In his latest single, "What's Your Country Song," Thomas Rhett shouts out no fewer than 16 country songs that have come to make up the beloved soundtrack to fans' lives. Over the course of the lyrics, Rhett takes fans on a trip down memory lane, calling to mind the songs that tell the stories of some of their most important memories.
The result bears some resemblance to Walker Hayes' 2018 single "'90s Country," but Rhett isn't bound to just one decade. Instead, he bounces back and forth between old-school standards and relatively newly released hits, name-checking a Hank Williams standard from 1949 as easily as he does a 2011 chart-topper from Jake Owen. Even the singer's own dad, '90s hitmaker Rhett Akins, gets a mention in these lyrics (and as it happens, Akins helped Rhett pen "What's Your Country Song," too).
The father-and-son duo wrote the song alongside Jesse Frasure, Ashley Gorley and Parker Welling during a 2019 summer tour stop in Dallas, Texas. When he released it, Rhett said that he was inspired to write "What's Your Country Song" after noticing some common denominators among all country fans, no matter where in the world they might live.
“I noticed that whether I was in Los Angeles or New York, or Seattle or Nashville, or anywhere in between, I noticed that everybody had some country in them, you know? Whether you live in the city or wherever you live, I think everybody has a little bit of country inside their bones," Rhett pointed out.
He also noted that he's no exception, saying that each of the songs referenced in his new single "really shaped me as an artist."
Can you catch all 16 of the songs Rhett name-checks in "What's Your Country Song"? Press play above to listen to the song, and read on as we break it down:
In "What's Your Country Song": "Did you grow up on a tractor? / Did your daddy let you drive?"
Alan Jackson wrote and released this 2002 hit as a tribute to his father, Eugene Jackson, who died in January of 2000. It's also the title track of the singer's tenth studio album, and a major tear-jerker for any country fan with fond childhood memories of learning how to drive from their dad.
In "What's Your Country Song: "Are you whiskey bent and hell bound...?"
Old Bocephus himself penned this sway-along anthem to getting up to no good (even if you've got a good woman at home). The song first came out in late 1979, as the first single from an album of the same title.
In "What's Your Country Song": "...Even though your mama tried..."
Inscribed on the hearts and memories of many an outlaw are the lyrics to "Mama Tried," Merle Haggard's 1968 single that mourns the pain and suffering he caused his mother when he became incarcerated in San Quentin State Prison. This Grammy Award-winning hit is the title track of Haggard's seventh studio album.
In "What's Your Country Song": "Did you cruise down a back road with your Dixieland delight?"
Written by Ronnie Rogers -- a country songwriter who also saw some chart success of his own in the late '70s and early '80s -- this song became a massive hit for Alabama after the group released it as the lead single from their 1983 studio album, The Closer You Get...
In "What's Your Country Song": "Are you on the Chattahoochee..."
Alan Jackson gets the royal treatment in Rhett's song, receiving his second shoutout before the first chorus even hits. This time around, it's for his 1993 classic "Chattahoochee," which Jackson co-wrote with songwriter Jim McBride.
In "What's Your Country Song": "...on a barefoot blue jean night?"
With a 2011 release date, this hit single by Jake Owen is actually one of the newer songs referenced in Rhett's song. It's the title track of Owen's third studio album, and was written by fellow country artist Eric Paslay alongside Terry Sawchuk and Dylan Altman.
In "What's Your Country Song": "When you're rollin' down a two-lane highway and you turn your radio on..."
Ray Stevens dropped his country-fried version of this gospel classic as part of a 1972 album of the same title. The song's origins date back to its composer, Albert E. Brumley, a renowned and prolific shape note composer whose work includes many of the Southern gospel standards we know and love today.
In "What's Your Country Song": "Do your exes live in Texas?"
Co-written by country artist Sanger D. Shafer and his fourth wife, Lyndia J. Shafer, "All My Ex's Live in Texas" was released by George Strait in 1987 as the second single off his Ocean Front Property album.
In "What's Your Country Song": "Are you so lonesome you could cry?"
One of the oldest songs on the list of Rhett's "What's Your Country Song" references, "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" came out in 1949, when Hank Williams included it as the B-Side to his "My Bucket's Got a Hole in It."
In "What's Your Country Song": "Are you heartbroke..."
Ricky Skaggs had his third No. 1 single in 1982 with "Heartbroke," off of his Highways & Heartaches album. The song was originally penned by Guy Clark, and Rodney Crowell also recorded a version for his 1980 But What Will the Neighbors Think album.
In "What's Your Country Song": "...'cause you know that ain't your truck in her drive?"
While many country fans know that Rhett often co-writes his songs (including "What's Your Country Song") with his songwriter dad Rhett Akins, fewer may be aware that Akins actually had a country career of his own back in the '90s. During that time, the singer-songwriter had a hit with "That Ain't My Truck" in 1995, a song he co-wrote with Tom Shapiro and Chris Waters.
In "What's Your Country Song": "Are your friends all in low places...?"
Fewer country songs are more iconic than Garth Brooks' 1990 single, "Friends in Low Places," off his sophomore studio album, No Fences. The song, which was written in 1989 by Earl Bud Lee and Dewayne Blackwell, earned Single of the Year at both the CMAs and ACMs upon its release, and helped catapult Brooks into superstardom.
In "What's Your Country Song": "...underneath a neon moon?"
Written by bandmate Ronnie Dunn, "Neon Moon" became the third single off of Brooks & Dunn's debut album, Brand New Man, and their third consecutive No. 1 hit. In 2019, the duo re-worked the song as part of their Reboot album, including a duet version of it with Kacey Musgraves.
"I Was Country When Country Wasn't Cool"Barbara Mandrell
In "What's Your Country Song": "Were you already country back when country wasn't cool?"
Kyle Fleming and Dennis Morgan co-wrote this hit for Barbara Mandrell, who released it in April of 1981 as the lead single from a live album later that year. Fun fact: The original song featured an uncredited appearance from the Possum himself, George Jones.
In "What's Your Country Song": "Who's your strawberry wine?"
Matraca Berg and Gary Harrison co-wrote this iconic slice of the '90s for Deana Carter, who released it as her debut single and the first to come from her debut album, Did I Shave My Legs for This?
In "What's Your Country Song": "What's your family tradition?"
Arguably one of the best-loved Hank Williams, Jr. songs ever released, "Family Tradition" came out in 1979 as the fourth single off his album of the same name. Williams wrote the song himself, and it's often considered to be a statement of rebellion and individuality, especially in the context of the musical legacy that came before the singer in the form of his famous dad. Since Rhett has a famous dad of his own, it's no surprise that two Hank Jr. songs made the list of "What's Your Country Song" references!