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After six years together, Rodney Atkins and wife Tammy have got the hang of marriage. But it wasn't always perfect.
"The first year of marriage was tough," remembers the singer of "Honesty (Write Me a List)."
"It's hard to adjust. I suddenly had two stepdaughters, and was trying to pay the bills as a struggling musician. We reached a point where we just weren't communicating at all."
Unable to tell Tammy how he felt, Rodney decided to put it in a song. "I sat down one night and wrote 'Someone to Share It With,'" he recalls. "It was what I wanted to say, and I think sometimes it's easier to sing it than say it. "
Now anyone can hear "Someone to Share It With" - the follow-up to his first big hit, the romantic power ballad "Honesty" - on the radio or on his album, also titled Honesty. But back in 1998, the tune was just between Rodney and Tammy. When the song was finished, he played it for her, and she heard her husband sing:
And that's exactly what they did. "That song had a lot to do with why we decided that the most important thing for us to do was to stay together," he recalls. "We decided that leaving wasn't an option."
But "Someone to Share It With" wasn't finished touching Rodney's real life. When the couple's son, Elijah, was born in September 2001, he says "there were a few times when he would just cry and cry and cry. I don't know if he was colicky, or what. We tried rocking him, walking with him, pushing him in the stroller, putting him in the car, sitting him on the washing machine in his baby seat. Nothing worked."
Then Rodney got the notion to play Elijah "Someone to Share It With," hoping the song that had worked its magic on Rodney and Tammy would have a similarly soothing effect on Elijah.
"It was like flipping a switch," he says. "It's like he knew what that song meant. And we had tears in our eyes, because we knew what the song meant. It's like he knew that if we hadn't decided to stick it out, he might not have been here. It was amazing."
Now that Rodney's music has spread from his house to fans all over the country, all of his family members are adjusting to his newfound fame. "My wife is a trouper," he reports. "She's known what I wanted to do, and she knows there are three or four days a week when I've got to be gone."
The same is true of Rodney's stepdaughters, Lindsey and Morgan, both in their early teens. And ol' dad - or "Big R," as the girls call him - is already fending off suitors.
"I'm Mr. All Boys Are Evil!" he chuckles. "The girls are drop-dead gorgeous now, and I know boys have one thing on their mind! I was a good kid, I really was, and I remember what was going through my mind at that age."
It will get more and more difficult for Rodney to stand guard as his career heats up and he's forced to spend more time away from his home in Cookeville, Tenn., about an hour from Nashville. Nonetheless, he couldn't be happier about his success.
"It's the coolest thing in the world," he declares. "To actually have a song that people actually know the words to, or to walk through an airport and have people know who you are - it's amazing. When I go somewhere, they're like, 'Oh, I think I've heard of that guy!'
"It's weird, because I'm the same guy who goes home," he adds, "and changes a poopy diaper!"
-- Chris Neal