It's been quite the week for The Valory Music Co's Thomas Rhett. On Sunday (April 2), the recording artist walked away with three of ACM Awards: two for song of the year ("Die A Happy Man") -- as both artist and songwriter -- and male vocalist of the year. On top of his award achievements, Rhett also is beginning a new business venture with people he is very familiar with. Rhett is involved in launching Home Team Publishing, a new creative endeavor with longtime manager Virginia Davis (G Major Management), songwriter and father Rhett Akins and Roc Nation.
"I was a songwriter before I was an artist," Thomas Rhett said in a statement. "I was lucky enough to find a team that believed in me really early on. Songwriting is the foundation for my artist career, so I'm excited and honored to be able to invest in the future of the songwriting community." Thomas Rhett's personal publishing will stay with his long-standing publisher EMI/SONY.
In a conversation with Billboard, Davis says she is excited to be a part of Home Team's launch, which she sees as a natural evolution for all involved. "Thomas and Rhett are both excellent songsmiths, and they bring such a wonderful perspective to publishing," she says. "They are both real writers, and have a genuine love for the craft. When Rhett goes out on the road with Thomas, they can't help but hop on the bus after a show and play each other the newest songs that they have written. They both have a genuine love for this, and are two of the hardest-working people that I know."
Their partner in the venture, Roc Nation, echoes those sentiments wholeheartedly. "There are few teams that have the amazing track record of Virginia Davis, Thomas Rhett and Rhett Atkins," added Roc Nation CEO Jay Brown. "They have a deep appreciation for artists and an uncanny ear for hits. Home Team Publishing is an exciting and natural partnership for Roc Nation."
Between the team, there are over two dozen chart-topping hits, and an undeniable sales history. Davis feels that those who work with the company will be able to learn from two of the best in the business. "I think that putting a writer in a room with the both of them and understanding their strengths, and how to better develop them as a writer, is an asset," she says. "I approach working with writers the same way I do with artists -- because I do believe writers are artists, after all -- I help them evolve by nurturing their uniqueness and their talent. I'm not interested in making them something that they are not. I don't think that works."
Having been a part of the Thomas Rhett story since the very beginning -- when he was still in college at Nashville's David Lipscomb University -- Davis says it's been a week to remember for all. "I'm so proud, not only of his career, but also the person and the artist he's become," she adds. "We've been working together since he was beginning [as a] songwriter as a college student at Lipscomb; I think he was 20 years old when we started working together. Ben Vaughn sent me some demos on a writer that he thought was great. I listened and was blown away at the depth of talent and thought he was something really special, especially for someone so young. Just to witness and be a part of that evolution has really been one of the greatest privileges of my life so far."
In a town full of publishing companies, what will make Home Team stand out from the crowd? "Between Thomas, Rhett, myself, and Roc Nation, our partner, I really think there is such a wealth of experiences and resources there," Davis explains. "We hope to align with talent that we believe in, and focus on giving them access to opportunities and to the resources that they may need to become better at their craft. This is kind of my same philosophy as with management: focus is our friend. We don't plan on working with a large roster, just a very intentionally-focused one."
The first signee to Home Team is Eric Olson, who already has had a cut by Kelly Clarkson ("Catch My Breath"). He has a huge advocate in Davis. "Eric is wonderful," she says. "I first heard of him when we were pairing up Danielle Bradbury, who is one of our management clients with different writers and producers to help cultivate her sound. She wrote with him early on, and I was blown away with what they did. Then Anna Weisband, who is a publisher with This Music, sent me some more of his music. I knew right away he was someone I wanted to work with. He's been the first one that we have identified as someone between the resources that we all have, that we could pour our resources into giving him the opportunities and the access that he is going to need."
For his part, Atkins hopes he can serve as an inspiration for aspiring writers. "The most rewarding part of mentoring young songwriters is seeing them work really hard and finally get that first cut," he says. "The first one gives them that validation that they're doing something right and that moving to Nashville wasn't some crazy decision. I think I get more excited than they do."
And, what exactly is Home Team looking for? That answer might very well be a $64,000 question, but Davis said she knows how it feels to hear that special something out of an artist. "The first thing I look at is, 'Is this someone that I can take to the next level? Is this someone I can help in some way?'" she says. "'Do I have the resources and the access to those types of writers and artists? Is this someone I can take to the next level?' Secondarily, it's talent. I don't know how you define that. It's just something that you know when you hear it. It's like with Thomas: I just knew when I heard those first demos that he had something special."