Thomas Rhett is making sure his 2018 Life Changes Tour is the best tour he's ever put on. The singer-songwriter spent two weeks rehearsing in Nashville's Bridgestone Arena, hiring a set designer and the same choreographer who works with Justin Timberlake to make sure everything is perfect.
For Rhett, it's about making sure every fan gets their money's worth every night. But it's also about how he can improve himself, and hopefully someday earn the highest industry award, Entertainer of the Year.
"It's really normal in the pop and hip-hop world to rehearse for five or six months, because there is so much choreography and there's so much production," Rhett tells Rolling Stone. "I think it weirds people [in Nashville] out when you tell them that you've been in rehearsal for two weeks. For me, the goal is to win Entertainer of the Year, and the only way to do that is to make your show above and beyond anything else that's out there. While understanding that what we do is super-unconventional for this genre, we're trying to make the most fun show humanly possible, whatever that looks like. For us, that means rehearsing for a long time."
Rhett looks to some of his own musical heroes, including Kenny Chesney (who Rhett is opening for on Chesney's Trip Around the Sun Tour), and others who helped pave the way for Rhett.
"Hopefully, in ten years we're still doing this and hopefully it's on a stadium level," says Rhett. "I think what Kenny [Chesney] has done so well is not only does he have great music, but he's created such an atmosphere that even if you only like a couple of Kenny Chesney songs, you're still going to that show because you're going to feel like you've escaped reality for three or four hours. I think that's what Chesney and people like Luke Bryan and Jason Aldean have all done so well.
"Even though their music is all super different, those fans have been with them since seven or eight years ago," he continues. "They keep coming back because they know that a Luke Bryan concert is going to be a blast and they know that a Jason Aldean concert is going to be a blast of a rock and roll concert. They know that Kenny Chesney's gonna be like they got to go to Mexico for a day. When you can create those really cool atmospheres and vibes, I think you have a really great future."
Rhett is nominated for six upcoming ACM Awards, including Album of the Year, for Life Changes, and Male Vocalist of the Year, a category he shares with Aldean, Chris Stapleton, Keith Urban and Chris Young. Although Rhett is always rooting for all of his friends, he doesn't mind if they occasionally find themselves vying for the same thing, whether it be a chart position or a trophy.
"I think if there wasn't any competition, then no one would ever try to step their game up," Rhett acknowledges. "I remember in 2013, I was opening for Aldean and then knowing that we were going to go on the [Florida Georgia Line] tour the next year. I watched [FGL's] Brian and Tyler really invest a bunch of their money in making their show next level. Even if it cost them bringing out an extra bus or whatever, they were using that money to spend it on freakin' pyro and fireworks and cryo-canons – all that little stuff adds up to a really unique, fantastic experience."
"But I do think it's healthy to have a friendly competition rather than a competition that just keeps you up at night resenting somebody else for doing better than yourself," he adds. "I think you've got to take what people do and learn from it and expand upon it. Take parts of what you love from other artists and make it unique to your brand. I think that's what all the great bands have done in the past - the Stones, the Beatles were all looking at Muddy Waters, and then [other stars at] Prince and Michael Jackson going, 'Dang, he's got a what on his stage? We've got to do something bigger and better than that.' The competition is really what fuels the fire to make your show great."
A list of all of Rhett's shows can be found on his website.2comments
The 2018 ACM Awards will air live from the MGM Grand Garden Arena on Sunday, April 15, at 8:00 PM ET on CBS.
Photo Credit: Instagram/ThomasRhettAkins