South Carolina native Lee Brice began the New Year tucked away in a cozy bed and breakfast in Key West, Fla. The helpless romantic brought his girlfriend of more than 10 years there for an unforgettable vacation.
"I was like, I cannot wait any longer," he grinned as he relived the moments of getting down on bended knee to propose. "I had to do it the old-fashioned way."
Engaged to Sara Reeveley on Jan. 2, the singer-songwriter's good fortune had only just begun. A few weeks later, the song craftsman would garner his fourth Academy of Country Music Award nomination for "Crazy Girl," a passionate love ballad he co-wrote with Liz Rose and was later recorded by the Eli Young Band. The chart-topper is nominated for song of the year at the April 1 awards show in Las Vegas.
"I'm just honored to be sitting anywhere near them," Brice said of his fellow nominees. "It's crazy to me to be where I was 10 years ago, where I was five years ago and now, in the company that I'm in. I mean, Vince Gill and Chesney? These are guys I grew up listening to. It's an honor."
What's more, he's currently enjoying airplay with his newest single, "A Woman Like You," written by Johnny Bulford, Phil Barton and Jon Stone, as well as recording his second album, Hard to Love, due this spring. In a recent interview with CMT.com, Brice shares a few stories behind his successful songs and explains which tune he's thankful Blake Shelton and Chris Young didn't get to first.
Let's talk about "Crazy Girl." How did this song transpire, and what was the writing process like for this?
It was awesome! I had a best friend for years and years, and I always had a thing for her. I always wanted to date her, but she always knew I was just kind of this good guy, and she dated all these bad boys. By the time we ended up dating, she kind of got a little insecure. These guys had treated her bad, and so that song was really for her. When I was with her, I was in, and it was hard for her to really believe that with her whole heart. So it was just a song to her. It was just a reassurance kind of a thing.
Liz Rose is an amazing writer. Her biggest quality, to me, in a writer is she makes you stay so honest to what's going on. She wants to write a true story. And at that time, that's what my story was. I was talking about my girlfriend to her. So that's what we wrote. We wrote it in a few hours -- probably from like 11 in the morning to 2 or 3 o'clock in the afternoon. That was eight years ago. So it sat around. I really wanted to do something with it. We already had a single out, and it just couldn't work. It sat around for a long time. And then, luckily, the Eli Young Band loved it, and I could see that they were really passionate about the song, and that meant a lot to me.
What was it about your current single, "A Woman Like You" that appealed to you?
My friend Jon Stone, we're just buddies and we trade songs all the time ... I just heard his work tape, and I went, "Oh dude! What a smash!" So I ran inside to my house. I had a little studio, and I just picked up an acoustic [guitar], and we did a little version of me singing it. The next day we recorded it with a full band in the studio as a demo session, played that demo for my label, and they flipped out. We went in and just tweaked a couple of little things and left the demo just like it was and made it the record. And it's magical. I felt like it was a smash and felt like it was very pertinent to my life at the time. It's very me.
It sounds like a song you would write.
I would have written it just like that, number one. Number two, there are great songs out there that I've heard that I just couldn't record because I couldn't, for some reason, connect to it. That doesn't mean it's not a hit. I've passed on some hits before, and it's hard to do, but if you've gotta sing it every day for the rest of your life, you've got to believe it. But this song I believe, man! I so believe it. (laughs) So when I sing it every night, it's just like I wrote it. I feel as if I wrote it. I was just lucky he [Stone] came to me that day instead of anybody else because I think anybody else in town -- if Blake or Chris Young or anybody -- would have got their hands on that, I think it would have been a smash for any of them. I was just lucky to get my hands on it first.
What else can we expect from your album due out this spring?
It's very true to me. It's kind of like what's going on with me right now with me in my life, and you can hear a lot of that in it. It's called Hard to Love. I'm just so excited. I went and made the record I wanted to make. "A Woman Like You," that was the beginning.
I was able to go in with my buddy Jon Stone and with my other buddy Kyle Jacobs and then a couple of other things with my original producer Doug Johnson, who I've done all my stuff with, who I just adore and love and look up to. I've got three different producers on this record and myself in-between all of it because I just knew what I wanted. We went in and we got it, so it's fun.
You know, you hear Jerrod Niemann's album or Jamey Johnson's album, and they went in and made the record they wanted to make. And then they went and got a deal with that so they were able to go, "Look, this is the album you get if you want to give me a deal." They were able to make exactly what they wanted. I so wanted that. And so I'm so fortunate my label gave me the freedom to go do that because a lot of the times you don't get that. I'm excited that I was able to go do some different stuff. It doesn't sound like the average thing on the radio.