Exclusive: Chase Rice Talks Making It Despite Label Execs and Critics

Chase Rice, 2014
Jon-Paul Bruno

This Tuesday marks a momentous date in the life and career of Chase Rice. The singer will release his third full-length disc, Ignite The Night, on Columbia Nashville/Dack Janiels Records. It also marks the birth anniversary of his late father, Daniel. Coincidence? Think again.

"We had four days from which to choose to release the album, and it happened to be around the time the record would be peaking," Rice tells Billboard. "It's a 'Happy Birthday, Dad' kind of day. Hopefully we'll give him a No. 1 album on his birthday. We're working hard for it. I think he'd be proud of it."

Daniel Rice passed away six years ago following a heart attack. "He never really got to see me sing live, but he's a big part of my life. He was there for my first 22 years, including sports and all that."

The inspiration of his father -- as well as Coach Bobby Poss from his days on the high school football team -- pushed Rice to make it on his own terms.

Rice self-released "Ready Set Roll" late last year, and has seen the single already get certified Gold.

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Rice admits to Billboard that drive has never been a problem. "I think a big part of that is I've never been the best guy out there. I've never been the most athletic guy on the field, or the best singer or songwriter. But there's nobody that's going to work harder than me. That's why I was able to build things the way I did at first -- with no label at the beginning, and just touring myself. I don't think there would have been any other route for me because all the other labels had turned me down. They would tell me I wasn't good enough, or I wasn't singing the right songs. I thought, 'Okay, your ignorance will show some day.'"

Rice quickly follows up with, "It's nothing personal. I have nothing against them. Because of them, it allowed me to do it in a way that I'm more proud of than the way other people are doing it. There's a way for everybody, and I'm pumped as hell that I proved myself right."

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The fans have taken to Rice's music rather quickly. The critics are another story, however, as he frequently gets lumped in the "Bro-Country" corner for artists who are appealing to a younger demographic. But Rice isn't losing one minute of sleep over it.

"If you have built a kind of music big enough that it has a name, it's working. Go back to 'Outlaw Country' -- they didn't care that it was called 'Outlaw Country.' One of my favorite songs ever was 'Don't You Think This Outlaw Bit's Done Got Out Of Hand' by Waylon Jennings. They didn't care if they were called 'outlaws' or not. They didn't take offense to it, but they didn't gravitate toward to it, saying, 'Oh, yeah. We're Outlaws. Watch us.' It's the same thing with Bro-Country. It's my country. And these other artists like Luke, Cole, and Thomas Rhett would say the same thing. They're just trying to do their music the way they know how to do it."

Rice also says that if you go deeper into an album past the singles, you might be surprised. "That's what I'm trying to do, and why I'm trying to expand it even more. People talk about Bro-Country, and how it's ridiculous with all of us dancing on stage. Have you not heard [Luke Bryan's] 'Drink A Beer?' They say it's only drinking and party songs, but listen to the albums. The reason they are hearing the party songs is that's what is working for radio right now. I love that people are buying singles, but albums tell the whole story."

Rice shows another side on the touching "Carolina Can," which he says offers a change of pace. "I wanted to round out the album with a deeper side -- one that you've never seen before. That's my favorite new song on the album. It's about my life and how crazy it is now. 'When I need someone to remind me of who I am, Carolina Can.' I love that song because it's very personal to me. It's Carolina, where I grew up after we moved there from Florida. There's a lot of my personal life in that three minutes."


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