With $12 million on the line, the Pegasus World Cup is upon us. The horsing event, taking place on Saturday at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, is the culmination of 12 stakeholders who have each put up $1 million for a spot at the starting gate. The winner walks away with a world-record $7 million. On site: Grammy nominated country singer/songwriter Thomas Rhett (son of country star Rhett Akins), who will do a mini concert. A portion of the performance will be broadcast live on NBC from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. Tickets: www.pegasusworldcup.com; 877-847-6683
What songs will you be doing at the invitational?
For me, it’s all about just getting out there and having a good time with the fans, so we’ll probably play a couple of our hits like “Star of the Show” and just play off what they’re feeling. We like to have as much fun as possible at our shows and this one will be no different. Our goal is always to get everybody up on their feet and dancing with us, so hopefully everyone brings their party shoes.
You were just nominated for a Grammy (Best Country Song) for “Die A Happy Man.”
Last year was such an incredible year for me, and getting a Grammy [nod] was just kind of the cherry on top of the cake. I am so excited to be able to go this year as a nominee and just be part of such a prestigious show [airing Feb. 12 on CBS]. It is a celebration of the best in music from every genre, so to be in a room with all those people and get to see some great performances is going to be really special. It’s pretty humbling and to be there representing country music already feels like a win.
What was your writing process with that track?
I was really wanting to write something for my wife Lauren. She had jokingly —for a while — teased me about never writing love songs for her and that I needed to do one like Tim McGraw’s “Just To See You Smile,” in terms of how genuine and sweet that song is. She has the biggest heart of anyone I have ever met and she inspires me to try and be a better person every single day.
Who is your dream collaboration?
Bruno Mars. I just think he’s an incredible musician and entertainer and has so much “swag” about him. I have had his “24K Magic” album on repeat since it came out.
If you weren’t a singer what would you be doing?
I always thought I would have wound up selling insurance or something like that. But if you're giving me any option here, I would probably own a surf shop in Hawaii. I am not great at surfing, but I would be more than happy to spend my days practicing.
Who is your inspiration musically and otherwise?
One of my 2017 resolutions was to be more present and live in the moment, and I have found when you do that you notice a lot more things that can inspire you. In terms of musical inspirations — I listen to everything. I am constantly inspired by other artists from all genres and generations, and either consciously or subconsciously it makes me work harder to be a better songwriter, a better singer and a better entertainer.
Who are your favorite country artists and who is your on playlist?
Because of my dad [Rhett Akins], I grew up listening to everything you would expect like Merle Haggard, Hank Williams Sr, Waylon Jennings and all those legends. A turning point for me was discovering Eric Church in high school. I am a huge fan of Eric’s and his music made me want to be a songwriter. My current country playlist runs the full spectrum of what's going on right now in country music, from Chris Stapleton to Sam Hunt and everything in between. If you're looking to discover something new, go listen to Brent Cobb’s Shine On Rainy Day.
Maria Tettamanti contributed to this report.