, ‘let’s just swing for the fences this year. Let’s not do anything safe. Any vibe that we’re feeling, let’s just write it. It doesn’t have to get recorded, but let’s just write it just to say that we did’.

Since May I’ve written over 100 songs, and there’s about 40 or 50 in there that I’m really, really excited about and I feel like it’s gonna continue to keep progressing the chapters of this book, which is my career. I feel like these next couple of records we’re going to come out with, they’re going to be legit the best that I’ve been a part of. That’s the funny thing about writing, just when you think you have nothing to say you all of a sudden have a lot to say. You can’t not have a lot to say when your life keeps progressing, you keep having kids and keep living one more year of marriage, and one more year of touring and family and friendships. Life keeps changing and so does your ideas. I’m very excited about the next couple of projects we have in the works.

It was your 10 year wedding anniversary. How on earth do you manage to maintain a marriage, be a Dad and keep your career going? You’re so busy and you’re always writing or on the road, That must be quite a challenge…

Yeah, it is a challenge, man. We wrapped our North American tour on Saturday. (I had) four hours of sleep, came back to Nashville, got the kids ready to go to church, did the whole day and woke up this morning with two sick kids in the house, making lunch, getting kids out the door and then talking to you this morning. It’s so much of a balance and I think there are days where it’s like, ‘hey, everybody, today is a family day because I’ve got to give 100% to this’ and then days like today are a work day. It’s got to be a constant communication between me and my wife or else I think we’re both going to implode (laughs). I think as long as we can stick to some kind of calendar and some kind of schedule, that’s how we’ve been doing it for the last five or six years. It’s worked out well for the both of us.

Thomas Rhett
Credit: John Shearer

You mentioned earlier about how you’ve experimented with so many different sounds in your career, and you’ve really pushed the boundaries of Country music while paving the way for new artists. Do you ever sit back and think about what a huge impact you’ve had on the genre?

Man… no (laughs) I probably should more often than I do. There are times where I look back, and I go, ‘wow, how in the world did ‘Crash and Burn’ or ‘Life Changes’ or ‘Unforgettable’ ever work on the radio? Looking back at it, I think the best thing that any artist could ever do for themselves is be 100% completely themselves. When you’re trying to chase what is working, by the time you end up putting that out that trend is already over. Go ahead and just do you from the from the get go. Be prepared for some songs not to work, but the one that does work because you were so authentically yourself, is going to end up being a big game changer for you. Sometimes I look back at my career and now I get that but in the time it was terrifying. It was like, ‘this could be a career ruiner right here’.

At the end of the day, you have to look at your heart and yourself and be like, ‘that that’s who I am. That’s what I want to say. That’s what I want it to sound like’. If people love it, then great, and if they don’t, that’s great too. I think a lot of different song choices have gotten me to where I’m at today. It’s been pretty cool to watch a bunch of artists walk up to me be like, ‘hey man, I really appreciated that you put those songs out because it really paved the way for me to be myself as well’. That’s what it’s all about, man, just being unique and saying what’s on your heart, and hopefully there’s a lot of people in the world that gravitate towards that.

My last question for you is are we going to see ‘Country Again: Side B’ in the near future?

The answer is yes. I think I was maybe a little too proactive when I said that both of these are going to come out within three months of each other. I underestimated how much I write on the road. What I thought was ‘Side B’ six months ago has completely shifted. I got on the road and wrote way too many songs that I loved. We’re going to be heading back in the studio in January and hopefully have some brand new music by the summertime. ‘Side B’ will be coming out for sure. It’s just a matter of when but I do think it’ll be a lot sooner than later.

Thomas Rhett’s album ‘Where We Started’ is available now. He will be headlining C2C: Country to Country 2023 on Friday 10th March. For more information and tickets head over to https://c2c-countrytocountry.com/.

Pip Ellwood-Hughes
Pip Ellwood-Hughes
Pip is the Editor of Entertainment Focus and the Managing Director of agency Piñata Media.

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