“Only God knows where my heart is/ I've got my strength/ and Lord knows, I've got my weakness/ Oh, I'm lost somewhere between Jack Daniels and Jesus.” - Jack Daniels & Jesus - Amanda Flynn-Brian Kelley-Chase Rice.

Chase Rice credits Brian Kelley of Florida Georgia Line for historic song-writing sessions that launched their careers and prompted their debut Australian tour this month.

The two Florida born stars penned Florida Georgia Line breakthrough hit Cruise and three songs on Rice's third album Ignite The Night, released here on February 26.

“Brian and I grew up together, we were both born in Florida. We were buddies and also wrote together when we arrived in Nashville and lived all in the same house,” Rice, 29, told Nu Country TV in a phone call from Nashville where he is finishing his fourth album.

When we started writing songs together we knew we had something special. After about a year we wrote Cruise, it changed both of our lives. We loved writing a lot of songs together back in the day. We wrote as much as we could. We were just buddies, we lived together and wrote all the time until we had success. We were just writing songs for fun, luckily it's turned into a pretty cool career for both of us.”

The Rice family moved to North Carolina where he went to college in Chapel Hill before heading to Nashville at 22.

Chase took a short hiatus from writing and performing for a reality TV show Survivor Nicaragua stint when he working for NASCAR.

“I was writing songs then but NASCAR was my main job before that,” says Rice who finished runner-up.

“I didn't even sing on the show. I didn't want to be that guy who goes on TV show and tries to promote his music. I was lucky enough to chase my music dreams after that show.”


“Where the good years and good times meet/ girl we can rev it up right 'til we overheat/just forget about the time, get your lips on mine/ gotta kiss you, get to know your smile/ on your mark, get set.” - Ready Set Roll - Chris DeStefano-Rhett Akins-Chase Rice.

Now the singer, who self-released his first three albums on his punny indie Dack Janiels label, is a finalist in the best new male vocalist section of the 2016 Academy of Country Music Awards in April.

Rice is competing with writing and performing partners Thomas Rhett, Brett Eldredge, Chris Stapleton and Chris Janson.

Thomas's father Rhett Atkins co-wrote Rice's breakthrough hit Ready Set Roll with Chase and his producer Chris DeStefano.

Atkins calls his publishing company Rhettneck Music so is he to blame for Chase naming his recording label and publishing companies Dack Janiels ?

“I couldn't think of anything more appropriate when I moved to Nashville, it's something you have to do when you move to Nashville, you have to start your own little publishing company,” Rice joked.

“I didn't think anyone would notice. I decided to think of something that is close to me and Jack Daniels is pretty much my drink all the time so I thought I have a little stab and call it that. It's pretty funny that people know that.”

And the influence of Rhett Atkins on his nomenclature and career.

“Yeah, Rhett is a Rhettneck himself, he loves to get out in the woods like I do,” Chase explained.

“I love Rhett, he's been a big part of my career. We wrote Ready Set Roll , my very first single together.”

So how does it feel to be competing with Rhett's song Thomas Rhett for ACM best new vocalist?

“It's great, really awesome, Thomas, Brett Eldredge and I have been buddies and writing partners for a long time,” Chase said.

“I have known Chris Janson and Chris Stapleton. It's cool and an honour to be up against those guys.”

Rice dismisses claims his music is part of the Bro-Country fad.

“The term Bro-Country is one of the most ignorant things l have heard, to be honest,” Rice reeled.

“The ignorance comes from people not buying albums and only hearing what is on the radio. They will find a lot more depth when they buy albums again. Carolina Can and Jack Daniels & Jesus are perfect examples, that's what I'm talking about. They hear songs on the radio and put artists into classes because of ignorance - go out and buy albums and hear some real meat and some great music.

“One of my favourite songs ever was Don't You Think This Outlaw Bit's Done Got Out Of Hand by Waylon Jennings. They didn't care if they were called 'outlaws' or not. They didn't take offense to it, but they didn't gravitate toward to it, saying, 'Oh, yeah. We're Outlaws. Watch us.' It's the same thing with Bro-Country . It's my country. And these other artists like Luke, Cole, and Thomas Rhett would say the same thing. They're just trying to do their music the way they know how to do it."


