Rice recalls the actual shoot "was insane" at the venue. "Those kids just crushed it," he says. "I couldn't imagine them getting up there and doing that. They were by themselves and then all of a sudden they're in front of 3,000 people, and they killed. And it was a fun day for me, getting to sit back and enjoy that."
Rice dropped the seven-track The Album, Part 1 -- his first new music since Lambs & Lions in 2018 -- without warning on Jan. 24, though he'd been previewing the songs in various forms via social media. "At the end of the day I figured I'd talked about it enough, so I just dropped the thing and let people hear it," he explains. He's already at work on Part II and promises "there'll be a Part III at some point, and that'll become the [full] album."
"I personally think it's the best music I've ever put out -- that's why I'm calling it The Album," continues Rice, who co-wrote four of the tracks and co-produced "Lonely As You Are." "This is the album that's really starting my career. I look back on the last eight years and there’s a lot of songs I'm very proud of and were huge for me, but I didn't know who I was as a person, who I was as an artist. It was just happening. I was blessed with success early on; Now I'm prepared for it. I’m more focused on music than I've ever been in my life, writing the best songs I've ever written in my life."
Rice also feels the songs are more personal than ever before, some written in the wake of his breakup with a girlfriend. "It's my life," acknowledges Rice, who was a bit put off by a recent appearance on The Bachelor in the same episode with a woman he dated only briefly. "I wanted everyone to hear my true story, my life in these songs -- songs like 'Messy,' or like 'Everywhere,' which tells a very real story. My ex-girlfriend, I took her to her first [Boston] Red Sox game. Now, every time I see the damn Red Sox, she's there. I wanted people to see the vulnerability of how I am as a person, the truth of who I am as a person."
Recently returned from Europe, Rice will be spending the next couple of months mostly working on material for future installments of The Album. He hits the road in earnest again on April 9 and will be part of Brantley Gilbert's Fire't Up Tour, with festival dates on tap for the summer. Writing and recording will be Rice's priority, however.
"My goal is not to waste a single song, no filler songs or album cuts," he says. "They're all going to be singles for me. And, to me, it's all one project. All these songs I'm doing that will come out are all The Album. I didn't want to give people too many songs to delve into, so hopefully they'll learn these seven and enjoy 'em and get on to the next ones."
The video for “Lonely If You Are” is below.