Chase Rice Talks 'Eyes On You' Success, Moving Labels & Starring in a Music Video With His Ex

Jason Myers
Chase Rice

Some songwriters choose to write about lust while others opt for love. Chase Rice admits his new single, “Eyes on You,” definitely falls in the latter category, and the singer credits that for the song's instant appeal.

“It’s a love song as opposed to being a lust song,” Rice tells Billboard as he settles back in a chair at the office of his Nashville publicist.  “People love love, and it paints a cool picture. It’s universal. Every girl wants to be seen that way. Every guy -- whether they’ll admit it or not, because we’re stubborn sometimes -- they want a girl like that, and they want a girl to make them want her like that. It speaks a lot of truth as to what people want in life.”

“Eyes on You” is the second single from Rice’s 2017 sophomore major-label album Lambs & Lions, his debut set for BBR Music Group/BMG. Rice co-wrote the single with country hitmakers Ashley Gorley and Chris DeStefano. “Ashley was determined that day to write a big song,” Rice recalls. “We were in one room and talking back and forth and Gorley goes into the other room and starts playing the piano. I’m like, ‘What the hell is he playing in there?’ It was awesome! So I walk in there and start scrolling through my notes and I said, ‘I’ve got this idea it’s called 'Eyes On You.' It’s like you travel the world and see all this cool stuff, but you miss it because your eyes are on her.’ And it worked perfect for that melody. It’s one of those songs where everything aligned.”

Currently single and unattached, Rice says the song reflects his hopes for the future. “This one was more inspired by what I want as opposed to what I have,” he suggests. “I take a lot of trips with buddies from college right now. I’m not really going anywhere with a particular girl.”

However, back in April when they shot the video for “Eyes on You” in Mammoth Lakes, California, Rice had been dating someone nearly a year and she appears as his love interest in the video. While he admits it’s generally not a good idea to use a girlfriend in a video, fortunately this particular situation worked out well: Not only are they still in touch, but Rice's ex even gave the video a stamp of approval before he released it. 

"She’s having fun with it," he says. "She’s just enjoying the fact that she got to do something like that because that’s not her life. She’s not an actress -- she's in medical school, which is what I love. So we’re enjoying it. It’s not one of those heartbreaking things.”

Though his heart is healthy and happy, Rice’s body has been healing from an injury sustained during the video shoot. The singer snowboards in the clip, and happened to tear a pectoral muscle on the first day of shooting. Since undergoing surgery in May -- about a month after the video shooting wrapped -- Rice is still rehabbing now, but the healing process is going well.

Rice further showed his resilience to injury by playing a show in Myrtle Beach just three days after his surgery. He wore a sling for most of the show, but insisted on finding a guitar that would work for "Jack Daniels and Jesus," a special song for a special night.

"That show was 10 years to the day that my dad died," Rice says. "For me, that moment that was all worth it. Surgery will go away, but to have that memory is a bigger deal.”

The now 32-year-old Rice has never been one to let anything slow him down, especially an injury. The North Carolina native is a former college football star, following his love of music after an injury kept him from pursuing a professional football career. Before establishing his own music career, Rice earned accolades as a co-writer on Florida Georgia Line’s massive hit “Cruise” in 2012, which eventually led to a record deal with Columbia Nashville. His debut album, Ignite the Night, proved his talent along with his perseverance, reaching No. 1 on the Top Country Albums chart in 2014.

Even with his successes at Columbia, when a regime change happened at Sony Music Nashville, Rice was left feeling a little lost in transition but decided to ask out of his contract. “Thank God they just let me go," he asserts. "I didn’t have to fight it because they weren’t trying to harm me -- they just weren’t behind me. I wanted to do it on my own like I had before, and then [Broken Bow Records executive VP] Jon Loba and [BMG Chief Creative Officer, North America] Zach Katz came to the table, and I was like, ‘I don’t want to work with anybody, but I love you guys!’ And the rest has become its own history. They are great and are behind me. They worked their asses off. It feels good to have a home with them.”

He's stayed busy since his label switch, playing shows in the U.S. along with England, Scotland and Ireland. In the middle of a series of North American shows this fall, Rice will be back in the UK for four gigs in late October. "We’re trying to build it over there, and we’re doing a good job with it,” says Rice, who is booked by CAA. “The first round I didn’t know what to expect, and every show but one sold out.”

"Eyes On You" is the latest sign for Rice that things are working, as the single is in its second week on the Country Airplay chart. He's certainly happy with the way things are progressing, and has high hopes for his latest hit. “We’re seeing the fruits of the hard work we’ve put in over the last two years rebuilding this thing from the ground up,” he says. “So we’re like, ‘Yeah! Bring it on!’”