Rodney Atkins Takes Pride in Recording Songs Like ‘He’s Mine’
While Rodney Atkins did not write his current single, ‘He’s Mine,’ he jokes that he has lived it by raising his son, Elijah, who is three years shy of entering into his teens.
“The song is one I heard years ago when we were doing the ‘Going Through Hell’ album, and I loved the song,” Atkins tells Taste of Country. “This is a tune that when I heard it, I held onto it and kept listening to it. I had the guitar lick from the beginning of the song in my head. I just love the song, and I love telling the story.”
“There have been so many father-daughter songs,” he continues, referencing one of his own — his 2007 No. 1 hit, ‘Cleaning This Gun (Come On in Boy).’ “That song said it in a completely different way about a very different way. [‘He’s Mine’] seems like it’s dark from the front of it, and I love the language. The way I grew up, I could see that happen … old man knocking on my front door, had him by the collar…. just kind of accusatory. I’ve been there and I can see that picture in my head. I think it’s very real and it says it in a different way.”
When Atkins finished his latest album, he never thought that ‘He’s Mine’ would have the kind of impact that it has had, from fans to peers within the country music industry. “It was a song that a lot of folks were asking for,” says Atkins. “I’ve seen that reaction live, and I really believe in the song and what it says. It has got a different edge. ‘Take a Back Road’ had a different kind of sound to it. These songs are deeper than what’s just on the surface, though. ‘Take a Back Road’ can be just an ear candy ditty. If you want to hear it that way, that’s fine. If it makes you want to crank it up and jam out to the guitar riffs and the triple kick patterns and edgy rhymes, that’s fine. But the song really does transport you somewhere.”
Fans began connecting with Atkins on a deeper level with his ‘Going Through Hell’ album, and the emails continue filtering in after the two releases from his latest album, ‘Take a Back Road.’ “I’ll get emails about people going through their chemo treatment and wanting to crank up ‘Take a Back Road’ because it takes them somewhere,” Atkins says with a smile. “‘He’s Mine’ does that, too. It hits me that way. It’s about being proud. One lady said she had a 2-year-old taking ballet. She finally had a recital, so after taking her little girl to ballet practice or whatever you call it over and over, the first recital, her little daughter walks out there and just pulls her skirt up over head. She said she had tears in her eyes, smiling, thinking about that song ‘He’s Mine.'”
“It’s funny, too,” continues the singer. “The critical things I’ve heard about this song is that it seems like it should have gone on … that there was a lot left unsaid. At the end of the song, they wish it would have gone on. My answer to anybody that says that about any song is that it works. That’s kind of the purpose of the song, is that it tells some stories about different situations, but you’re still proud and you still love your kid unconditionally. I love the song. I love what it says … the grit of it. You know in ‘These Are My People,’ my favorite line in it is “It ain’t’ always pretty, but it’s real.” That’s the goal of this song and of the whole album.”
And for some country music buffs, ‘He’s Mine’ may sound familiar. “It got cut by Billy Ray Cyrus,” Atkins reveals. “It was on one of his albums. Their cut was great. It was pretty much exactly like the demo. We cut it, probably, 10 beats per minute faster. You want songs that have a certain amount of energy. I heard it one way, and that’s how songs are. Some people hear it one way and some people hear it a different way. If you hear the song and you love it, and when you’re in there as a producer working on it and singing on it, that’s when you can tell if it’s going to stay around a while. It’s a different way. I don’t think you’re going to hear that song that way anywhere else.”