When his The Pirate Sessions III album was released on January 27, Jesse Rice says that he went quite a while that day without checking the sales rank on iTunes. Then he took a quick peek and saw it was in the Top 5.
“I wasn’t going to originally, then I saw how well it was doing. So I looked at it. I’ve looked at it a few times since then,” he shares. “It’s been very exciting to see the response from it. I think that with what we’ve been doing with the music, it’s been a really cool thing, and I’m seeing that in the response from people who really like that kind of music. Doing a few of the radio shows we’ve done, I’ve heard feedback from quite a few of the people who are big fans of this kind of music.”
The music on The Pirate Sessions III is very symbolic of the beach lifestyle that Rice has enjoyed since he was a youngster growing up in South Carolina. “It really is a huge part of my life, and I think you can see that in this music. Honestly, doing this music feels more comfortable to me than doing anything else. I do write Country songs for a living, but these are Country beach songs. I just think that’s a by-product of how and where I grew up. I really did this. I went to the beach every day when I was a kid, and I truly lived the lifestyle. I’ve always related to that.”
For the launch of the album, Rice assembled his fans and media for a special series of events in the historic town of Port St. Joe, Florida. Located approximately thirty miles southeast of Panama City, Rice says that the scenic views offered by Gulf County were something that never gets old. “You never get used to it,” he told Sounds Like Nashville. “Never. I was driving around Port St. Joe today, and ate lunch across the way in Mexico Beach. I drove over the bridge, looked out, and just thought ‘This is beautiful.’ I just said it out loud. I love all of it – the beauty and the vibe. Every time I go to the beach, I just feel that the weight of the world melts off of my shoulders a little bit.”
Why Port St. Joe? Rice says it was a location that was too good to pass up. “I’ve been coming here for about five years to a festival that BMI puts on for Nashville songwriters called ‘Blast On The Bay,’ which is a great festival to come to. I was approached by Kristy Grove from the Gulf County Chamber of Commerce, and we just so happened to be looking for a space in which to do this. She said she thought it would be a great fit, and I agreed with her.”
With a population of close to 3,500, Port St. Joe might not be the best known of Florida beaches, and that just might be the secret of the town. With breathtaking views of the Gulf, a lighthouse where visitors can climb all the way to the top, and lodging sites such as The Port Inn guests to the town can feel connected to the heart of the Gulf of Mexico without the crowds. Rice agrees with that sentiment, saying “This area of the Gulf Coast is called the forgotten coast, and it feels like that low Country home to me. It doesn’t feel like Panama City or Myrtle Beach, not that there’s anything wrong with that, they are just more built up.” In addition, the town features some amazing culinary treats, ranging from the mouth-watering seafood of the KrazyFish Grille and the upscale dining experience offered by Provisions.
Rice is currently promoting the first single from the new set, which he is very excited about. “Hangout With A Hangover’ is the single from this record. We just had the fortune of going to Number one on the TropRock Top 40 charts. That was great timing for us with the release. It’s just a fun song about having a good time in Key West, waking up hung-over and saying that you’re not going to do it again – until you get to the place you’re going to and you see everyone else doing it, and you tell yourself that you’re going to partake once more.”
One of the highlights from The Pirate Sessions III is the whimsical “Too Drunk To Meet Jimmy Buffett,” which Rice says stems from real life. “That happened to my buddy Anthony Billups, who is actually a guest vocalist on the song. Jimmy Buffett was playing in Nashville, and our buddy was supposed to get up and play with him on stage. He had asked Anthony to come to the show and hang out. They were in the green room, drinking all the free booze. I guess Anthony just got a little too drunk. He told him ‘Hey man, Jimmy wants to come meet you and hang out before the show.’ Billups says ‘Man, I don’t think I can do that. I’m a little too drunk.’ He’s telling me the story, and I look at him and say ‘Dude. You were too drunk to meet Jimmy Buffett?’ We had to write that song.” With Rice being such an avid fan of the beach lifestyle, does he have a favorite song from Buffett. “Man, that’s a tough one. But, I would have to say ‘A Pirate Looks At Forty.”
Another song that is special to Rice is “Cruise,” the record-shattering hit from Florida Georgia Line. As one of the writers of the song, Rice watched as the song set an all-time mark for longevity at the top of the charts. Of the song’s impact, Rice says thankfully “It’s meant everything to me. I think back to the humble beginnings of that song in my town house in Sylvan Park. We wrote the song so quickly – in about forty-five minutes. FGL didn’t have a publishing or a record deal at that time. For that to be a debut single from a debut artist, and to do what it did, it totally changed my life. In the past few months, we were awarded a Diamond certification, it blows my mind. It seems surreal at times, but I am very thankful for it.”