Akins, Rhett

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Rhett Akins

Country singer, songwriter

For the Record

Intricacies of a Country Singer

Selected discography

Sources

The story of country music star Rhett Akinss rise to fame seems the classic rags-to-riches tale. Akins first arrived on the scene in 1995 with his pithy honky-tonk lament, That Aint My Truck, and his plaintive vocal style quickly earned comparisons to established country icons like George Strait and Garth Brooks. Yet Akins was a relative newcomer to the music industry, a man whose first public performance came when he sang at a weddingas an adult. I always wanted be a musician, Akins admitted in an interview published on the Houston Chronicle Interactive Internet site, but coming from a small townand not knowing a soul who had ever gone on to be a singerit was sort of like wanting to be an astronaut.

That small town was Valdosta, Georgia, where Akins was born in 1969. He was one of three sons of a local businessman, and football, not music, was his first loveValdostas pigskin season is an important part of the towns social fabric, and both his father and grandfather had been standout athletes. Akins was involved in the sport early childhood, and eventually played quarterback on the junior varsity team at the University of Georgia. It was an enlightening experience for him, and he left after a year there, knowing he would never play professionally. I didnt think I could go any further with football, Akins told ©Countrys Craig Harris. I had broken every bone in my body three times. I never had a summer vacation or a spring break. Football was year around, all the time. It was time to move on. I finally got burnt out.

Music, however, had played an increasing part in Akinss life as went through his teens. He began playing guitar atthe age of fourteen, inspired by the heavy metal rock his older brothers listened to, and taught himself simply by picking out the right chords. It became an integral part of his life. I even took my guitar to football camp at school, Akins said the Houston Chronicle Interactive interview. Hank Williams, Jr. and Lynyrd Skynyrd were favorites, but the coaches would tell Akins to knock it off. They said, that guitar playing wont amount to nothing.

When Akins left college, he returned to Valdosta, took a job with his fathers oil and gas company, and got married a woman he had known since junior high school. But he also faced what lay aheadanother several decades in Valdostaand knew it was time to devote his energies to his true passion. A turning point came when he was sitting in a company truck and singing along to the radio; he vowed at that moment that he would be on the radio himself instead someday. He had never sang in public before, but managed to sing a Garth Brooks song at a wedding and realized he could do it. He began playing acoustic guitar locally at the Holiday Inn with afriend, and that led to gigs at Valdosta State University fraternity parties. I really didnt know where I was headed in my life, Akins said of this time in his life in the interview with Harris. That led me to start venting my feelings through writing songs. I wanted to write songs and play in public.

In 1992 Akins moved to Nashville, the nucleus of the country music industry. Songwriters and photogenic singing hopefuls were a dime a dozen, but Akins worked consistently to make contacts and find more established songwriters with whom he could collaborate. This led to a publishing deal with Sony Tree Publishing/Fire Hall Music, which enabled him to steadily proffer song-writing agents tunes he had written; sometimes they would give him songs by other writers to try out. Akins sent one of his demos to country music star Mark Chestnutt, who passed it on to his producer. That insider, Mark Wright, also worked with Clint Black and happened to be Decca Records head of A&R. Wright brought Akins in to meet acompany vice-president, and on the basis of his voice and songwriting capabilities he was signed.

Akinss debut on Decca, A Thousand Memories, was released in early 1995. Many of the ten songsseven of which he wrote himselfreflected a less serious, youthful attitude. I Brake for Brunettes, She Said Yes, and

For the Record

Born October 13, 1969, in Valdosta, GA; married Paige, c. 1989; children: Kasey Lee, Thomas Rhett

Began performing as part of a duo in Valdosta, GA; moved to Nashville, TN, 1992; signed publishing deal with Sony Tree Publishing/Fire Hall Music; signed to Decca Records, c. 1993; released first album, A Thousand Memories (includes That Aint My Truck), January 1995; toured with Reba McEntire, 1995; released Somebody New, 1996, and What Livin s All About, Decca, 1998.

Awards: Named one of the Top Ten New Country Artists of the 1995 by Country America magazine.

