LetÃ¢ÂÂs get one thing straight: Rodney AtkinsÃ¢ÂÂ hit "Honesty (Write Me a List)" is about a couple on the rocks, but his own married life is just fine.
"My wife and I have a great marriage," assures Rodney, who's been wed to Tammy for five years. "I couldn't ask for a better wife."
In case you haven't heard Rodney's tear-jerking hit, it's about a divorcing couple dividing their goods. The husband asks his wife to make a list of what she wants, and she writes:
tenderness and trust
A little less time for
the rest of the world,
And more for the two of us.
Kisses each mornin',
'I love you's at night,
Just like it used to be.
"Most people need to do the things in that chorus a little more, myself included," says the 34-year-old Rodney. "If you apply that list to all your relationships, it can only make things better."
The song has certainly made Rodney's career better. It has zoomed into the Top 30, and earned its singer his first appearance on the Grand Ole Opry.
"Last year I sang the national anthem at a Green Bay Packers game on Monday Night Football," says Rodney. "I was nervous, nervous, nervous the whole time. Multiply that by a thousand for the nerves when they said, 'Guess what, big boy? You're playing the Opry!' "
Rodney is adjusting well to his newfound success - and so is his family, which also includes 2-year-old son Elijah and teenage stepdaughters Lindsay and Morgan. The proud dad reports that while the girls "knock heads" as teen siblings will, they agree about the baby of the house. "Elijah is the common ground," he says. "They love him."
They're not the only ones who Elijah turns to mush. "I'm just constantly loving and hugging and kissing him and saying 'Love you, buddy!' " admits Rodney. "I think most guys are too caught up in being tough, but having a baby changes you."
Rodney occasionally considers moving this happy family to Nashville, but for the meantime the Cookeville area, about 70 miles east of town, is home. It's an issue that comes up more often now that Rodney's debut album, Honesty, has been released - after nearly three years in the making.
"I've hung in there like a hair in a biscuit," he chuckles. "There were times when things felt like they were standing still. The one thing I learned through that period is that things get better with a great song." It looks like he's finally found the one.
Story by Chris Neal