Rodney Atkins is happy to be back on top. The 'Farmer's Daughter' singer admits it wasn't long ago he saw his career heading too quickly in the wrong direction, and credits his welcome second chance to an unlikely source.

"We went from playing coliseums and [Nashville's] LP Field to state fairs," Rodney tells Nashville's Tennessean newspaper. "I guess that's the wake up call -- the 'What?' The 'OK, what just happened here that I was obviously oblivious to?'"

The 2006 ACM Award winner says his decline happened so gradually, it was difficult to discern until it was almost too late. After spending about eight years on Curb Records before seeing any notable success, Rodney says it was his close friend and label rep, Phil Gernhard, who kept him motivated and driven through the dark days. "He communicated with me constantly," Rodney recalls. "If I wasn't writing enough, he would call me up and kick me in the (butt) and say, 'You need to be writing songs, you need to be recording demos, you need to be working on this.' He was real guidance and mentor and overseer."

Tragically, just as Rodney was beginning to see his years of hard work pay off, Phil committed suicide. The loss impacted Rodney both personally and professionally. While Rodney wanted to release an uptempo single from his No.1 album, 'If You're Going Through Hell,' to follow his chart-topping hit, 'Cleaning This Gun (Come On in Boy),' the label ignored his wishes and instead released a ballad, 'Invisibly Shaken.' The tune tanked at radio.

Disappointed but not deterred, Rodney poured his heart and soul into preparing his new album. But while he was on the road touring, he discovered Curb had chosen, mere months before his new album was to hit shelves, to replace new songs he had recorded with songs from previous sessions. The label additionally changed the title from Rodney's choice of 'Simple Things' to 'It's America.'

"I felt like I had no control over what was going on," Rodney says. "Thank God for my wife. She's just between the eyes with what to do in real situations. We started with us being apart so much, and the frustrations from that. I was upside down. I wasn't me. Your reality becomes your fantasy and your fantasy becomes your reality. You try, but all you're doing is phoning it in, and when you hold out on life, life holds out on you."

With the support from his loving wife, Tammy Jo, and a newfound determination, Rodney took the reins again. He met with everyone on his team, including his booking agent and his business manager, and regained his rightful role as boss. "I'm driving, but that don't mean people are riding for free," Rodney asserts. "The days of me being gone and staying gone and people staying home making money off that are over."

It seems Rodney's role as CEO of his own career is paying off. His current single, 'Farmer's Daughter,' is sitting pretty at No. 5. Already working on a new album, the singer will have to squeeze in studio time between his busy concert schedule. He will also appear at next month's American Country Awards.

Find out where Rodney is playing here, and read his full interview with the Tennessean here.