Thomas Rhett got very nostalgic on his new album Center Point Road, as the title of the project pays homage to the road in the town where he grew up in Hendersonville, Tennessee. In fact, on Twitter, the country star shared of the street itself, "It's where I played my first football game, where I had my first kiss, where I experienced heartbreak, success, and failure for the first time. Center Point Road shaped me into who I am today."
Center Point Road is Rhett's fourth full-length studio album and follows 2017's Life Changes. The LP showcases 16 new songs, including lead single "Look What God Gave Her," and other previously-released songs like "Don't Threaten Me With a Good Time" featuring Little Big Town, "That Old Truck" and "Remember You Young." The album also features collaborations with Jon Pardi and Kelsea Ballerini.
Rhett exclusively tells iHeartRadio of his new album, "I wouldn't say that all 16 tracks are like this journal into my life, but I will say that the meat of the record, six or seven songs on the record, are definitely kind of a deeper layer into my life than I think you even got on Life Changes in 16 [songs]. Songs like 'Dream You Never Had,' 'Almost,' 'That Old Truck,' 'Remember You Young,' 'Center Point Road,' a lot of those songs are very nostalgic, very looking back into past experiences of my life and drawing inspiration from there. I feel like it was really cool to dive back in to my 16/17/18-year-old self and derive song ideas from growing up on Center Point Road, which is 20 minutes north of Nashville. I spent the time from five years old to about 21 on the same street, driving that same street every day to school, to football practice, to picking up girls on first dates; a lot of firsts happened on that road that shaped me into who I am today. And it was really cool to dig back in my past and really create ... I'm gonna call it a concept record. But there are a lot of songs that kind of are about a little bit of the same thing, just from a different perspective."
Speaking of firsts, the first time Thomas picked up a guitar was around five years old, but then seriously began learning the instrument at 13, taught by his father Rhett Akins. And the first song he learned to play on the guitar was a Matchbox 20 song. He tells us, "The first time I picked up a guitar, I think I was about five years old. My dad played country music in the 90s, and so sitting in the living room when he would get back off the road, I would make him play all of the songs that were on the radio, including his songs. But I think when I was 13 was the first time I actually, like for real, picked one up and had dad teach me how to play. And, '3AM' by Matchbox 20 was the first song I ever learned how to play on the guitar. Ever since then, man, it's like I pick a guitar up at least once a day. It's something that has become an addiction to pick up a guitar to write, play, and sing on a daily basis. And, it's kind of my therapy in a way."
He added that if he had to tell his 13-year-old self anything, it would be, "If I could write a note to my 13-year-old self and say, 'Dude, when you're 29 you're going to have two kids, a wife, and you're gonna be on a headlining tour around North America and all over the world' ... It doesn't feel like it was overnight, but it definitely doesn't feel like I've been doing this for eight years. But I think that time really does fly when you're having fun, and we've been very fortunate to have a handful of songs that are very resonate with a lot of people. And gotten to dig into people's lives through my story and [it's] been a wild ride, man."
With Center Point Road being Rhett's fourth full-length album, the country star says that he's grown a lot since his debut in 2012, which included his single "Beer With Jesus." Thomas says of his career evolution, "Man, I think at the time, 'Beer With Jesus' was as good of a song that I could write. It was the first time I ever really dove in and tried to write a serious ballad, if you will. I feel like through the last three or four records, I've really grown as a songwriter, and I think a lot of that just comes with age, and a lot of that comes with living life, and a lot of that comes from experiences. But I do feel like on this fourth record that my songwriting ability has changed from just kind of like, 'Hey, let's write a song,' to like, 'Hey, let's write a song that means something.' And there are still definitely songs on this record that I write with just the intention of making people smile, but for the most part, a lot of the songs on these records, man, I poured my heart into. And I think once I was given the ability to write songs on a more personal level and actually have them relate to the fans listening and have radio stations play a song that's so personal, it really kind of fanned the flame to make me want to keep diving deeper, and really write about life."
Rhett adds, "My story resonates with a lot of people across the world, and it's really cool to see how my story can translate in somebody's life and get comments on the internet by people saying, 'Man, that song changed my life,' or 'Hey, I had a family member that died, and that song really helped me through that hard time.' That's the reason that you write songs in the first place. But, I feel like I've grown in many ways. And then my kids have made me grow a lot. I'll say it: I was a pretty impatient person before I had kids, and now that I have kids I felt my patience level has gone up. I feel like I'm more joyful these days. I feel like I'm learning how to live more in the moment. And if anything, when I'm done with this life and career, those will be milestones for me just as much as my success in the music business."