Would you believe that country star Rodney Atkins  — a Knoxville native with six No. 1 singles and over 10 million units sold — hasn’t released a studio album since 2011 (Take a Back Road)?

Has it really been that long? Of course Atkins released a few singles and a greatest hits album since his last full body of work, but his latest single, “Caught Up in the Country," out March 23, is indeed a preface to his next full-length album.

So what has Atkins been doing all this time? Besides initially promoting Take a Back Road and taking a little time off, he tells Taste of Country he’s been working on his forthcoming album (to be released in 2018) virtually everyday for the past 3-and-a-half years. Atkins says it was routine to wake up at 4:30AM each day and start working, taking a much more hands-on approach with this album than ever before.

“The biggest difference with this record is I personally spent time on these songs as the song mechanic; working on stuff and trying different things,” he says. “It’s really about spending the time creatively in shaping these songs. I had more of a roll-my-sleeves-up approach to not only my vocals, but a lot of the different aspects of these tunes, to create something I think is special and different. … I have more input in this record sonically than I’ve had in the past and I let my imagination out to play a little bit more.”

An anthem about Atkins’ connection to the outdoors, “Caught Up in the Country” has a much slicker production than previous releases “Watching You” or “It’s America.” It’s a more modern 'anything goes' style of production that Atkins appears proud of and feels is necessary to move forward as an artist.

Written by Mike Walker, Jordan Schmidt and Connie Harrington, “Caught Up in the Country” pushes Atkins into the next chapter of his career; a career that he says is focused on, “Where I am right now, where I’m going and not a whole lot about where I was” — which is also the theme of his new album.

Lyrically, the right now for Atkins is family life: being in love with his wife (Atkins’ words) Rose Falcon Atkins, celebrating the birth of his second son, Ryder, who was born in December 2017, and continuing to share special moments with his 16-year-old son, Eli.

“It’s pretty simple,” Atkins admits.

Though his absence may have created a few cobwebs for country music fans, this singer was hardly forgotten. He recently landed six songs on Country Aircheck’s Top 100 Songs of Our Decade list, including his platinum smash "Watching You," which was rated as the No. 1 most-played song of the decade.

Will "Caught Up in the Country" make the next Top 100 list? Atkins certainly hopes so. He'll play the Taste of Country Music Festival this summer.

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