Chase Rice has experienced huge success in his country music career, including writing huge hits for the likes of Florida Georgia Line and scoring a number one of his own with his 2014 album Ignite The Night.
Now he’s back with his first record in three years, Lambs And Lions, and recently travelled across the pond to play a series of small, intimate gigs around the UK.
Ahead of his sold-out show at the Borderline in London recently, I sat down with Chase to talk about his experience of the UK so far, making the new album and his hopes of playing C2C in the future. Read on for more…
Hi Chase! How’s the tour going so far?
It’s great – shockingly good. I didn’t think anybody would care or know who I was over here, honestly, and we’ve sold out almost every show – four out of the five shows. And they’re singing along. It’s a different crowd than we’ve been in back in the States – they listen a lot better, I guess you could say.
Have you had much time to explore while you’ve been over here? I saw the photo of you at the Man City game…
Yeah, that was awesome. No, we’ve had two days off and the rest of them we’ve been going, so I’ve been going and shopping. I saw Parliament and Big Ben and all that, that was cool. It’s just a quick trip, it’s all business but we’re having fun.
Do you find that the UK crowds react to different songs?
Yeah, there’s songs they wanna hear that I think people in the States don’t even know which is crazy! There’s something huge going on here in this part of with country music and it’s cool to be a part of it. Even during the quiet songs – Jack Daniel’s and Jesus, Carolina Can – the slower songs that I sing, they sing the absolute shit out of them, every single one. And then between songs they’re quiet, they’re listening, and it’s just a different thing completely than back in the States. And I’m also doing just me and a guitar. That’s also more of a songwriter-type feel for me whereas my live show’s more rock show, so we’ll come back with a band. We’ll come back with a full band for sure.
Are there any songs you particularly enjoy playing live?
Oh yeah. That’s been my whole career, playing live. Live show’s where we had it before we had radio back in the States and that’s how you continue to get your music out there and build a fanbase.
Do you prefer smaller venues like this or big stadiums? Or is it different?
We’ve done them both. They’re different. We feel right at home in places like this because this is where we grew up and this is where we built it in the States, so it definitely feels right at home when we play places like this. But arenas are fun and it’s fun to go back and forth. We’ve played the arenas and one day hopefully we’ll be headlining an arena here, but right now this is where it’s at and I’m having a blast with it.
The new album is very different from what you’ve put out before – was that something you consciously wanted to do or did it just evolve as you were writing?
No, I just wanted to give each song its own identity and each song had its own life as opposed to trying to make the whole record sound like one thing – let each song tell a story in its own way. I had different producers on it – Shakir King was on it who’s a Kings of Leon producer and he’s just opening up a whole different spectrum that we’ve never gone down before. It’s by far my favourite record I’ve ever put out.
Do you have any particular favourite songs on the new album?
No, I can honestly say that. I put so much heart and work into this album that I can’t pick a favourite song. I’ve tried – I’ve kind of gone down that road and then I realise I’ve said six or seven songs. So that’s why I want people to listen to the album top to bottom, Lions to This Cowboy’s Hat. To me the biggest song so far is Eyes on You, and Three Chords and the Truth. Those two are certainly turning a lot of heads.
Why did you choose to cover This Cowboy’s Hat?
I was a huge Chris Le Doux fan growing up and I knew if I did it I probably wouldn’t do it justice on my own. So in a roundabout way I got Mark Sissle from Chris Le Doux’s band to play on it, I got Mac Macanally, Chris’s producer to play on it. Chris has passed away now but I got Ned, Chris’s son to sing on it. So it turned into an awesome, pretty special thing and I think it’s gonna continue to have its own life.
It’s a real departure from your previous album because it’s so traditional…
Yeah, and that spoken word thing’s been going on for a long time in country music. Obviously this is an old 80s song that Chris Le Doux covered, but we put our own little rock touch to it – a tip of the hat to Chris but then did our own thing with it which is really cool.
You co-wrote all the other songs on the album – were there any that were particularly easy or difficult to write?
I’d say the hardest write on the album was Eyes on You, because it was the last one we wrote and we were just real focused that day on trying. We knew a particular song we needed and we knew we needed a big one, and if we didn’t screw it up it was gonna be a big song, because the piano riff was so catchy and the idea that I had for it was so hooky. And so we put a lot of work in that day – we were in there for about eight hours, just slaving away. And then even after that, weeks and weeks of rewriting and making sure that we had it right.
Do you have any favourite co-writers? Is there anyone you’d like to write with in the future?
I mean, Chris DeStefano and Ashley Gorley – we wrote Lions together, we wrote Eyes on You together and we wrote Jack Daniel’s Showed Up together. So I think we need to write more together and we will, I’m sure.
