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Lee Brice: Leavin’ more than a memory

Inheriting a love of music from his family and church, a young country music singer set out on an artistic endeavor to breathe life into an unexpected musical career, and he has thrived ever since.

Lee Brice loves songwriting, but he always aspired to be an artist. PHOTO BY JOSEPH LlANES / COURTESY SHORE FIRE MEDIA

Lee Brice loves songwriting, but he always aspired to be an artist.
PHOTO BY JOSEPH LlANES, COURTESY SHORE FIRE MEDIA

“Love Like Crazy” was his first album released on Curb Records, and two songs from that album reached the Top 40 country charts back in 2010. By the end of 2010, he had broken a 62-year-old record with the song “Love Like Crazy,” when it stayed on Billboard’s Country Songs chart longer than any song since 1948. As one of Curb Records’ prized artists, Lee Brice is as approachable and honest as the music he gives to the world.

After a football injury while attending Clemson University, Brice decided to go ahead and pursue a career in country music. He had received an athletic scholarship, but his music wouldn’t let him wait. His time had come.

Brice headed to Nashville to set his own musical tradition for his family and friends and his many future fans. Setting out to make music with a unique sound that would set him apart from the typical country singer, he landed a record deal with Curb Records in 2007. From that point on, he was definitely on his way to a successful career. If that sounds like an easy task, make no mistake – it’s not. Brice had to set himself apart from all the thousands of other country singers coming to Nashville every month. With a little luck, some great networking and a lot of talent, he somehow managed to make that happen.

Brice wanted to be a country music singer from an early age, and writing songs was one of his earliest creative outlets. “When I heard artists sing on the radio as a child, I just assumed they wrote their songs and that’s what you had to do. That said to me, ‘Lee, if you want to be a singer, you’d better get to writing.’ So that’s what I did,” Brice said, laughing. “I wrote a song when I was 10 years old about my kindergarten girlfriend, and my second song was called ‘Train.’ That was the name of my dad’s hunting dog. It was about how God gives every man one great hound.”

Lee Brice in producing mode. PHOTO BY RYAN SMITH / COURTESY SHORE FIRE MEDIA

Lee Brice in producing mode.
PHOTO BY RYAN SMITH, COURTESY SHORE FIRE MEDIA

That early ability grew to give Brice success as a songwriter before he found success as an artist, and many people in the industry assumed he hadn’t wanted to be an artist at first. “I had success as a writer before I had success as an artist, so a lot of people thought I came here to be a songwriter and that was really not the case. It just kinda happened, and I was fortunate to have a little success in that area,” Brice said. “It was a big shot in the arm for me and a good thing for a new artist to have a couple of songs out that other artists have recorded. It’s a good place to stand when you’re a new artist.”

Brice grew up listening to Southern gospel, and those gospel quartets had a huge impact on his music. He started out singing in church and listened to a lot of country music as well. “The things that my dad listened to and things I listened to kind of grew into my own. I think back to those songs when every line mattered, every word mattered. And the melodies, the grooves and the diversity of the records – all of that still has an impact on me right now,” Brice explains. When songs impact an artist at a young age, it seems to ingrain a piece of that music’s soul in their subconscious, and it has stayed with Brice. He most definitely has a gift that only a few have acquired over the years.

By chance, Brice found himself in a position to take advantage of a great opportunity when he happened to be in the right place at the right time. It was when he met that one person in the music industry who changed his life. Like it often seems to happen, success comes by way of meeting a friend of a friend. Networking has been part of Nashville’s fabric for decades, and it held true for Brice as well.

“I came to town and visited a friend, and she had a friend in the music business. I met this girl who actually was Reba’s niece Autumn McEntire, and she introduced me to her boss, and her boss was about to get married to this fella named Doug Johnson,” explains Brice. “I met…Doug Johnson, and I played him some songs. He told me, ‘I’ll work with you from now on,’ and he really encouraged me and taught me so many things about the business – all because I’d played some songs for these girls before and they said, ‘You’ve got to meet Doug.’”

