Thomas Rhett may be unquestionably on top of his game as a country music superstar — but as a dad, he feels just like the rest of us do sometimes: absolutely in over his head.
Of course, any human with four kids would be (and if you’re not, can you let the rest of us in on your secrets, please?). Especially when those four kids all happen to be under seven years old, like the daughters Rhett shares with his wife and longtime love Lauren Akins: 6-year-old Willa Gray, 4-year-old Ada James, (newly) 2-year-old Lennon Love, and 3-month-old Lillie Carolina.
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“We’re at a stage of life where every kid needs something different,” Rhett explains. “Willa Gray’s in kindergarten and she needs help with her homework. Ada James is in preschool and she needs help learning her letters. Lennon is at home all the time and we’re figuring out which Disney movie to turn on or how to entertain her for the next two hours.” Add newborn Lillie to the mix, whose needs are just as tiring as any other newborn on the planet, and it’s a recipe for parental exhaustion.
“It overwhelms me a little bit,” confesses Rhett. “When I get to my ‘job’ I’m like, ‘Good night, how are we supposed to continue on this path?”
As every parent knows, though, that feeling is completely natural. And in talking to Thomas Rhett, one thing is abundantly clear: his family is both his greatest love, and his greatest accomplishment. “There’s no stage moment, no number one hit that I can remember that’s ever felt better than when I walk through the door after being on the road,” he gushes proudly.
When you consider the staggering amount of stage moments and number one hits under Rhett’s belt, it makes the depth of his dad-devotion even sweeter. Dubbed “the most reliable maker of No. 1 singles in country music” by Variety magazine, he has 18 multi-platinum and gold-certified number one hits. He’s a five-time Grammy nominee, eight-time ACM Award winner (including Entertainer of the Year), and has been honored with awards from CMA, CMT, Billboard, and iHeartRadio. Not only that, but he’s also been recognized with two CMA Triple Play awards for penning three number-one songs within one year.
Aside from the sheer volume of his love for his daughters — and theirs for him — Rhett says that his favorite part of parenthood is not only fostering their interests, but learning right alongside them. He credits his own upbringing, and the influence of his dad (country music singer/songwriter Rhett Akins), who did the same for him. “Whatever I was into, whether it was skateboarding or being in a punk rock band, my dad always dove into it with me,” he recalls.
These days he’s doing the same with his girls, who are currently into horseback riding, even though Rhett admits to being “kind of terrified” of horses. But he puts any trepidation aside for the sake of being a good dad: “Knowing how much they love it, I want to love it just as much as they do so we can dive into it together.”
Like most working parents, Rhett tries to find a balance between his personal and professional life; his sixth album, Where We Started, will be available everywhere beginning April 1st. Recently, he paired with Fritos for their “Down for Everything” campaign, and stars in the first commercial Fritos has put out in 20 years (to which his new song, “Church Boots,” is the soundtrack). The campaign was a natural fit for him, Rhett explains, because he wants every project he takes on to feel “super authentic” — and he has fond, nostalgic memories of being in his grandparents’ kitchen as a kid, a pot of chili simmering on the stove and crumbled Fritos at the ready to top it off.
Luckily for Rhett, his profession sometimes allows him to do both at once. His personal life lends inspiration to his craft, and it’s the moments with his wife and daughters that make his songwriting so relatable and — as he puts it — “on the nose”.
“I love writing very specifically and really capturing a moment when it happens, especially when it comes to my kids,” he says. When he writes about his own story, he shares, he hopes people can catch a glimpse of theirs. “Someone else can find their story within my story, because we’re all doing a lot of the same thing.”
And he’s so right; even though my kids are older than his and I’m no longer in the trenches of little-kid chaos, I felt so many times during our conversation that we were leading parallel lives when it comes to parenting. He revealed that he’s often perplexed by the “new kindergarten terminology” that daughter Willa brings home, just as I’m constantly trying to stay on top of the ever evolving tween-and-teen-slang my kids throw at me (just as I mastered “no cap,” it was deemed “cringey”). He also weighed in on the question that every parent of same-gender siblings is grilled endlessly about (and as a mom of four boys, I totally understand that, too).
“I get people asking, ‘When are you gonna try for that boy?’” Rhett says. And though he wouldn’t mind adding a son to the family in the future if it’s in the cards, he’s perfectly content with his gaggle of girls.
“I feel like I was put on this earth to be a musician, but also to be a girl dad,” he says. “And I have completely embraced it and I love it more than anything in the world. Those girls have my heart.”
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