Rodney Atkins may be on more music fans’ personal play lists now that the title track of his fourth studio album “Take a Back Road,” has become his sixth No. 1 hit, but don’t think of him as anything like an overnight success.
The East Tennessee native signed with Curb Records in 1997 but didn’t really catch listeners’ ears until his 2006 album If You’re Going Through Hell. Atkins said what helped him turn the musical corner was taking a long look at his beliefs and defining exactly what songs he could write and sing from the heart.
Wonder if that worked? Consider that the album’s title track and the song “Watching You” both zoomed to the top of the charts. As he prepares for the October 4 release of his album and a supporting tour, Atkins took time to talk with OurStage about the title track, the album and just what he hopes his fans take away from his music.
OS: Congratulations on your new single “Take a Back Road” hitting No. 1! You must be so thrilled.
RA: To be honest, you get so caught up in the grind and the business and then suddenly it just hits you and you’re on your knees, so humble. I’m so humbled that I’m here and have a chance to do this. I’m just so very grateful. I don’t know why I’m doing this interview because I’m honestly speechless. Thank you for wanting to talk to me!
OS: When you approached writing and recording this album, what did you hope to achieve?
RA: When we started working on the If You’re Going Through Hell album [that was released in 2006], I lived about 100 miles from Music Row so I was constantly going back and forth. So I wouldn’t have to do the commute, I got [basic recording equipment] on eBay and set it up in the pantry, a little closet at our house.
I was working one day and my wife [Tammy Jo Atkins] and some of her friends were out on the front porch…and I had them come in and sing [a background vocal] “It is what I love about the south, about the south, about the south.” It was recording those songs in that way that got me and really affected me and lifted me. They actually say more than you realize.
So my answer is that when we made the If You’re Going Through Hell album, we were not trying to fit in and follow a trend. We were basically following our hearts. That’s what made me want to go back to that place, to sing songs and write songs that really, really touch people. [I wanted] songs that would stick with you and lift people up.”