Story Behind The Song: Thomas Rhett - It Goes Like This
By: Alanna Conaway
Thomas Rhett's latest single, "It Goes Like This," impacted country radio earlier this week, racking up the most adds of all songs being added into country radio rotation. The tune marks the first release that the young singer-songwriter didn't write, but the writers on the tune are no strangers to success. Thomas Rhett's father -- Rhett Akins -- and Ben Hayslip (2/3 of Nashville's hottest writing trio, The Peach Pickers), and Jimmy Robbins wrote the tune, never thinking the song would wind up in the hands of Akins' son. Roughstock talked to Akins and Hayslip about the day they wrote the song and how it became what it is today.
"I personally have the best luck with people I write with for the first time," Akins tells Roughstock. "Almost everybody in this town who I’ve written with for the very first time, I get the song cut. I don’t know what it is about that first time. There’s numerous people in town where it's happened like that for me. I don’t know why. Me and Ben had never written with Jimmy Robbins. We heard that he was this new guy in town … really young track guy, kind of pop/L.A., real melodic … just a real good musician. So we said yeah, let’s give it a shot. Ben and I went over to his house, and we talked for 30-45 minutes, trying to get to know each other. We really didn’t have anything going, and Jimmy had a ukulele on his couch. I’d never even tried to play a ukulele, but while we were talking, I just held the ukulele and kept messing with it, trying to figure out how to play it a little bit.
"I found something on there where I could pick the four strings and it sounded somewhat like a little melody," Akins continues. "I wasn’t trying to write a song or anything. I was literally just messing around. Jimmy heard what I was playing, and he picked up his guitar and started playing over the little melody I was playing on the ukulele. So Jimmy started playing around what I was doing, and that’s how we got the song started.
"I think what we were originally trying to write was not what we ended up writing," Akins recalls. "I think we started with another title and started writing towards that. It’s about meeting this girl, and he says you make me want to write a song, and the song is about us … what I envision you and me doing tonight or for the next year or for forever. I think the song changed mid-way through writing it into what it is now. What we started with wasn’t what we kept."
"The chorus definitely changed," adds Hayslip. "We replaced words with oooo’s and hey’s to make it different. It’s one of those songs where you get the demo back, and you just play it over and over. My kids say, ‘Daddy, play it again! Play it again!’ When that happens, I usually know we have a hit song."
"We just knew that we had something special," Akins agrees. "Never in my mind did I think that Thomas Rhett was going to record it because at that time, Thomas Rhett had already cut a bunch of songs, and we thought his album was going to come out in the spring. I think they pitched it to Luke Bryan and some other people, and it just miraculously hung around enough. I did send it to Thomas Rhett, just because I wanted him to hear it. I didn’t even think he was going to record anything else. I just thought it was a song he would like to hear. He immediately called me back and said, ‘Dad – this song is a smash! My wife loves it, I’ve played it for all my friends, and they love it. I want it.’ I was like, ‘Well I don’t know if you can have it, because you’re probably not going to be able to record it for another year or two.’ It just so happened not long after that, [his record label, Big Machine] told Thomas Rhett they wanted to cut some more stuff. As soon as Thomas Rhett found out he was going to be able to record some more songs, he knew he definitely wanted a shot at this song. He went and recorded it, and everybody at Big Machine flipped out. Next thing we knew, they said they were putting it out in a month. That was just another one of those meant to be deals.
"It’s really nerve-wracking to me to have a song on my son because his career is kind of semi in my hands," Akins adds with laughter. "My song is either going to further his career or hurt his career. This is the first song he’s put out that he didn’t write, and I wrote it, so it makes me a little more nervous. I’m nervous about every song, regardless of who puts it out. But when it’s your own son, it’s like oh God, please let this work … don’t make me be the reason my son’s career goes down the tubes [laughs]!"