Chase Rice took an unusual road to go from North Carolina farm boy to Nashville recording artist.
He went from playing college football, to NASCAR, to being a contestant on “Survivor,” to Nashville, to co-writing on Florida Georgia Line’s Diamond-certified smash “Cruise” (he and FGL’s Brian Kelley have been friends since they were kids in Florida, where Rice was born), to two independent albums, and finally a record label deal with Broken Bow Records. And he managed to win the hearts of music fans along the way with songs including “Ready Set Roll,” “Gonna Wanna Tonight” and “Three Chords and the Truth.”
“I thought it was going to be a No. 1 song,” Rice said of “Three Chords” in a recent phone interview. “You never know how radio is going to do. They’re being supportive of me and BBR is kicking it.”
Chase Rice will be kicking it at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Event Center at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races in Charles Town, West Virginia. Tickets start at $45 with a special promotion: buy three, get one free.
“Three Chords and the Truth” was the first single from his latest album, “Lambs & Lions,” and a good back-to-radio song, Rice said. “Eyes on You” is the second single and, he noted, is moving up the charts faster than “Three Chords,” which is a tribute to the power of discovering the songs that changed his life (“Amazing Grace,” “Sweet Home Alabama” and “Mama Tried” among them).
It wasn’t an easy ride to get to where he is today. After releasing two independent albums, Rice was signed by a major label and released a full-length album, “Ignite the Night,” in 2014. But he sensed that the label he was on didn’t have the passion for his brand of music.
“When you don’t have that passion (and support), it’s like a cancer and you need to get rid of it. Get it out of my life,” he told his management team.
He wanted out of the deal.
“[The music label] let me go,” Rice, 32, said. “That’s another telltale sign of not being passionate about what I was doing.”
He took a few years off, but continued to tour and write new music, including the songs that are now on his November 2017 album with Broken Bow Records.
“This is an album that stands for what I stand for,” Rice noted. “I don’t think of myself as a country artist specifically — I’m here to be an artist, period. I’m very proud of the country genre, and I think we have some big country radio songs on there, but outside of that, there’s a story I wanted to tell, regardless of genre. I had to completely put out of my mind what anyone else would think.”
The 10 tracks on “Lambs & Lions” derive from his life and experience, triumphs and disappointments, and his determination to stand up for his convictions. Songwriting is not easy, he said.
“You gotta dive deeper or you end up with the same old [b.s.],” he said. “I had to dive deeper. I’m not looking for ‘That’s cool!’ I’m looking for ‘great.’”
Already looking forward to the next album, Rice said “the stuff I’m writing now is different than what I wrote for ‘Lambs & Lions’. It has an edgy, acoustic, folk, pop sound.”
The crooked road to country
Rice played football at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, until a career-ending ankle injury took him out of the game.
“Football wired me for the rest of my life,” he says. “It’s a focus you carry on to everything you do in life.”
After graduating from UNC, Rice was hired as a NASCAR pit crew member for Hendrick Motorsports’ 48 team of Jimmie Johnson. Then, through the encouragement of a friend, he applied for and was a contestant on the TV show “Survivor: Nicaragua,” where he was first runner-up.
“It was a cool opportunity at the time,” Rice said.
That opened the door for him to leave NASCAR and head to Nashville to follow his passion for music.
Rice said that if you come to one of his shows, you will want to go to a second show.
“I bring a lot of passion to my live shows,” he said.
(Note: On May 15, Rice tore his pectoral muscle while filming the video for “Eyes on You,” and required surgery. Three days later, with his right arm in a sling, he was on stage in front of a sold-out crowd in South Carolina and reveling in the energy of them singing the song along with him. In a news release post-show, he said that despite the injury, he is adamant that no shows will be canceled as he continues to tour. You can read more of Susan Guynn’s interview with Chase Rice at blog.fredericknews post.com.)