Though he may not have walked away with any hardware at this year's CMA Awards, singer-songwriter Lee Brice is rounding out the year far from empty-handed.
"I'm really probably at one of the best times in my life," he recently told reporters during an informal gathering at Loser's Bar & Grill, a local hotspot near downtown Nashville. "I'm happy in my personal life and my family and in my career. I really am at one of the high points of my life that I can ever remember."
Besides garnering his first CMA nomination for new artist of the year, Brice also reached platinum-selling and chart-topping success as an artist with "A Woman Like You." Having written smash hits for artists like Garth Brooks ("More Than a Memory") and the Eli Young Band ("Crazy Girl"), he is thrilled to now be reaping recognition as not only a songwriter but also a bona fide artist.
"My fans have been my career," he said. "We've worked hard to build a foundation. Now, anything extra has just been icing on the cake."
His current single, "Hard to Love," the title track from his sophomore album, has already sold over 500,000 copies and recently secured the top spot of Billboard's country songs chart, making this his second No. 1 as an artist.
"We've been working so hard for so long, and I can't be more thankful to songwriters that wrote such a great song and especially for being my friends as a person and as a writer," he explained. "They know me well enough to write a song that I could connect with so well, and I'm just so lucky to be where I'm at."
Written by fellow song-craftsmen Benjamin Glover, Billy Montana and John Ozier, Brice explained how the lyrics seemed as though they were written with him in mind.
"It felt like I was in the room writing it," he said of the first time he heard the charismatic tune.
"If I'm going to record a song I didn't write, I literally have to connect with it as if I wrote it," he went on. "So then when I'm singing it, I'm sellin' it and livin' it as much as I would have if it was one I wrote."
What's more, Brice said his entire life has prepared him for this moment. Writing songs since he was just 10, he always wanted to be an artist who sang his own songs.
"This is really what I've been working for, so it feels awesome," he explained.
Another shot in the arm came recently while waiting for his bus inside Tin Roof, a popular bar and restaurant near Nashville's Music Row. The television series Nashville was piping through the bar's speakers when he heard a familiar tune.
"I heard this song playing, and I was like, 'I know that song! Oh, I wrote that song!'" he laughed. "I didn't know I had a song on there. Man, that's my song. Awesome!"
Hoping to continue his career momentum, Brice assured reporters he's already secured a spot alongside a major touring act in 2013. Though he wouldn't reveal details, he confirmed it was a "pretty major tour."
Not one to slow down and always looking ahead, Brice said he's preparing to record his third album in January.
"Sometimes I may just reach too far," he said of his ambitious personality. "By 2014, I want to be able to go and do arenas. That's my goal. Now, if I get to that, I don't know. That's kind of how I've always lived my life -- really shooting high."