Chase Rice first climbed charts as a co-writer of Florida Georgia Line’s monster hit “Cruise,” the historic 24-week No. 1 that perched atop the Billboard Hot Country Chart longer than any other song in the chart’s then-69-year history. In 2014, Rice broke through as an artist: Ignite the Night yielded Top 5 singles “Ready, Set, Roll” and “Gonna Wanna Tonight,” which he followed in 2017 with the acclaimed Lambs & Lions before ultimately earning his first No. 1 single as an artist, 2019’s two-week chart-topper “Eyes On You.”
Embracing the unexpected has emerged as something of a mantra for Rice, whose life thus far reads like far-flung adventures of a modern-day Hemingway. After growing up on a farm in Fairview, N.C., he played football at the University of North Carolina. A linebacker many expected to reach the NFL, Rice had to abandon those dreams after a devastating injury. “I wasn’t the most gifted dude on the team, but when that happens, in order to play – in order to be one of the best – it’s all about how hard you work,” Chase says. “It’s the same with music.”
Rice’s father encouraged him to pick up the guitar, and he did – first as a comfort, not a career. He joined Hendrick Motorsports’ NASCAR pit crew and won two championships with his team before the unconventional beckoned yet again: Rice competed on Survivor: Nicaragua, and walked away with second place. Throughout all of the globetrotting and time in oily trenches, the only constant was music. So when his time in Central America was up, Rice packed and moved to Nashville, determined to put the poetry and melodies increasingly filling up his head to the test.
The Album Part I and The Album Part II are the most triumphant reflections of Rice’s distinct blend of worldly and American rural experience yet: an exploration of sounds and moods with authentic country roots and bold pop wings. The sexiness and fun fans have come to expect from Rice is still there. He has a way of combining playfulness or even sadness with commitment: a strong vein of being someone else’s rock in a variety of ways continues to run through Rice’s writing. “That’s what life’s about, really,” he says. “I’ve had breakups over the last few years, but I don’t post about my personal life on social media. You’ll just hear about it in my songs. That’s the only place where I’ll let it out.”
“Lonely if You Are,” produced by Rice together with frequent collaborator Chris DeStefano, kicks off with plaintive solo acoustic guitar before launching into a promise to “love the lonely right out of you.” Hard-driving “Everywhere,” produced by Zachary Kale, captures the inescapability of fresh heartbreak, while nostalgic “In The Car,” another DeStefano track, offers a sweet and sultry ode to young love.
Rounding out the project is the uplifting “Belong,” a timely and reassuring message which Rice added to The Album Part II while readying it for release during the nationwide COVID-19 quarantine. “‘Belong’ might be the most meaningful song that I’ve ever put out,” he notes of the track that seems destined for this moment in time. “My favorite line in the song is ‘Where we’re going we don’t know, but we’re going there together,’ and that’s the truth, especially for these times right now.”
Ultimately, Rice hopes every listener enjoys each song for exactly what it is. Proud of his distinct path but focused most on what’s next, he is enjoying the unique gift of growing artistically while still connecting with the fans who have been there from the beginning. “Now I know what I want to say. Now I know how I want to say it. This music I’m about to put out is by far the best music I’ve ever made,” Rice says. “Now’s our time. It’s about to get real fun.”
Which Chase Rice song would you like to hear at Country 102.5’s Country Christmas Concert?