Do you have a particular way that you write? Is it split between writing and touring or continuous?
It just depends on what I’m doing at the time. I’ve never tried to focus. If I’m tired I’m not gonna try to write, because it ends up being a shit song and it’s just a waste of time when I could be resting and kind of getting ready to go back out on the road. So I’m not writing at all right now. I’ll get back to it in December and January when I’m off. When I’m bored I kind of get back to writing and when I’m off the road I get back to writing. I don’t write too much when I’m on the road at all. It’s just too much at one time. But I’ll record year-round. We’ll start recording for the next album soon.
Do you ever get writers’ block?
It happens some days but not for a long period of time. I know what I want, I know what I like to do and I love writing songs and I got too many good writers around me. Some days we’ll strike out but for the most part we usually end up with a song.
What inspires you when you write?
Yeah, songs come from just whatever’s going on in my life at the time. Through this album I went through a break-up and there’s a little bit of that on there with On Tonight and Unforgettable, and there’s also just a little bit of edge to it. I’ve been a little pissed-off the last year and a half and that kind of makes its way on the record with Lions and there’s that edge in Cowboy’s Hat. It’s just kind of whatever’s going on in my life is going to make its way into the music.
You’ve been quite upfront about moving labels – do you think it’s important for artists to talk about that side of things?
Yeah, for sure. And I haven’t harped on it too much but I’m gonna tell my side of the story what happened, and their side of the story would probably sound different than my side. But I really don’t care. At the end of the day, I’m now with a label that really, really genuinely care. And the BMG side here in London – I’m with a label that is freaking killing it for me. They care about the music, they care about me as an artist, and they don’t just throw a bunch of stuff against a wall and hope something sticks. They understand what I do as an artist and they’re benefitting more by helping me with that as opposed to telling me what to do, because telling me what to do’s gonna get both of us nowhere. And they know that – they’re very artist-friendly and they really genuinely care about their artists. It’s a change that I needed.
Is there a song that you wish you’d written?
I’d say The Dance by Garth Brooks. Probably my favourite song of all time. Definitely The Dance.
What was it that got you into country and when did you decide you wanted to make that your career?
I listened to country my whole life from the time that I was a little kid – Garth Brooks, Chris Le Doux – and then started broadening it out with Blink 182 and Eminem and all the craziness of different genres. And probably when I was in college, not too long ago. I just learned to play guitar and I got hurt playing football so I had to figure out something to do with my life if I wasn’t playing ball any more. And I’m glad I did because all my NFL buddies are retiring now and my career’s just getting started. It was never something I dreamed of doing as a kid or anything – it would have been as foreign as saying ‘oh I’m gonna go be an astronaut’. It was that type of dream, it wasn’t a real dream. And then all of a sudden, here it is. I don’t know how it happened.
Tell us something that people might be surprised to find out about you?
Wow… [thinks] I’ve done it here – every city I go to I try to find a shop or a store that sells local stuff that’s made to that part of the country or that part of the world. So like here in England I bought one of those little, what do you call them, like a tweed hat? A Peaky Blinders hat. I always try to find stuff that’s made in that part of the country, that’s what I like to do during my downtime. Just try to find specific art, craft, handmade stuff, whatever it is that’s specific to that part of the country. So I did that here in England which was a lot of fun for me. You guys have got too much shopping here, it’s crazy!
If you could pick any three people to invite to a dinner party, who would that be?
My dad, because he’s not around any more; Jesus, because I wanna know what the heck happened with him; [thinks] Johnny Cash. Let’s go with that. Johnny Cash would be my guy too. My dad, Jesus and Johnny Cash. That is a song!
If you had a career bucket list, what would be on that?
I’d say recently – this is a recent one – I’ve always dreamed of doing a song with Eminem. That’s just kind of a fun thing because I think that’d be crazy as hell. But I really enjoy Ed Sheeran and what he’s doing, so it’d be fun to do a song with him or write with him or however that works. That may be possible one day. And then stadiums. If you’re selling out arenas and stadiums, you’re doing it right.
What’s next for you after this tour?
We got a show in Missouri on Friday, but then we got a little bit of Christmas break so we’re gonna take some time off. And then mid-January we kick back the Lambs and Lions tour back in the States. We’re gonna try to start booking for me to come back here to the UK in the middle of next year with my band.
Is it too much to say maybe C2C?
I think it’s too soon. I think it’s coming up too fast – we haven’t been booked for it. I wish! I don’t know how we missed the boat on that. But if we don’t do C2C we’ll do it at some point in the near future, I hope. But we will be back here next year for sure, 100%.
Chase Rice’s album Lambs & Lions is available now. Watch the music video for Three Chords & the Truth below: