Love can change a lot of things. For Rodney Atkins marrying his wife Rose Falcon in 2013 not only brought happiness to his personal life, but provided a creative boost that fueled the songs on his new Curbs Records album Caught Up in the Country, his first album of new songs in nearly eight years.
“It’s a lot of work and I don’t take it lightly that I could just throw something out there and it’s going to stick,” Atkins says of making a new album. “So it was a process of writing songs, telling myself that it was okay to take my time and a lot of it is Rose. When we started writing together, she made me better in that she pushed the ball down the field and kept it moving. It’s a whole different way of writing songs because… this is the first time I’ve been vulnerable. You don’t do that until you are loved.”
Atkins’ last studio album was 2011’s Take a Back Road, and even though it had been a long time between albums, he didn’t want to rush the new project. “I hit this place while I was writing and I quit trying to chase what I thought the label wanted me to do,” he says. “This was early in the process, about 2014 when I really started digging in and writing every day. I’m not attempting to write ditties at all and you have to work harder because you really want to add something to the format.”
The East Tennessee native has sold over 13 million units and has long been a strong contributor to the country format with such hits as “If You’re Going Through Hell (Before the Devil Even Knows),” “Watching You,” “These Are My People” and “Take a Back Road,” among others. “A couple of years ago they [Country Aircheck] had the most played songs of the decade [list] and ‘Watching You’ was the most played song,” Atkins says shaking his head and smiling. “And then we had like six songs of the most played songs of the decade and I hadn’t released a single in five of those years. That was only from five years.”
“So it’s justification for taking your time,” says Atkins who has only released five studio albums since signing with Curb in 1996. “What I didn’t need to do is just throw stuff together. I want to do stuff that I can be proud of and people can hear and go, ‘Oh that’s what took all this time!’”
Fans got their first taste of his fifth studio album when the title track became the lead single. Written by Connie Harrington, Mike Walker and Jordan Schmidt, “Caught Up in the Country” features the legendary Fisk Jubilee Singers. The rousing anthem is currently in the top 20 of the charts and climbing. “It’s organic and it’s got a lot of energy,” Atkins says of upbeat salute to rural life. “It represents what I’ve been caught up in.”
The album covers a lot of emotional territory from “Figure You Out (Riddle),” a sultry duet with Rose, to the plaintive “All My Friends are Drunk.” “That has been around longer than any tune. I probably sang that vocal in 2013 or 2014,” he says. “That song is an outside tune and it has hung around more than anything else. It’s just different. I think most people have been in that place that you don’t want to be there and everybody around you is hammered. I don’t drink and once I start sensing that everybody around me is hammered, I’m kind of like, ‘You all have a good time.’ I don’t want to be that guy.”
Produced by Atkins, Ted Hewitt and Blake Bollinger, the 12-song collection also includes some of Atkins’ most personal songs to date, including “Young Man,” penned for his teenage son Elijah and “My Life,” inspired by Rose’s grandparents.
“You want things to be personal, but relatable on a grand scale,” says Atkins, who was thrilled that the “My Life” video has gotten strong reaction from so many fans. “Rose’s grandparents were married for 70 years. When Rose and I started dating and I realized this is the person I wanted to spend the rest of my life with, we talked about what we wanted and she said, ‘I want what my grandparents have.’ Right before grandma died she was scratching these notes out and the last note she wrote was to grandpa and it said ‘I love my life.’ Rose and I have the actual note and we wanted to write a song. We talked about her, but the only way I could write it was about me and Rose. So Rose helped me write this tune and it’s one of my favorite things I’ve ever been a part of.”
“Young Man” is another personal moment for Atkins. “Once we started singing it live, it was like a celebration. It makes you feel the way a song is supposed to make you feel. I love that. I gave it to Eli and he said that was his favorite tune,” he says of his son Elijah, who was also the inspiration behind Atkins’ mega hit “Watching You.”
Faith, family and music are the foundation of Atkins’ life. He and Rose are also parents to son Ryder, who will be two in December and are expecting another baby in August. He’s enjoying a really sweet season in his life and is exciting about sharing this new music with fans. “I’ve tried not to chase what was out there, what was happening, but to just be honest and authentic and do something a little different,” he says of the new album. “Hopefully you are true to yourself at the end of it. Hopefully it’s something that people can related to. It is tough when you put yourself out there, but you trust that it’s okay to be vulnerable. You have to put some of those things out there and see what happens.”