When Lee Brice first entered the country consciousness with the Top 30 hit "She Ain't Right" in 2007, his voice carrying over FM radio waves like honey trickling through lines of melody etched in leather, his rugged sound and raw emotion spoke for a new generation of Nashville recording artists. "I love what I'm hearing on the radio today," Brice said. "People aren't trying to be perfect or slick anymore. It reminds me of records back in the day, when everything sounded like it was played live. I'd love it if someday people could look back on what I'm doing now too and say, 'When Lee Brice came around, something changed in a positive way.'" As follow-up singles "Happy Endings," "Upper Middle Class White Trash," and "Love Like Crazy" have doggedly climbed the charts, Brice has continued to change the landscape of country with images inspired by the Carolina backcountry where he was raised-of a tightly packed car heading from Myrtle Beach into the sunset, of a trailer park full of Cadillacs, of 58 years of marriage lived in a 2-story house on Maple Street.
Not only has Brice established himself as one of the most promising new voices in country, he has proven himself as one of Nashville's top tunesmiths, with cuts by Jason Aldean, Adam Gregory, Tim McGraw, Blake Shelton, and Garth Brooks to his credit. "More Than A Memory," the Garth Brooks smash that became the first song in Billboard chart history to debut at #1, seems more like a dream to Brice, who names Garth as his first major musical influence. As a young boy, Brice was raised on Gospel in church and the harmonies of Alabama, The Oak Ridge Boys, and the Statler Brothers at home, largely sheltered from the popular music of the day. "I got my first clock radio when I was twelve," Brice recalls, "just as Garth was becoming huge. He's the reason I first picked up a guitar to write, and he had a definite effect on my writing."
Later on, Brice drew inspiration from an ever-widening sphere of artists including Hank Junior, sure, but also Aerosmith and the Dave Matthews Band, Coldplay, John Mayer, Brian McKnight, Tom Petty, 3 Doors Down, Whitney Houston, Edwin McCain, and Ray Charles-a list you might well assemble by grabbing randomly as you wander through the bargain bins at your local record store. Yet for Brice, a common thread links them all: "They're all great, which appeals to me because I want to make every song I do as great as I can too. They all make music that you can believe in."
Besides music, Brice had another love in his youth-football. His father, a star player in high school, had passed on an offer to play for Clemson University in order to marry and open shop as an electrician. Lee picked up where his dad left off by enrolling at Clemson and making it onto the team, long-snapping for punts and then moving to center, until fate changed the game plan. After playing the first game of his senior year, Lee woke up one morning unable to straighten his right arm. "I'd been snapping the wrong way, 500 times a day," he explains. "They had me in surgery the next day, took out all this cartilage, and that was the end of that."
He could have stayed and finished his civil engineering degree; instead, Lee resolved to chase his other dream. He'd kept playing music during spare time at Clemson and had even spent spring break in Nashville, checking out the town and its possibilities. During that visit he met and performed some of his tunes for songwriter/producer Doug Johnson, who told Lee, "I see that you love music with every bone in your body, so unless you love civil engineering as much as you love music, you need to be here. And if you do come to Nashville, I'll stand by you from the moment you get here." With Johnson as his mentor, Brice made the decision to leave Clemson that summer and take his chances in Music City, where he sharpened his writing, played out at songwriter circles, and booked co-writing sessions with some of the top talent in town.
Brice continues to work closely with Johnson, who produced the forthcoming debut album, Picture of Me, and penned the current Top 30 single "Love Like Crazy." Powered by musicians hand-picked for the session, with Johnson bringing the same sensitivity and feel for the material that distinguished his productions for Clay Walker, John Michael Montgomery, and Hank Jr., Picture Of Me alternately flows like a stream of memory or pounds like the tide along the Carolina shore. From the soulful intimacy of "These Last Few Days," to the devilish drawl of "Sumter County Friday Night," Brice is equally adept at capturing the tender excitement of brand new love as he is at raising hell with "country girls and redneck boys" anticipating the night to come in the sunset glow of a Dairy Queen.
Altogether, Picture Of Me provides a snapshot image of a promising young artist who's due for his shot at stardom. "When I first started writing, it was so I could have my own songs to sing. And when I first started singing, it was to sing the songs I wrote," Brice explains. "I'm so blessed to have the songwriting cuts I've had, but I'm here to be an artist, and I can't neglect that passion." Brice's passion shines bright in the album's title track, exposing his roots and declaring his dreams with definitive Southern swagger. "'Picture Of Me' is literally me, where I'm from, how I was raised, who I loved, the things I've been through...why I am who I am," Brice says. It's a picture of growing up on the edge of a cornfield at the end of a long dirt road-gritty and grainy and country to the core, worth a thousand words and more.