Lee Brice once played college football; we're glad he chose music instead. COURTESY OF NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

Lee Brice once played college football; we’re glad he chose music instead. PHOTO COURTESY NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

“After I met Doug, he just took me under his wing. He wrote songs with me, and he’s an amazing songwriter. He is my mentor, my brother…in Nashville. He was the guy…that took me over to Curb Records. He was the most pivotal point [person] for me in so many different ways,” Brice says honestly.

“Doug Johnson actually wrote ‘Love Like Crazy.’ He taught me about digging deep for great songs and he taught me so much about the craft and to really put the effort in.” Brice continues his story saying that Johnson was the one who taught him not to settle for just “good” or to “let a song lay there,” when you can create something really great with a little more thought.

Brice has learned the power of his craft and the impact Nashville’s songwriting community has on the music we make. “My advice to any songwriters trying to make it in country music – you’ve got to be in Nashville. If you want to be a New York Yankee baseball player, you’ve got to go to New York and try out. It’s the same in songwriting. If you want to make it in songwriting, you have to move to the songwriting capital of the world, which is Nashville. You’ve got to spend time. It’s not about passing out CDs and getting people to listen to your songs – it’s about getting here and meeting people and understanding the business,” Brice expresses.

When you listen to his new album, you’ll find the pleasant sound from songs of rich color and great productions, and it is not by accident. “I cut four or five of the songs on the record with Kyle and Matt. Kyle [Jacobs] is one of my best friends. We wrote ‘More Than a Memory’ together, and we have always wanted to make music together. Another friend of mine, Matt [McClure], is an engineer that I have worked with a long time in Nashville,” Brice says.

“On the other side, Jon Stone and I did about eight or nine songs together. He’s been a friend ever since I’ve come to town.” Brice put together a team from friends he knew could get the job done, and they have been turning out incredible albums. His latest album “I Don’t Dance” is solid proof of that.

One might wonder what Brice looks for when he is looking for songs, and the answer might be simpler than you’d think. “What I look for is the same thing you look for when you’re listening to the radio or a record and there’s a song that just comes by and for whatever reason just grabs you. Sometimes I have a plan and I’m looking [for] an up tempo song or a song that talks about something specific, but for the most part when I’m listening to other people’s songs, I’m just looking for something that blows me away,” Brice explains. “In other words, I’m looking for songs like ‘Drinking Class’ or ‘I Drive your Truck.’ That’s the kind of thing I’m looking for in a song.”

Garth Brooks and Lee Brice backstage at ACM Awards 2013. PHOTO BY RICK DIAMOND, COURTESY OF LOCKERDOME.COM /

Garth Brooks and Lee Brice backstage at ACM Awards 2013. PHOTO BY RICK DIAMOND, COURTESY OF LOCKERDOME.COM

Switching gears a little, I’d asked Brice about his thoughts on Garth Brooks. It seems everyone in Nashville has a “Garth Brooks” story – and it is usually a pretty cool one – but I doubt many can top Brice’s “Garth” story. “Though I wrote ‘More That A Memory’ and Garth Brooks recorded it, I still never got to see him perform live. I played a show right outside of Boston a few months back, and I went to see a Make-A-Wish kid.

Garth was playing in Boston that same night,” Brice explains. “I got to go see Garth backstage and say ‘Hey!’ to him. Garth Brooks asked me, ‘Do you feel like working tonight?’ and I said ‘Absolutely!’ He told me to meet him onstage, and I had no idea what we were gonna do. He introduces me, and the crowd went nuts. He shimmied me to the front of the stage. I sang the first part of ‘More Than a Memory,’ and he sang the second half. We sang together the whole time, and he let me end the song. He was just so gracious, and it was a beautiful, amazing moment for me.”

And perhaps much like Garth, Brice will go far due to his genuinely likable personality and his passion for finding great songs that have real substance and meaning. Like a well-oiled machine, Brice’s music and lyrics work together in perfect sequence and fit just right. In a world where a lot of music sounds the same, it is refreshing to hear music that is not just different but great. His vocals are powerful and honest, with songs that relate to most everyone. Brice will be making hits for years to come. He has the drive, the personality and, most of all, the right music to last. He is ever keepin’ country strong! If you aren’t familiar with Brice and his music, check it out. It will be music to your ears, and you will soon understand why Brice will leave you with “More than a Memory.”