While in high school, Atkins picked up the guitar and played during his spare time at festivals and events. After high school, then college, all still in Tennessee, he became friends with songwriters who taught him how to write songs himself. Inspired, he moved to Nashville to pursue a recording career. He signed up with Curb Records in 1996, during the exact same week LeAnn Rimes had done. However, it wasn’t until 2003 he would have his debut album, Honesty, which gave him a top ten hit with “Honesty (Write Me a List).”
Patience and Pursuit
In 2006, ten years after first signing with Curb Records, Rodney Atkins recorded and released his second studio album, If You’re Going Through Hell. Not only did it produce four number one singles on the US Hot Country Songs chart, it also became certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). His third studio album, It’s America, was released in 2009 and kept the impressive chart-hitting streak going, as did his fourth studio album, Take a Back Road in 2011. This served to be the final recording for Atkins until 2019 due to a scandal that put his career in stall mode until it was finally sorted out.
In 1998, Rodney Atkins married his first wife, Tammy Jo McDonald, and the two had a son, Elijah. As for McDonald, she had two daughters from a previous marriage. In 2011, Atkins was arrested by authorities when his wife filed a complaint that he tried to smother her with a pillow while their ten year old son watched. After Atkins was released on bail and took a court-ordered anger assessment, it was realized there was no cause for concern where Atkins was concerned. Argument still has it the domestic dispute between Atkins and McDonald was strictly verbal that did not come down to physical violence as he was cleared of the assault charge in February 2012. Needless to say, Atkins divorced McDonald and has since moved on. A year after his divorce, Rodney Atkins married singer-songwriter Rose Falcon who is the daughter of songwriter Billy Falcon. In 2017, then 2019, the couple had two sons, Ryder and Scott.
The Comeback Kid
After spending nearly eight years away from the recording studio, Caught Up in the Country served as a Rodney Atkins comeback to the industry in 2019. “Caught Up in the Country” not only served as the album’s title track, but a record-setting hit as it enjoyed the longest run on the country singles chart after fifty-seven weeks.
Top 10 Rodney Atkins Songs
#10 – Honesty (Write Me a List)
“Honesty (Write Me a List” was the debut single from the debut album, Honesty, from Rodney Atkins. Although he signed with Curb Records in 1996, it wasn’t for another seven years before he finally had his own album recorded and released as a solo artist. “Honesty” became a number four hit on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, serving as that hit single that finally saw Atkins receive payment for his dues. It was also a crossover hit as it peaked at number fifty-seven on the US Billboard Hot 100. The inspiration behind the mid-tempo ballad of “Honesty” was simply wanting to come up with a twelfth song for the album. The single revolved around the possibility of a divorce where the woman in the lyrical tale responds to her man’s request by writing down a list of what her idea a good man should be.
#9 – He’s Mine
“He’s Mine” was an RIAA-certified gold hit single for Rodney Atkins after its 2011 release from the album, Take a Back Road. This was a cover performance fashioned after Billy Ray Cyrus’ 2009 original that was featured on his album, Back to Tennessee. However, Atkins’ version is about his own son, Elijah, who learned to speak four-letter words, simply by following the examples left for him by the environment he’s been brought up in. This doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad thing as this is about unconditional love and not about what we do with the English language.
On the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, “He’s Mine” peaked at number twenty-three and was a number forty-nine hit on the RPM Canadian Country Tracks chart. Interestingly enough, 2011 also marked the year his wife filed a complaint against him for domestic violence, using the then-ten-year-old son as an alleged witness to the alleged event. Later, Atkins was cleared of the charge when it was discovered there was no proof Rodney Atkins did such a thing.
#8 – These Are My People
“These Are My People” was the third number one single in a row for Rodney Atkins, which came from his second album, If You’re Going Through Hell. Not only did it top the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, it also became a number forty-two hit on the US Billboard Hot 100 and a number five hit on the RPM Canadian Country Tracks chart. “These Are My People” was certified platinum by the RIAA after selling over one million copies since its 2007 release as a fiddle and guitar favorite that made references to Lynyrd Skynyrd’s songs, “Gimme Three Steps,” “Simple Man,” and “The Ballad of Curtis Loew.”
#7 – It’s America
From the album of the same name, “It’s America” became another number one single on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart for Rodney Atkins. This banjo-lovin’ lyrical anthem of pride to be an American featured Rodney Atkins at his best as a genuine patriot of the United States. His upbeat song of what really makes America great also made an impression on the US Billboard Hot 100 as it charted as high as number forty-four on it.
