The rugged feel of steel guitar and fiddle, the images of growing up in a world of fields and farms, of heartbreak and hard work … You can’t miss the fact that Lee Brice is country all the way
His voice, his sound, even his wide-open grin are as country as they come – but his view of life is much broader than that.
Lee Brice invited me to come and join him to visit about his crazy year and what fans can look forward to in the upcoming year.
Bev: Congratulations on a fantastic year! You have been so busy and had so many rewards this year for all your hard work. Please tell me where you are with the music and what is next on the horizon?
LB: Our new album, “Love Like Crazy”, has been out since June. It took awhile to get done. We have had three singles that have done well. But this album has really done something special; it put us on the map and got our foot in a lot of doors. Now we are moving on to the next single, “Beautiful Every Time”. It is currently on radio, and just broke top forty. I’m hoping that this one will do as well as the last one and be on the top forty for fifty weeks. I wrote this one so it better be good. (laughs)
We have so many plans this year promoting. I am booked up every day until March. I will be gone twenty days leaving on Sunday morning. One show after another; these dates are all in California. Then we start our “Higher Education Tour”. Jared Neiman and I have been friends for about ten years and we have always talked about being on the radio together and touring together. And now, here we are on the radio together and doing a tour! We plan to visit college markets and have a great time. Also I will be out with Willie Nelson all summer. So this whole year is filled with new experiences for me. It seems like we stepped up to the first step with “Loving Like Crazy” and now we have stepped up to the next step. So if you get a few of those in you can slow down to some extent. I love playing shows, but we probably did two hundred fifty shows last year, plus I did acoustic events over and above, so it would be nice if we could slow down a little too. It looks like another year of putting our head down and just rocking it!
Bev: I know you have been in the business a long time, but you really started to get attention when you wrote “More Than a Memory” for Garth Brooks, which was a huge hit for a mega-star country artist, talk to me about the expectations and the added pressure you feel after a start like that.
LB: “More Than a Memory” debuted at number one and that it is a record that can never be broken. It can be tied but it can never be broken. So when that happened I thought, “So where do I go from here?” It must be all downhill. Then came “Love Like Crazy”. As a writer it was so cool to have “Love Like Crazy” and be an artist on it, a singer, to have it break all kinds of records. It broke a forty eight year old record of being on the charts for fifty weeks! I am simply blessed to have had these experiences, and I try to do my best with every song and not focus on the records set and breaking new ones.
Bev: Being on the road so much, how has it changed your priorities and your goals?
Lb: Before two thousand seven, I was writing songs every day. It was about building up a catalogue of songs. Now I do not have time to do that. I just went out and picked out a new bus for the upcoming year because I am living on the road. I am home for two days and I do not feel like working. I want to relax and I need to recharge. While I am on the road, I bring my friends Rob Hatch and Lance Miller, who I wrote “Beautiful Every Time” with, and Rhett Akins, who is an artist as well, John Stone and Billy Montana with whom I wrote “More Than a Memory” and “Seven Days, a Thousand Times”. These are the guys I have been writing with for years. Jerrod Niemann and I will also be writing on the tour. While on the road, you write at all hours of the day and night. But right now while I am so busy, we toil to find just the right vehicle for me, not just any old song. It has to be a killer that we know will not be ignored. We take our time writing it, we do not write it all in one day. Right now it is more about quality not quantity. But to be honest, I think the quantity year built that muscle for me so that now when I do not have a lot of time to write, I can write a good song.
Bev: Do you have certain things that you find that inspire you such as love songs, human nature kind of songs? You are good at that. Do you find that you are drawn to that?
LB: I am drawn to those kinds of song, always have been. Some of my favorite songs growing up were “A Lady Down on Love” by Alabama; “Holding Her and Loving You” and “Baby Blue” by George Strait; and “The Dance” by Garth. I personally love that stuff. As a songwriter, it is fun to write. As an artist, I need songs like “It Ain’t Goin’ Down Till the Sun Comes Up”, because that is rocking. One of my biggest shows that I have ever seen is Garth Brooks doing that very song. He would get you rocking and then he would bring you down slow with him and a guitar. It is like a roller coaster ride, bringing you up and down; very dynamic. People are having an experience. But yes, those heart break songs and love songs are really me. I have to control myself from writing those every day because I have enough of those in my catalogue. I need some of those rocking songs as well.
Bev: I read recently in another interview with you about being single and the kind of person you are and what you are looking for in a person. Was that uncomfortable for you to reveal so much personal information or are you an open book?
LB: Well, I am kind of an open book. I am dating someone now and she wonders why I never talk about her. But this is how I arrived at this place where I am now and that is what people are curious about.
Bev: Going back to the album, when meeting with the fans, what do you hear most often from them about which song means the most to them or the personal connection to your music?
LB: A lot of people come up to me and want to talk about “Love Like Crazy”. So many people heard it and were affected by it in a lot of different ways; however, a lot of people also say “Beautiful Every Time” is their favorite song. I have heard comments that the album as a whole is a good mix--kind of like that roller coaster effect I was talking about. It is an album that took us over a year to put together, so it is old music to me, but it is new to everyone else. I will be ready to go ahead and start a new project.
Bev: What is the most difficult thing for you to deal with being gone so much?
LB: I was lucky enough to be warned and prepared by fellow artists and by my producer on what to expect. I was mentally prepared me for this. I think there are a lot of artists who make it big kind of quickly and who are just not ready to be gone on the road so much. It is a tough thing; luckily I was prepared years before it actually happened. However, it still is not easy. Every night when you get on that stage and they are singing your song and I get to play guitar, it makes you realize that this is what I dreamed about when I was a kid and it makes it all worth it. Sometimes you feel like you do a lot of work and it does not feel like it is worth it. For example you do a show for a station and they still do not play your song. That is tough to deal with. But you have to realize it is what it is and you put your head down and the blinders on and wake up in a new city and play another show. One day it will calm down, I will play fifty shows a year and just enjoy life.
Bev: Let us go back to what you mentioned about dreaming as a kid. Where did you start out singing when you were young? Where did you first start performing?
LB: It was definitely in church. I grew up in church. My mother sang every Sunday. I was in the choir. My daddy was singing in gospel quartets. All we listened to in our house, all I ever knew there was gospel quartets. Sandy Patti and Christian kind of music; a little bit of Alabama, Oak Ridge Boys, The Beach Boys. When I was seven years old I sat at the piano and played “Oh, How I Love Jesus” in front of the church. I did not do a lot of playing after that until I was eleven or twelve. Then I would sing solos in church. I would play a couple of songs that I wrote for the guitar in front of church. I won a couple of contest in High School and when I was in college, I continued writing songs; I have been writing my own songs since I was ten years old. I really did not play for money until I got to Nashville. I did have a band back home for a couple of years, a local home town band. We did some of my songs that I wrote and also rock and roll, country, everything. So really four years ago when I hit the road, that was the beginning for me.
So now I am looking forward to the Higher Education Tour, which should be fun. I am doing the Country Throw Down Tour with Willie Nelson and Jamie Johnson and Randy Hauser. I grew up listening to Willie singing “Help Me Make it Through the Night”, and all his music, and listening to him as a song writer. Being on the road with him, I want to spend as much time as I can with Willie while I am there.
Bev: Lee, you are so amazing and inspiring, I always enjoy spending time with you. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and thank you for the music. I look forward what is next and wish you the very best of everything.
LB: Always enjoy seeing you and visiting with you as well, and will see you again soon I am sure. Thank you for wanting to do an interview, I appreciate it.