1 of 8
ALONG FOR THE RIDE
Country star Thomas Rhett hops on the back of a golf cart and prepares to take the stage at the CMA Music Festival in Nashville over the weekend. "You can tell by my face that I've been waiting for this for a long time," he says in an exclusive photo diary for PEOPLE Country.
2 of 8
TIME TO 'THROWDOWN'
Rhett shares the stage with Brantley Gilbert and Justin Moore while rocking out to their hit "Small Town Throwdown." "Couldn't have shared my first LP Field experience with two better people," he says of performing for the first time at CMA Fest.
3 of 8
GOT THAT GLOW
Those aren't sparkling lights in the background – that's a stadium full of people holding lights! "This is what 60,000 people look like," he says, keeping his calm as he performs for the crowd.
4 of 8
"The toughest thing about being gone and the best thing about being home," he says of spending time with his wife of nearly two years, Lauren Gregory, whom he's known since first grade and calls "the real star of the show."
5 of 8
Rhett holds a meet and greet backstage, where he signs autographs and snaps photos with a few lucky fans. "[It's] so great getting to meet these fans from literally all over the world," he says.
6 of 8
Rhett sneaks in some studio recording time while back home in Nashville. "CMA Fest meant I was home for a whole week and could finally get into the studio!" he says. "Can't wait for everyone to hear these new songs."
7 of 8
A HELPING HAND
Time to rally for a cause! Instead of having the typical CMA Fest fan club party, Rhett joins more than 50 of his admirers at the Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee to pack food to distribute to the hungry. "There's no better way to have a fan club party than everyone coming together to help serve the Nashville Community," he says.
8 of 8
"I really wanted to do something with my fans that encourages us all to give back," Rhett says of this shot, where he poses with his many helpers at the food bank.