As a kid growing up in South Carolina, Lee Brice always seemed to be running late. No matter if it was a Sunday morning and it was time for church or if it was a Monday morning and it was time for school, he never was quite ready to put his guitar, or his pen, down.
And for good reason.
“I’d get in the groove, whether it was playing my guitar or writing a song, and I just couldn’t stop,” laughs Brice during an interview with American Songwriter that took place mere days before Brice was diagnosed with Covid-19 and was forced to pull out of his scheduled performance with “I Hope You’re Happy Now” duet partner Carly Pearce at the 54th Annual CMA Awards Wednesday. “When my brain is clicking on all cylinders, I hit it. I hit it hard. It’s always been that way.”
Indeed, much of Brice’s professional life has been driven by momentum, a sweet pocket of impending inspiration that was certainly in full affect during the creation of his upcoming, 15-track album Hey World, which is set for release November 20.
“We wrote ‘If You’ and ‘More Beer’ and ‘Good Ol’ Boys’ and ‘Save the Roses’ all in a matter of just a couple weeks,” Brice remembers of the songwriting streak that occurred just prior to and throughout the quarantine period of the continuing pandemic. “We were on a roll. We knew what we wanted and we knew how to get it. We ended up hitting that songwriting bullseye on so many days in a row…it was crazy.”
Another certain hit born during one of those hot songwriting streaks for the new album is his current single “Memory I Don’t Mess With,” a heartfelt stinger of a song written by Brice alongside songwriters Brian Davis and Billy Montana.
“We had finished up a write on the farm and Brian Davis and I were sitting around talking and someone said ‘that’s a memory I don’t mess with’ and right then and there, we wrote a chorus,” Brice remembers.
But then, it sat.
“The song had no verses, but I would always catch myself going to that work tape and singing that chorus,” Brice continues. “The melody came to me finally and we got in there with Billy Montana and we got it done. (Laughs.) Sometimes, you just have to let songs breathe for a while, and that one soaked into my ears and into my head for a year.”
Timing has always been of essence for Brice within a career as a solo artist that essentially kicked off back in 2009 with the memory-inducing “Love Like Crazy.” But the former Clemson University football player knows that those hit streaks can be fleeting for even the best of songwriters.
So, one must strike while the iron is hot.
And, for Brice, his iron always seems to get crazy hot after 10 pm.
“When you get that feeling, you go with that feeling,” says Brice, who has taken eight radio singles to number one, including “A Woman Like You,” “Hard to Love” and “I Drive Your Truck.”. “Sure, we have scheduled writes and stuff, but I actually love those old school moments where I just have to write a song right now. Those are really good times. I mean, ‘I Don’t Dance’ was one of those that started after 10 p.m. Luckily, I have 4 or 5 songwriting buddies that I can call at that time. (Laughs.) They always answer and they always know what I am going to say.”
He’s going to tell them it’s time to write.
But there is also a momentum that has driven Brice’s overall career, a momentum that is somewhat out of anyone’s control, a momentum that seems to be moving in Brice’s direction as of late.
But it wasn’t always that way.
Take Brice’s heartfelt single “Boy,” a tearjerker written by Nicolle Galyon and Jon Nite that served as the first single off of his self-titled fourth studio album and a critically acclaimed song that surprisingly didn’t quite connect as much as anyone thought it would.
“That song was extremely special, but things were slow and it’s hard to create momentum when things are slow,” the father of three explains about the song that just barely made the top twenty on the charts. “But then we released ’Rumor’ and that song picked things up and things were moving at a better pace. And when things are moving at a better pace, you knock a whole lot more walls down. (Pauses.) Everyone goes through those valleys and God knows you are not doing anything different. (Pauses.) We just always want to make the best music we can make and write the best songs we can write.”
And then, when all else fails, throw in a little luck.
“’Rumor” got going and then out of nowhere, Carly Pearce called out of nowhere and I did the duet ‘I Hope You’re Happy Now’ and then that went and blown up,” chuckles Brice of the song that also hit number one.
Of course, that theory was never truer than with the timing of Brice’s fastest rising single career to date, “One of Them Girls,” a catchy earworm of a song that was blasting through the speakers smack dab in the middle of a shutdown caused by the pandemic. The song ended up holding the top spot on the country airplay charts for three consecutive weeks earlier this year.
“Timing hasn’t always been on my side, but it’s always been a factor…always.”