Country

Lee Brice Explains How His Aunts, His Preacher & Metallica Factor Into His Self-Titled Album

Lee Brice
David Becker/Getty Images

Lee Brice performs during the Route 91 Harvest country music festival at the Las Vegas Village on Sept. 29, 2017 in Las Vegas. 

Lee Brice admits there weren't a lot of brainstorming sessions with marketing experts to come up with the title of his fourth album for Curb Records. Rather than come up with a fancy title, or tag one of the songs with that distinction, he decided to opt for a self-titled approach. 

“Luckily, I’m blessed to be on a label where they give me so much creative freedom,” he says of Curb Records, his label home since the beginning of his career. “They were actually excited when I came in and told them I just wanted to call this album Lee Brice. A lot of that reason is because of what it is. It’s really an introspective record. I have come to find myself as a producer and a player, and also as a man with my kids and my wife,” he says, noting that the self-titled approach has worked well for others in the past. “You know, Metallica’s fifth record was a self-titled one, and it was the biggest record they ever had,” he points out.

The new set – which contains the lead single “Boy” (currently No. 33 on Hot Country Songs) - will be released Friday (Nov. 3) and is special to Brice because he worked with Warren Haynes on two tracks. The South Carolina native says that was a dream come true.

“I got to be friends with one of my heroes in Edwin McCain (who appears with Brice and Haynes on “Story To Tell (Little Bird)”). I asked him about Warren one day because I wanted to do some slide on the record, and of course, Warren Haynes is a legend. So, Warren came in, and it was almost like hanging out with my uncle, except my uncle that plays guitar like you have never seen before. He was so approachable and down to earth. But, yet, he had stories to tell. For lack of better words, it was an honor to be in the studio and let him play what he plays, but also to be able to talk to him.”

While Haynes was like an uncle, he also credits his real-life aunts for inspiring the new project – with one of his mother’s sisters particularly in mind.

“All my aunts had a role in it, really – my mama and all her sisters. I grew up listening to them sing, and they sang all six parts – all the time. Aunt Henrietta was the one that was playing the piano. That’s what I grew up listening to my whole life. She is the one of the sisters with the spunk and the funk. She’s got the soul. She had taught me – when I was seven – a couple of chords on the piano, and from there is where I’ve gone on my own. All I needed was a little spot to start from, and to this day, Aunt Henrietta is one of the most soulful players and singers that I have ever met or heard in my life.”

The new disc kicks off with the thought-provoking “What Keeps You Up At Night,” which he co-wrote with Jessi Alexander, Ross Copperman, and Pete Wilson. Alexander and Copperman are two of Nashville’s top tunesmiths, while Wilson is the preacher at Brice’s church. As it turns out, it was his sermon that inspired the song. “I was in church with my wife and my kids. We were listening to my preacher, who had written a book, and said that they were going to have a big book release/spaghetti party to launch the book. He said the book is called What Keeps You Up At Night? So that was that. We left church, and went home, but the title of that book just stayed with me. I didn’t even know what the book was about. I had a writing appointment that week, and when I was driving in, that title was weighing so heavy on my heart. I called my co-writers on the way in, and one of them is a very musical guy. I said ‘Hey, man. I want you to do this.’ Then, I called Jesse, who has the lyricist’s heart. I pulled up to the co-write, and had to sit in my truck for a little while, and I could hardly gather myself. I had this intense and deep feeling about what was about to happen. Little did I know this was going to be the foundation of this whole record. 'What Keeps You Up At Night' is a very honest song about a man – me – and the things that matter the most to me at this point in my life, and it was all because of the title of this book by my preacher.”

Brice went a step further, giving credit to Wilson. How did he take it? Rather well, says Brice. “I called him and said ‘I hope it’s okay. I wrote a song with this title.’ He said ‘Are you kidding me? That’s awesome!” I sent him a piece of paper with the songwriting credits, and he was on it. It was his title. 'This song would have never existed without you.' One night, I get a call from him, and he said ‘Hey, Lee. I just wanted to tell you. I told my wife this morning that she went to bed with a preacher, and woke up with a songwriter,'” Brice shared with a laugh.

Brice was indirectly in the news of late with his participation in the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas, though he performed at the event two days before the shootings on Oct. 1. When asked for his thoughts on the events of that night, he said, “My first thoughts are the families that were affected and the fans that were there. Most of the people were there for all three days or longer. Most of them have come to our shows for years,” he says, stressing that his fans aren’t just nameless faces. “These are people that we have seen and met multiple times. Our fans are our family, and it’s crazy to think about the same people that were standing in our parking lot when I was singing ‘I Drive Your Truck’ on Friday night, the same people were in that parking lot on Sunday night when all hell broke loose. It just breaks my heart to think about what those people were going through in that moment.”

How does Brice think this will affect the willingness of artists and fans to attend festivals in the future? He has his theory. “It’s been a few weeks, and the question has been asked if I think that this horrible thing is going to affect people going to shows. I don’t know if I was right or wrong, but my first instinct was to say ‘Not at all.’ I played a show a couple of nights after the incident, and we were on the fence of whether we should play or not. I stopped in the middle of a song and said ‘Hey guys. I’m glad to be here. We all have Vegas in our hearts.' The response and reaction to that show -- and ever since then -- has been, ‘We’re not going to let terror and fear take away what we love, what we do, and who we are. Country music is more than just songs to the fans, it’s who they are. To me, it’s more of a pulling together, which is the opposite of what Satan wanted to happen that day – which is to divide. I feel like that has been the most positive thing. It has pulled us together tighter and made us respect each other more. I’m really proud of the country music community, and how they reacted in the moment, after the moment, and to this moment now. It really does show that this is who we are.”