Sitting down with his dog, Jack, by his side, Rice caught up with Music Mayhem backstage of Illinois’ Tailgate N’ Tallboys music festival to give a look into everything he’s been up to in the studio lately.
Earlier this year, the North Carolina native announced that a forthcoming album was in the works. After sharing teasers of the new music on social media and on stage during his stint on Kane Brown’s Blessed and Free Tour, Rice is finally ready to drop a track off the project, “Key West & Colorado.” Not only was this one of the first songs recorded for the album, but he even dubbed the mid-tempo song “the heart of the record.”
“Been waitin’ a long time to put this one out. Got to play it acoustic on the entire Kane Brown tour and it was unreal to see how y’all took it in,” Rice wrote on social media.
During a writing retreat in Grayton Beach, FL, Rice co-wrote this reflective track with childhood friend and longtime collaborator Brian Kelley, along with Corey Crowder, Blake Pendergrass, John Byron and Hunter Phelps. Together, they created a story that navigates the aftermath of a breakup.
“Somewhere between Key West & Colorado/ I found God in a gold Silverado/ Had to get a little lost to get a little found/ Learned you can’t find love if you can’t slow down/ Somewhere between that sand and the snow/ Salt in the air and salt on the road/ Finally let myself let her go/ Somewhere between Key West & Colorado,” he sings in the chorus.
The laid-back unreleased music video for this song was filmed under the direction of videographer Kaiser Cunningham. The “Lonely If You Are” singer captures the same emotions that come from the end of a relationship as he takes a meditative drive through several states.
“The video was just me and a truck pulling an Airstream and just the journey,” Rice told Music Mayhem. That’s kind of what the song’s about, a journey of a man figuring his life out a little bit after losing a relationship. And that’s kind of what that journey was for me going from the panhandle to Florida, to the panhandle of Texas, all the way up into Colorado.”
For the first time in his career, Rice featured several solo writes on the upcoming album, including his latest, “If I Were Rock & Roll,” which was produced by Jay Joyce.
“It’s going to be a one-off on the project as far as that version, but I loved the way we did it and I loved the way it was written, just because it was things that I wanted to put in without any other writer getting in there and saying, ‘Well, that makes it not a hit.’ Well, I wasn’t necessarily trying to make it a hit. I was just trying to write a song that had a lot of my real life stuff in it from the one day Earnhardt died to Johnny Cash, growing up on him, to losing the girl, to you’re hanging out on front porch with your grandpa. To my buddy who was on the Bin Laden raid that had an American flag on his chest that he gave me. On all his deployments he wore it, and he gave that flag to me. So, that means a lot. And I just put all that stuff in one song in three minutes, it kind of explains a lot about who I am.”
The recording of this song and the rest of the project took place in Rice’s Tennessee home that was transformed into an intimate studio. This at-home session was the start to a whole new chapter in Rice’s career as he took this opportunity to record many one-take vocals on the songs. He also traded in many of his usual recording tools and replaced them with a vintage stand-up piano, guitars, drums and percussion, bass and keyboards
“It was all live tracks, live instrumentation, no click on the whole record. So, there’s not even a grid that you can lock everything into. It’s all just based off of feel,” he explained. “And I think that made it a lot more raw and real than anything I’ve ever done for sure.”
Rice added, “The topics that I covered were also diving into some deeper stuff that goes on in my life, from losing my dad to addictions caused by that, to addictions caused by stuff that happens to us as we grow up. And there’s just a lot of that, that I’ve never dove into. So, I dove into it on this record. And ‘If I Were Rock & Roll’ is also another song that we rerecorded, that’s going to be a separate version on the album as opposed to the version that’s already out.”
Several collaborations have been teased for the album, but they aren’t the more seasoned artists that Rice is more prone to working with. Instead, he’s done something “very different” than anything he’s done before and decided to include artists on the rise such as Boy Named Banjo, Elvie Shane, Read Southall Band and more.
“Boy Named Banjo’s going to be on there. Those guys are awesome. I wrote three songs with them on the record and they’re featured on one of them. And Elvie Shane, he sang on about four or five songs on the record, but he’s not featured on it. He’s just singing BGBs and stuff on half the album just because he was there hanging out. Read Southall Band, he’s a kid out of Oklahoma. He’s on one of the songs. There are a lot of collaborations.”
“Key West & Colorado,” available today, comes just a few months before Rice joins Jason Aldean for the fall leg of his tour. Rice will hit the road for the Rock N’ Roll Cowboy Tour beginning October 7 in Ft. Wayne, IN.