Go ahead and type Center Point Road into your GPS. It’ll pull up a nondescript street in Hendersonville, Tennessee, leading away from Nashville’s suburban sprawl at the north edge of Old Hickory Lake. It won’t mean much to you or me, but for country star Thomas Rhett, there was a time when it was everything.
With 13 smash No. Ones hits, an armload of awards including current ACM Awards Male Artist of the Year, and a growing reputation for electrifying headline tours, he’s spent the last seven years evolving from a kid on Center Point Road into a sonic trailblazer, and country radio’s most-played artist of 2018. Three adventurous album cycles have come and gone, and each time he’s mined his upbringing for inspiration. But now, with what can truly be described as an autobiographical fourth studio album, he’s looking back with renewed clarity.
“It’s kind of getting back to my roots in a way,” Thomas Rhett explains. “Center Point Road is a little street in Hendersonville, Tennessee, and it’s where I did all my growing up – first kisses, first dates, first time driving to school when you turn 16, all the stuff that made me into the person I am.”
The follow up to his Grammy-nominated, Platinum-selling #1 album Life Changes, Center Point Road, which debuted atop the Billboard 200, is indeed a return to Thomas Rhett’s roots. All those moments and more are revealed through a series of deeply-personal twists and turns – but this project isn’t about pining for glory days. It’s about knowing where you came from and who you really are, regardless of how much has changed. It’s about pushing forward, chasing crazy dreams and raising a family, and staying true to yourself in the process.
The sound is big. The towns are small. And the name is HARDY.
Big Loud artist HARDY grew up on classic rock in Philadelphia, Miss., a town of about 7,500 in the country setting of Neshoba County. So when fans hear the music on his four-song EP for the label, This Ole Boy, they’re getting the real deal. The songs are bold and proud, the voice is commanding and the lyrics are centered on farms, in the backwoods and mostly in America’s heartland.
“I love that lifestyle, and that’s what I want to talk about,” he says unapologetically. “I’m not really a love song dude. If I’m going down that road, it’s a song like ‘This Ole Boy’ where it’s a redneck-in-love kind of thing. People that are like me, or people who still live in small towns, still love that and want to hear that. That’s why I’m who I am as an artist.”
HARDY’s artistic identity is notably focused on This Ole Boy. His voice is gritty in “4×4,” soulful in the background vocals of “This Ole Boy” and edgy in the stack of HARDY harmonies in “Rednecker.” The productions’ mix of swamp rock and country walks a line between strutting sarcasm and communal congeniality. And the incessant word play – where else does “quatro” rhyme with “macho?” – marks HARDY as a smart guy with an uncommon sense of humor.