#6 – Cleaning This Gun (Come On In Boy)
Released from the 2006 album, If You’re Going Through Hell, “Cleaning This Gun (Come On In Boy)” was the fourth number one single that appeared on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart in 2007. Sung as a memory of teenage life, the narrator admitted whatever he learned from high school didn’t stand out as much as meeting his girlfriend’s father for the first time. In a speech designed to install fear, the father explained he’ll be still up and about, cleaning his gun when the boyfriend returns the girlfriend home from their date. This RIAA-certified platinum single also became a crossover hit into the US Billboard Hot 100 as it charted as high as number forty. In Canada, its country singles chart peaked “Cleaning This Gun” at number five.
#5 – If You’re Going Through Hell (Before the Devil Even Knows)
“If You’re Going Through Hell (Before the Devil Even Knows) was the first number one hit in Rodney Atkins’ career on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, as well as the RPM Canadian Country Tracks chart. “If You’re Going Through Hell” also became a crossover hit, peaking as high as number thirty-three on the US Billboard Hot 100. It was the title track from his second studio album, which was released in 2006. This single also earned Rodney Atkins his first music award as he was recognized in 2006 as Top New Male Artist by the Academy of Country Music.
For Atkins, the inspiration behind the song came from a quote made from Winston Churchill that suggested even when going through hell the best move is to keep going, as well as an old Irish toast that suggests you be in heaven at least five minutes before the devil realizes you’re dead. The popularity behind this single also earned it a platinum certification by the RIAA.
#4 – Take a Back Road
The title track from the album, Take a Back Road, was released in 2011 and became the sixth number one hit for Rodney Atkins on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. It also became his third double-platinum single with the RIAA. Also topping the RPM Canadian Country Tracks chart, “Take a Back Road” became a number twenty-three hit on the US Billboard Hot 100. The song’s inspiration came from a 1982 George Jones song that wanted him to take a country road, as well as a Hank Williams Jr. song wanting to take a dirt road. “Take a Back Road” featured Rodney Atkins caught in busy traffic on the freeway, wishing he had taken a back road instead.
#3 – Farmer’s Daughter
From the album, It’s America, “Farmer’s Daughter” became a number five hit on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, a number twenty-five hit on the RPM Canadian Country Tracks chart, and a number forty-seven hit on the US Billboard Hot 100 in 2010. The inspiration of the song simply came from three songwriters working together for the first time as a team. Rhett Akins, Marv Green, and Ben Hayslip were caught up in the moment with the fun hook about no hotter than catching a glimpse of the “Farmer’s Daughter.” Designed as a fun single, Rodney Atkins delivered a catchy masterpiece that is an easy barn dance favorite among country music fans. With the RIAA, “Farmer’s Daughter” became a double platinum seller with over two million copies of it sold.
#2 – Caught Up In the Country (featuring the Fisk Jubilee Singers)
“Caught Up In the Country” set a record in 2019 for spending the most amount of time on the US Billboard Country Songs chart as it stayed there for a total of fifty-seven weeks. Rodney Atkins received six nominations from the Academy of Country Music Awards and the two from the Country Music Association thanks to this song, plus the album it was named after. Deemed as a beautifully organic single of down-to-earth country music by fans and critics alike, “Caught Up In the Country” delivered an energetic and healthy salute to the rural lifestyle.
The Fisk Jubilee Singers performed as brilliant backup, which added even more life to a hearty single that has the perfect recipe to become a country music classic. On the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart it peaked at number twenty and was a number forty-six hit on the RPM Canadian Country Tracks. The impressive number, aside from setting a chart record, came in the platinum certification it received by the RIAA for having over one million copies either sold or downloaded.
#1 – Watching You
Released from the 2006 album, If You’re Going Through Hell, “Watching You” peaked at number one on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart in early 2007 and was also the number one song on this same chart at the year-end top songs countdown. The inspiration behind the song came from Rodney Atkins simply watching his son, growing up before his eyes, learning from him all the examples he laid out for him. In the music video shot for “Watching You,” Elijah, the son whom Atkins sang about, is featured as the star of this emotional classic children-learn-what-they live song. The popularity of “Watching You” earned this single a double platinum certification by the RIAA. In addition to these achievements, it was also a number three hit on the RPM Canadian Country Tracks chart and was a crossover success, charting as high as number thirty-six on the US Billboard Hot 100.
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