Thomas Rhett Explains Why He Doesn't Think of Willa Gray as Adopted

Thomas Rhett and his wife, Lauren Akins, adopted their daughter, Willa Gray, from Uganda, after Akins met the child while doing volunteer work in the country. Their oldest daughter, now two, joins baby sister, Ada James, born only three months after Rhett and Akins adopted Willa Gray.

But according to Rhett, both children are equally his daughters.

“The word ‘adopted’ doesn’t even make sense in my head anymore really,” Rhett tells PEOPLE. “I know that it happened and I remember it very vividly, but it kind of feels like she has just always been here. Even though Willa Gray comes from [a] whole different part of the world, she’s ours and it feels like she never wasn’t.”

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(Photo: Instagram/thomasrhettakins)

Not that Rhett wants Willa Gray to entirely abandon her African roots. The "Life Changes" singer hopes Willa Gray embraces where she comes from, while always feeling at home where she lives.

"I hope God has given me all the right tools to raise Willa Gray to know that no matter where she comes from, she is our child, and that we want her to express her diversity,” Rhett acknowledges. “She’s from Tennessee and she’s from Uganda and I want her to be proud of that.”

Rhett is the son of singer-songwriter Rhett Akins, who had several hits as an artist in the '90s, before becoming a prolific songwriter. As the son of someone accustomed to the spotlight, Rhett hopes to take plenty of cues from his father on how to raise his own daughters.

“We had what we needed but it was never excessive or over the top, and I think we’re trying to really instill that in our children too," says Rhett. “When I’m home, I want them to experience a normal life, disregarding what I do for a living or what Lauren does for a living.”

Rhett has fond memories of life on the road with his own dad, which is why he tries to take Willa Gray and Ada James out on the road with him as much as possible.

“Probably as early as high school, I thought if I had kids and I got to tour one day that I’d want my kids to be a full part of that touring life,” Rhett recalls. “That’s how I bonded with my dad — and I still have that bond with him."

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(Photo: Instagram/laur_akins)

The 28-year-old isn't concerned with buying his children expensive toys or taking them on lavish trips. Instead, his hopes for his children are much more simple.

“I hope that we can raise both of our children to be super proud of who they are and where they come from — and that they know me and Lauren love them beyond anything else that exists in this world," Rhett says. "I hope we can just raise good, kind kids.”

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Rhett is currently opening for Kenny Chesney on the Trip Around the Sun Tour, and will then resume headlining his own Life Changes Tour. Find dates at ThomasRhett.com.

Photo Credit: Getty images/Rick Diamond