Story Behind the Song: Thomas Rhett, ‘T-Shirt’
Thomas Rhett earned his sixth consecutive No. 1 hit with “T-Shirt,” the third single from his sophomore album, Tangled Up. The song, written by Shane McAnally, Luke Laird and Ashley Gorley, was originally planned for another artist, but Rhett knew that he wanted it for himself. Still, it took a lot of patience — and a prayer from Rhett’s father, singer-songwriter Rhett Akins — for “T-Shirt” to be included on Tangled Up.
Below, Rhett, his father and McAnally explain how “T-Shirt” became one of the biggest hits of Rhett’s career.
Thomas Rhett: I’ve known all these songwriters for so long. “T-Shirt” was one of those songs that Tim McGraw had on hold when I wanted to cut it, and then I couldn’t cut it on my first record. He let it go, and I got it on my second record.
We cut the song four different times in the studio, because we couldn’t figure out how to cut it. So that song literally has been somewhat of a survivor for a very long time. I was so pumped when we finally put that out as a single.
Rhett Akins: I didn’t write the song, but when he plays me songs that we didn’t write — he’ll send them to me — I’m like, “Smash. You have to cut “T-Shirt.”” He said, “I can’t. Tim’s got it, and my album’s done. There’s no way Shane and Luke are going to let me have it if Tim doesn’t cut it.”
Me and Ashley drove to Kentucky one morning to write with Thomas Rhett on the road, and Thomas Rhett was so bummed out. He’d been playing the song on soundcheck, and he was so bummed. He was like, “Tim’s going to cut this song tomorrow, and I’m not going to get it.”
This might sound cheesy, but I can’t stand to see him worry. He’s the biggest worrier on Earth; he’s been that way since he was born. I finally just said, “Thomas Rhett, there’s nothing you can do about it. If Tim cuts it, I don’t know what’s going to happen. The only thing we can do to solve this is pray about it right now.”
Me and Ashley and TR got in a huddle, and we said, “God, if you want Thomas Rhett to have this song, thank you. If you want Tim to have this song, I hope it’s a huge hit. Whatever happens, just give Thomas Rhett some peace, and let’s get on with it.” And the very next day, Tim didn’t cut it, and they all said he could keep it.
Shane McAnally: [Rhett] has been so true to his passion for [this song], because it was on hold … He couldn’t cut it for the first record, because Tim had it on hold. Most of the time when that happens, and then someone else takes it off hold — like when Tim decided not to record — that would usually make the other artist go, “I don’t want it anymore.” But he was like, “I love that song, no matter what.”
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