Spotlight: Ex-'Survivor' Star Chase Rice Debuts Big With 'Dirt Road Communion'
Spotlight: Ex-'Survivor' Star Chase Rice Debuts Big With 'Dirt Road Communion'

Spend any amount of time with country newcomer Chase Rice, and you will no doubt be inspired by his infectious drive and confidence. And, he's got a lot of reasons to feel that way. The singer is opening for some heavy hitters this spring, including Jake Owen and Joe Nichols (this weekend), and his latest album, "Dirt Road Communion," is doing well. In April, it debuted at No. 48 on the Billboard Country Albums chart and No. 15 on Heatseekers.

"It was awesome," the North Carolina native said about receiving the news concerning the first-week sales tally, which also included a No. 6 on iTunes. "'Knowing all the success it had, I was ecstatic. I worked on it for about a year. I produced it, wrote the songs, and sang it. So, I put my entire life into it. To know that the fans responded like they did was an amazing feeling."

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Rice, who you may recognize from his runner-up finish on "Survivor: Nicaragua" a couple years ago, told Billboard that he tried to pattern his album around his live show. "That's what I base my whole career on, getting out there and doing live shows. I'm just trying to put out music they can relate to, and that's awesome to see that happen."

He looks at his career on stage the same way he did playing on the football field at North Carolina under legendary coach Butch Davis. "When I was in college football, if I didn't get in there and study film on my own time, I wouldn't be very good. At the same time, if I don't get in the studio, or writing sessions, it's not going to happen."

Rice says that he is trying to build his career slowly but surely, concentrating on the performance aspect, in a similar way to what Brantley Gilbert or Corey Smith have done. He's very excited to be opening for Joe Nichols this weekend in Sanford, NC. "Joe is this weekend, and that's cool. It's been neat to have a lot of these shows. I love being out on the road -- I would love to be out there even more. The Joe Nichols show kind of fell in my lap, since we have such a big following in North Carolina. My biggest thing with a live show is that I hope people will have an awesome time and say 'He just gets better and better with time.' That's my goal."

The singer is also excited about the progress he has made as a tunesmith. "I moved to town and started writing," he said, allowing that it has been very therapeutic. "I wrote every song on the album besides one. I started writing while in college right after my dad passed away. It was my way of dealing with it, I guess. I don't open up to many people about things, but 'Jack Daniels and Jesus' was probably one of the most personal songs. It says a lot of things that some people are scared to say. But, for some reason, I couldn't say it in conversation, but in a song, I can pour it out. It's my way of getting who I am out to everyone."

In the future, Rice wants to continue to develop his live show, and expand his audience. "I'd like to take it on the road. I'll sing to anybody. I'll take any venue, wherever. I am nowhere close to arenas and stadiums yet. I just want to get out to the fans. I promise the ones that do come are going to say 'That's one of the best times I've ever had."