“It was laying pennies on the rails and sneaking off to chew Red Man/ it was a Friday night win and followed by a Saturday bruise/ it was a first Blue Ribbon my dad and I drank, baptized on Glenville lake/ a tear in our eyes the night we lost all we had to lose/ that tobacco town where I grew up/ the tailgate down on a jacked up truck/ a ring we earned cause we owned that state/ a tombstone with my daddy's name/ now the six string dream on a crazy course/ has got my compass losing North/ and I need someone to remind me who I am/ oh, Carolina can.” - Carolina Can - Scooter Caruso-Chase Rice.

It's no surprise Rice credits Jack Daniels & Jesus as the favourite song he had ever written.

But it's not just the whiskey that inspired the song.

It's one of several he credits to the influence of his father Daniel who died of a heart attack when Rice was just 22.

Daniel bought him his first guitar as a teenager with one proviso - he had to sing.

“You're playing guitar, but you ain't singing, you're never gonna get these girls at Carolina if you don't start singing,'” my dad said to me.

“I was in college at the time so I thought I better take dad's advice.”

The rest is history.

The first song Chase wrote and recorded was Larger Than Life about the passing of his father on his 2012 debut album Friday Nights And Sunday Mornings.

Chase has name checked his dad in Jack Daniels & Jesus, Carolina Can and Look At My Truck on Ignite The Night .

“He was a big part of my life, he raised me and made me the man I am today,” Chase added.

“I lost him when I was 22 years old. It's a tough break for anyone, especially a songwriter. But it gives you the emotions to out the words to music. He's a big part of my emotions.”

So did Chase blacken his brother's eyes in a fight as depicted in the lyrics of Jack Daniels & Jesus ?

Well, not exactly.

“We had a fight the day after my daddy died,” Chase confessed.

“We were going up to the place where my daddy would be buried five or six days later when we had the funeral. We had a big old argument. My dad taught us growing up that blood is thicker than water. He's my brother and I love him to death. Dad taught us not to hit each other. We stayed away from that, we did not get in a fist fight and I didn't hit him. He know I'm with him if we get in a fight.”

And Carolina Can was inspired by life in North Carolina after adolescence in Florida.

"I wanted to round out the album with a deeper side - one that you've never seen before,” Rice explained.

“That's my favourite new song on the album. It's about my life and how crazy it is now. 'When I need someone to remind me of who I am, Carolina Can .' I love that song because it's very personal to me. It's Carolina, where I grew up after we moved there from Florida. There's a lot of my personal life in that three minutes."

And the Glenville Lake in the song?

“Glenville Lake is North Carolina, it's a lake near Cashiers where we went each summer after moving to North Carolina from Florida,” Rice recalled.

“It's an hour away from Asheville, North Carolina. We had a house there and it's where my dad is buried. I didn't even know how to play guitar when I was in Asheville. Nashville is where I wrote all my songs.”


“There's a Bible on the dash, a little too good at collecting dust/ there's a shotgun on the rack and that rear view's got a picture of us/ that radio dial stays on 95.3 cause it's the only one around here that plays country/ if ya want to get to get to know me it ain't that hard/ it's sitting on some Goodyears there in the yard/ got some dents, got some dings, been my best friend since I was 16/ baptised in dirty water, handed down to me from my father/ if ya wanna know, wanna know what I'm made of just look at my truck.” - Look At My Truck - Cole Taylor-Chase Rice.

Rice self-funded his first three albums and signed with Sony , who released Ignite The Night here, for his fourth album.

“We've got almost every song written, I've written probably 30 or 40 songs and we're going to narrow it down to my favourite 11 songs,” Rice revealed of the album scheduled for release in our winter.