Addresses: Record company Decca Records, 60 Music Square East, Nashville, TN 37203.

its biggest hit, That Aint My Truck, all were representative of Akins spirited personality and penchant for lovestruck laments. When I moved to Nashville, I was twenty-one years old and didnt know what else to write about but the experiences I had growing up in Georgia, he told ©Countrys Harris. That Aint My Truck became a huge country hit for the novice, reaching number three on the Billboard country charts. Written by Tom Shapiro, its lovelorn lyrics told the first-person tragedy of a man who is the loser in a love triangle; his girlfriend had told him she would be making a decision that night, and when he doesnt hear from her, he drives by her house.

Intricacies of a Country Singer

That Aint My Truck helped Akins land a spot on Country America magazines list of the top ten new country artists of 1995. A Thousand Memories also made a respectable showing on the country album charts, reaching number 45. More success came when he sang part of one of his songs, Where Angels Live, in the 1995 movie Something to Talk About, a Julia Roberts/Dennis Quaid love story. Still, the new found stardom was a strange experience for the Valdosta native. Theres isnt any schooling you could have to prepare for having a record deal, having your songs on the radio and going out on tour, he told ©Countrys Harris. I didnt realize all the little intricacies that go along with being a country singer, and how much of a business this really is.

For someone who had not sang before an audience until early adulthood, the adjustment may have been a difficult one, but in the competitive world of country music, Akins had little time to lose. For a good part of 1995, Akins played opening dates for country music star Reba McEntire. Ive played basically every type of situation you can playfrom the smokiest bar in Texas to the largest indoor venue to Radio City Music Hall. Overall, its made me a much more versatile performer, he said in the Houston Chronicle Interactive article. When he was on the road with McEntire, Akins brought along songwriters to help him create material for his next album. Some of the songs were tested on live audiences, but Akins noted that crowd reaction is but one way to gauge acountry hit. After that, I think it is just fate, he told Lydia Dixon Harden in Music City News. If everybody knew whatthe audience wanted to hear, boy, wed all have number ones every single time.

The tracks he eventually decided upon for his follow-up took him in a fresh musical direction, and Something New was chosen for a title. Released in June of 1996, Something Newgave Akins a number one hit with Dont Get Me Started, and the album itself reached number 13. Still, he remained somewhat dissatisfied with the image of himself as just another young buck in a ten-gallon hat. He began looking for songs that reflected a more mature side, with which someone like himselfmarried for years, with two young childrenmight identify. The results appeared on What Livins All About, released on Decca in early 1998. Its first single, More Than Anything, was a love song that soon became a standard for the wedding-ballad repertoire. I think its the best thing hes done in some time, one Los Angeles radio station executive, John Sebastian, told Billboards Deborah Evans Price.

Sebastian reflected that success for Akins was long overdue: Hes a great artist, the program director told Billboard, but stressed that the country music hit factory was heavily reliant upon solid, appealing songsno matter who wrote or performed them. You could almost be Garth Brooks and if you didnt have the songs, its so competitive out there you would fall through the cracks, Sebastian told Price. Other tracks on What Livins All About tapped into Akinss return to the basics. Ill Be Right Here Loving You, Happy As We Want to Be, Love Rules, and The Rest of Forever evinced a more country, less rock feel, though not all the dozen tracks were serious heart-tuggers.

To promote his third record, Akins undertook an unusual whirlwind tour of his home state. He went through all 159 Georgia counties in just under ten days in the Rhett Akins Across Georgia tour. It tied in with the singers fondness for his state, but also integrated his love of Civil War history (a fan site on the Internet divulged his favorite color as Confederate Gray) as well as passion for collecting antique books and maps on the subject. Ive always wanted to travel to every single county in Georgia, hang out, and talk to people and find out the history, Akins told Billboards Price. He remains philosophical about the road that brought him full-circle: I want to be a big star, but not because I want to ride in limousines and have a jet airplane. The only reason is because I want more people to hear what Im trying to say.

Selected discography

A Thousand Memories, Decca, 1995

Somebody New, Decca, 1996.

What Livins All About, Decca, 1998.

Sources

Billboard, December 13, 1997.

Music City News, July 1996.

Online

http://www.decca-nashville.com

http://www.hsv.tis.net/mcn/issues/jul96/rhett.htm

http://webadv.chron.com./nonprof/house/chronicle/business/business/chronicle/hci/business/nation/interactive/c/country/NFrhett.html

http://www.nashville.net

Additional information for this profile was provided by Decca Records publicity materials, 1997.

Carol Brennan

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Akins, Rhett

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