Lee Brice has never forgotten who he is, where he comes from or what he stands for. After all these years, he's still crazy in love with his wife, Sara, and hanging with his three kids. He believes in God, country and fishing — in that order. But he really loves playing and writing country music and as it turns out, he's pretty good at it. His music is a strong reflection of all that he is.
Ever since he came on the country scene in 2007, the guitarist and singer-songwriter has been taking listeners to church, school, home and out on the town to party on a Saturday night. He's rough around the edges, rowdy and romantic all at the same time, but that's what makes his music so relatable. There are no hidden agendas in his music. It is honest, straight-forward and comes from every fiber of his heart and soul, whether or not Brice penned the lyrics himself.
That is still the case with his fourth studio album, Lee Brice, released in 2017. His current single from that project, "Rumor," has climbed to No. 1 on the Billboard and Mediabase Country Airplay charts. The song has achieved RIAA platinum status, adding yet another accolade to the artist's tool belt.
The song has resonated with fans across the globe, racking up more than 200 million on-demand streams worldwide, and it's a staple on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart, where it has remained for nearly 45 weeks.
The two-time Country Music Association, Academy of Country Music and Grammy Song of the Year nominee continues what he started with this latest album, offering up a little more of a stripped-down introspective for his growing legion of fans. They will get to see that in person when Brice visits the Edgewater E Center in Laughlin on Aug. 16.
“Songs that are pleasing to the heart, songs where your heart hears it, and you feel something in your heart, they don’t need all that stuff,” Brice explains. “So this album I wanted to be a real organic thing. I play 99 percent of the lead guitar, my band’s on it — and there’s even a theremin, which I had to learn to play.
"When I started, I wanted this record to be groovy, stripped down to the message and the feel.
“There are no computer tricks, no artificial sounds. Even when it sounds like a computer, I promise, we figured out a way to make that sound. To me, being real was everything. I wanted to put a little piece of everything about me, everything I am, on this record. No two songs are about the same things, but somehow it all hangs together.
"I have to give a shout-out to our incredible fans who have supported 'Rumor' by tuning in, downloading, streaming and coming to see our shows," Brice added. "And…have you seen the video? That was one of my favorite things about this song — it stars my gorgeous wife, Sara."
A favorite of his self-titled project is the song "Story To Tell," written with Edwin McCain, who guests on the track.
“My hero came to my garage, and we wrote two songs,” Brice said. “Before I came to town, I knew Edwin McCain and his music; went to his concert every year at the House of Blues. Those records, I knew by heart growing up — and he has a lot of the same Southern influences. He knows those same things that matter to me, they’re in his music.”
Brice's musical influences are varied and unexpected from his mom, aunt, church music and more — a well-seasoned gumbo that creates a flavor all it's own
“My musical upbringing is so different, it’s hard to explain to people. I’ve listened to things most people never heard of, a lot of gospel quartets — Gold City, the Gaither Vocal Band. I had a few cassettes, but most of my other music was what I taped off the radio.
“I fell in love with Willie Nelson’s The Great Divide, and I wore the tape out of Garth’s first record."
Lessons learned in life fuel his pen and his passion.
“I grew up in Sumter, South Carolina, one of the 'Twenty Most Violent Places in America,' " Brice explained. "It’s this tiny little town, and it’s rough, which makes you real tough. The last thing you have to worry about is showing somebody how tough you are. For us, it’s working hard and doing right. I have rough edges.”
Those rough edges also give way to vulnerability when necessary in poignant songs like "I Drive Your Truck," or "I Don't Dance." Then that raw emotion steps aside for fun songs like "Parking Lot Party" and "Drinking Class."
“I know, I know,” he said, “onstage you see this big, burly guy stomping around, singing his guts out. You don’t get that from the radio, and it doesn’t add up – except it does. The funny thing is the dudes are as into ‘I Don’t Dance’ as the girls are. I think they see me up there and they feel those things, too, but now there’s a guy trying to be a guy who’s being honest about this stuff.
“I’ve tried to walk a fine line between the commercial and the things that are tangible,” he explained. “I’m on the road 200 days a year, trying to write songs when I’m in town. But I also want to make a life — I have a wife, a baby girl, two little boys and a home. That’s important to me. So when I’m home, I work harder and dig deeper into living. You know, you have to live so you have something to work from and write about.”
Brice hasn't had to worry about having subject matter. He penned the first song to debut at No. 1 on Billboard's Country Singles chart — Garth Brooks' "More Than A Memory"; broke Eddy Arnold's record as longest-charting single with his "Love You Like Crazy"; and helped the Eli Young Band onto their first nomination streak, while winning the ACM's Song of the Year trophy for "Crazy Girl."
The common thread through everything that drives Brice is always keeping things honest and real.
“Believability has so much to do with the production,” he stated. “This time, I didn’t want the tricks and the wall of sound; I figured the stripped-back, organic nature would be what held the album together. I wanted heart-to-heart communication — whether it was family-inspired, small town or romance — with nothing in between. So I didn’t sing a lot of vocal takes, and we sometimes strip things down to just a guitar. There’s nowhere to hide, and a whole lot of music.”
Oh, and his Southern boy roots definitely shine in his music.
“There’s a lot of blues from the Mississippi River down from Memphis and all the way up to Chicago,” he explained. “South Carolina and the Southeast have their own thing, with Sister Hazel, Hootie & the Blowfish, the Allman Brothers, Tom Petty — beyond all the church music I was raised with. There’s a whole sound from ’round here, and it runs through everything.
“To me, if I want people to know who I am and understand my music, this is the place to start. It’s all here, if you just close your eyes and listen. My values as a man, trying to be honest about my doubts and my faith, the music that turns me on — and the way I think songs can bring a whole lot of real life to people.”