“The first single is Whisper - a duet with Macy Maloy who I did Ride with. She doing background vocals and the lead part on Whisper. I wrote it with Chris DeStefano and John Nite.

“Lately, I have been focussing on writing for this album. I have written three times this week, today I'm in the studio, tomorrow I'm in the studio. Last week I wrote three times.”

And, no, Rice had not read best seller 50 Shades Of Grey before he wrote 50 Shades Of Crazy .

“It's about a girl - a play on words,” Rice laughed.

“I hadn't read the book.”

Rice equates his success with his sporting struggles at AC Reynolds High School and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he was a line-backer on the football team.

The inspiration of his dad - as well as football coach Bobby Poss - pushed Rice to make it on his own terms.

Although his father died before Rice's success he has fond memories of a concert he performed for him when he wanted a Martin D 18 guitar.

Rice didn't have the money to buy it, so he'd asked his parents to help, but his dad was hesitant.

So he agreed to sing for them in the family living room.

Three songs - one each by Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw and Garth Brooks - made up the mini-concert.

It was the only time Rice's father saw him perform live.

“I sang them, and they were bad guitar playing,” Rice recalled.

“I don't know what I was singing that day, but it was good enough for him so I got that guitar and that was a big boost in my career, because I had a sweet guitar and I wanted to get better at it. And I also started singing so it kind of broke my shell.”

"He never really got to see me sing live in public but he's a big part of my life. He was there for my first 22 years, including sports and all that."

And, now, Rice had belatedly been rewarded for his sporting prowess with his own clothing merchandise line - HDEU (Head Down, Eyes Up ) apparel.

When Chase tore a tendon in his ankle during the first football game of his junior year at the University of North Carolina, he was determined to get back on the field before his senior season.

To rehab his ankle Chase spent hours in the gym each day.

It was in the midst of a gruelling workout that Chase caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror and had a revelation.

“I just looked pissed off,” Chase recalls.

“But I was determined. My head was down, but my eyes were up, and I kind of kept saying that to myself, head down, eyes up, keep going. That was my mentality, like a lion before it attacks.”

Chase returned to the football field the following year, kept his new slogan in the forefront of his mind and adopted the mantra when he moved to Nashville and began pursuing a music career.

“I knew I needed to go make fans myself, make music myself, pay for it myself and eventually it was going to pay off,” Chase explains.

“Here we are coming off a summer tour with Kenny Chesney last year and a long fall of touring my own sold-out headlining tour - if I haven't proven the naysayers wrong, I'm at least heading in the right direction, and that's because of that head-down, eyes-up, keep-going mentality.”

After fans saw HDEU handwritten on Chase's baseball hats, they asked about the meaning behind it. That sparked another idea from Chase and he tested the waters by creating 100 HDEU hats to sell at his shows. He sold out the very first night.

“I was like, what the heck?” says Chase.

“Fast forward to now - we have it on shirts and it's all over the country.”

The line has expanded to gym-friendly attire, including hoodies, beanies and an array of T-shirts and tanks, as well as training pants for women.

“I wanted to make some stuff that I can wear to work out in,” Chase says.

“For me personally, if I'm working out or playing sports with HDEU on my chest or anywhere on my body, it's going to remind me of that mentality.

“If you keep that mentality, you block all the good and the bad out and just focus on your task. Literally, the only person who can stop you is you.”

Rice performs CMC Rocks Queensland at Willowbank Speedway, Ipswich, from Friday March 11- Sunday March 13 to promote his CD Ignite The Night and apparel.

Other artists include Jason Aldean, Florida Georgia Line , Lee Brice, Brantley Gilbert, Kip Moore, Kelsea Ballerini, Blackjack Billy, The Cadillac Three, Road Hammers, The Hillbenders , Tim Hicks, Drake White & The Big Fire , Morgan Evans, Sunny Cowgirls , Adam Eckersley Band, Travis Collins, Buddy Goode, Jody Direen, Cam Scott, Kaylee Bell, Melanie Dyer, Deep Creek Road and Caitlyn Shadbolt.

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