It’s been three years since country artist Chase Rice released his debut studio album “Ignite the Night.” The album, which put Rice on the map as a solo artist, debuted at No. 1 on Billboard Top Country Albums and became certified gold.
Now working with a new label, heading back out on tour and releasing a new album Nov. 17, Rice has much to look forward to in the coming months.
The PHOENIX spoke with the singer-songwriter over the phone hours before he took the stage in North Carolina for the first night of his Lambs and Lions Tour. The tour will stop in town at Joe’s Live Rosemont and Joe’s on Weed Street on Sept. 29 and 30.
Although the “Gonna Wanna Tonight” singer has been touring for the past three years, he’s eager to be sharing new music with fans during this next set of shows.
“We tour all year long. This one is a little different, though, which is exciting,” Rice said. “We’re playing ‘Lions,’ which is the title track of the album ‘Lambs and Lions.’ We’ve got ‘Three Chords and The Truth.’ We’re going to throw a couple of other new ones in there from the record, which isn’t even out yet.”
“Three Chords and The Truth” was the first single released from Rice’s upcoming album. The singer-songwriter describes the song as “a good ol’ radio country song,” showcasing a more mature side of the artist; his past hits focused on “bro-country” staples such as drinking and women.
“Lions,” another single from Rice’s upcoming album, takes on a completely different sound. The song opens with a chant-like recitation of the Our Father, followed by a rock sounding buildup to the opening lyrics. The grit and intensity packed into the four-minute song strays far from traditional country twang.
“While I was writing ‘Lions,’ I was looking for something that pushed the boundaries. Something that made people that don’t like country go, ‘Well whoa, that’s country? I like that,’” Rice said. “I told Chris DeStefano, who is one of the guys I wrote it with and who was building the track while we were writing it, I said, ‘Do not hold anything back. I do not care if it sounds like country. I do not care if it sounds rock. I don’t care if it sounds hip-hop. I don’t care. Take it as far as you possibly can.’ And we did.”
In keeping with the trend set by these first two singles, Rice said fans can expect a lot of variety from the other eight tracks on his sophomore album. One song, “Amen,” features Rice, a piano and eventually a choir. The Asheville, North Carolina native described “Eyes on You,” another one of the tracks, as sweet and sounding “like an Ed Sheeran-type pop song.”
“I’ve learned to be me no matter the consequence, and I think that’s what each song portrays,” Rice said. “[The album] shows a lot of different sides of me and I’m okay with that.”
Before becoming one of country’s fastest rising artists, Rice was playing football at the University of North Carolina. While in school, he first started playing guitar. The former athlete experienced two major setbacks toward the end of college, completely altering him and his post-graduate plans — first a serious injury that ended his football career and then the passing of his father.
“When my dad passed away when I was 22, that was the first time I wrote a song,” Rice said. “And that was the first time I was like, ‘Whoa, that’s what I want to do.’ But it was still as far from reality as anything could be because I didn’t know how to go about it and I was just having fun doing it.”
After college, Rice didn’t head straight to Nashville. Instead, he landed a job making $17,000 per year as a NASCAR pit crew member. At one point, he stepped away from the racetrack to compete on Season 21 of the hit CBS TV series “Survivor,” where he finished as runner-up. Despite all this, Rice couldn’t shake his country music dreams.
“I had such a good job at NASCAR, but I was not enjoying it,” Rice said. “When you have a great job like that but you’re not enjoying it because you want to go do something else, you’ve got to do that something else. And that’s what I did.”
Rice moved to Nashville and signed with Creative Artists Agency in July 2012, just before the release of country duo Florida Georgia Line’s diamond-certified hit “Cruise,” which Rice co-wrote. The singer-songwriter then began focusing on his own solo career and signed with Columbia Records in March 2014. This happened as his hit “Ready Set Roll” started getting widespread airplay on country radio. Conflicting visions between Rice and the label led him to leave Columbia and sign with Broken Bow Records earlier this year.
At times, the performer admitted it felt like everybody in town was out to get him as he pursued his own country sound. And even now, as he prepares for the release of his next studio album, Rice said those feelings haven’t completely gone away. Despite this, the singer-songwriter said the biggest lesson from his journey is doing what feels right for him.
“It feels like some people are just trying to make certain things work in music, especially industry wide,” Rice said. “Genres are slowly fading away. There’s this battle of country music is what it’s been since the Stone Age. I like to push boundaries and if people b—- and moan about that, that’s their deal, not mine. I’m going to do what I want to do.”
Chase Rice’s Lambs and Lions Tour will be stopping at Joe’s Live Rosemont (5441 Park Pl., Rosemont) on Sept. 29 and Joe’s on Weed Street (940 W. Weed St.) on Sept. 30 with opening act Jacob Davis. Tickets and information can be found at www.chaserice.com.
Chase Rice’s album Lambs and Lions will be released Nov. 17. The album is available for pre-order now on iTunes.