STORY WRITTEN BY GARY GRAFF
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Chase Rice is no stranger to big country shows; he has, after all, toured with the likes of Kenny Chesney and Dierks Bentley.
But truth be told, the North Carolina native — a linebacker for the University of North Carolina and a runner-up on TV’s “Survivor: Nicaragua” — is even happier playing his own shows in smaller venues.
“It’s tough but it’s awesome,” Rice, 29, says by phone while traveling through Iowa on his current Jack Daniels and Jesus Tour. “It’s awesome because here I am, having only two songs ever to hit radio (“Ready Set Roll” and “Gonna Wanna Tonight”) and not ever having a No. 1 song, so it’s pretty cool to be selling out these 1,000 to 3,000 seat places.
“At the same time the tough part is I’ve seen my buddies blow up overnight. Human nature is like, ‘S*** man, why can’t I do that?’ But then I shut myself up real quick and say, ‘That’s not the path for me. Keep doing what you’re doing.’ And I’m honestly grateful for it. To me that seems like a dangerous path. I want to be like Kenny Chesney and Eric Church and slowly grow myself. That’s where my mind is at, and if I keep going I’ll be alright.”
Rice did, of course, co-write Florida Georgia Line’s chart-topping hit “Cruise.” But as he works on his own fourth album — the follow-up to 2014’s “Ignite The Night” — he has a clear focus about what he wants to achieve.
“I know exactly what I want to do now,” says Rice, who has about six songs ready for the album including one called “Lions” that his manager wants to pitch to Detroit’s beleaguered football time. “The biggest learning part I’ve had is to not chase anything. I know if I try to chase what we did with ‘Cruise’ or try to chase something ‘cause it might be popular, that won’t work out in the long run.
“I just want to be honest to myself. I think this (next) album will be my first record that feels totally genuine to me. I’m no longer listening to this talk about what’s country, what’s pop, whatever. I”m not listening to other artists or anybody else’s music. I’m just focused on this next record being 100 percent Chase Rice, and that excites me more than I’ve ever been excited about music before.”