Interview: Lee Brice drives country music career to new heights, opens Friday for Miranda Lambert and Dierks Bentley
A version of this story appears in Wednesday’s Life section of The Oklahoman.
Lee Brice is driving his career to new heights
Along with planning his April wedding, the country singer-songwriter is speeding along in the fastest-rising single of his career, “I Drive Your Truck,” and touring with superstars Miranda Lambert and Dierks Bentley.
The title to Lee Brice’s sophomore album seems increasingly inaccurate.
After all, the country singer-songwriter’s 2012 release, “Hard 2 Love,” has scored two straight platinum-certified No. 1 hits, and the third single, the heartrending “I Drive Your Truck,” is speeding along as the fastest-rising single of his career.
The South Carolina native also is planning his April wedding, working on his third album and warming up crowds on Miranda Lambert and Dierks Bentley’s co-headlining “Locked & Reloaded Tour.” The tour rolls into Chesapeake Energy Arena Friday night.
“I think people are going home, like, rocked, they’re like ‘Yeah!’ Miranda really brings the house down at the end of the night,” Brice said of the superstar who makes her home in Tishomingo.
“Miranda and Dierks, first of all, both of them are like two of my favorite live performers, so the shows are just awesome. And then they’re just real people too, and that just makes it so cool, to be out with a bunch of real folks.”
For the former college football player, the tour offers an entertaining education.
“If it’s a Brad Paisley show or a Miranda Lambert show or Dierks — for a long time I was out on the road doing some shows with him — they’ve been doing it a long time on those big stages. You kind of get to take in how a real show really goes down, not like an old bar or a club. I really get to see where their experience comes in and take notes, man, and that’s kind of what I do. It kind of teaches you to be patient on those big stages and soak the moment in,” Brice said in an interview last week from Nashville, Tenn.
“I love watching them. It’s entertaining. It’s just a great show to see. And then I love to take from that and really like learn from it. It’d be silly not to.”
Best known for his ballads like “Hard to Love,” “A Woman Like You” and “Love Like Crazy,” Brice currently is riding “I Drive Your Truck” up the country charts. Jessi Alexander, Connie Harrington and Jimmy Yeary penned the emotional story-song, which Brice belts from the point of a view of a grieving man who finds comfort behind the wheel of the pickup that belonged to his brother, a soldier who died in action.
“I try to write as much as I can, but every now and then I hear a song that just blows me away. And that song just put me on the floor the first time I heard it. And I felt like since it did that to me — and my ears are a little numb ‘cause there’s so much music around me all the time — that it would really hit most people. And it is. I’m getting so many tweets and Facebooks and emails and messages about stories about how this song is completely impacting people in a big, big way. It’s so cool to be a part of that,” Brice said, adding he thinks about his late grandfather when he hears it.
“It’s so cool to be a part of that and to be lucky enough for Nashville to pitch me that song. Of all the people in the world, I just can’t believe I got my hands on it. And right now, it is smoking up the charts. I mean, it’s rocking for us: We’re already in the top 10 and we’ve only been out like 11 weeks. It’s a big thing for us. I think it’s gonna be the biggest song of my career, and I’m really excited about it.”
Although “Hard 2 Love” which the New York Times named one of its top 10 albums 2012, only debuted about 10 months ago, the singer-songwriter is already hard at work on the follow-up. He even has a tentative title — “I Don’t Dance” after a song he penned and predicts will be even bigger than “I Drive Your Truck” — although he doesn’t expect to release it until at least a year from now.
“I’m already deep into it … I’ve spent so many, many countless, countless hundreds of hours thinking about it, writing, putting songs together and figuring out an album to make it a full album and then dwindling down songs ‘cause I’ve already got too many,” he said.
“I’m a little more patient in the recording process. … I’ve really gone in and even made work tapes for building tracks around and, like then going in and putting a band on it and then going back. I mean, just really taking the time to not just settle with a part that’s kind of cool, like really think about it and dig in and have an open mind to change anything and try anything. And it’s really making a difference, I think.”
The right woman also makes a difference: In April, Brice plans to marry his fiancee, Sara Reevely, with whom he has a son, Takoda, 4, and take some time off with his family. He included both their voices on “Hard 2 Love,” with his bride-to-be featured on “See About a Girl” and their boy on album closer “One More Day.”
“Takoda, you know, he’s my whole life and I can’t wait it to get home to him. You know, it’s like I used to get on the road and I loved being on the road, I didn’t care if I came home, but now I can’t wait to get home,” he said.
“I’m just looking forward to having that month kind of off. It’s exciting. I wish I was married already. I’m ready. … Once you’re ready, you’re ready.”
The hit-making balladeer expects his upcoming nuptials and honeymoon to provide ample material for future love songs.
“Oh, don’t you worry. They’re coming,” he said with a laugh.
Miranda Lambert and Dierks Bentley’s “Locked & Reloaded Tour”
Special guest: Lee Brice.
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, 100 W Reno.
Information: (800) 745-3000 or www.chesapeakearena.com.