In the past two weeks, Lee Brice’s life has been a crazy rollercoaster ride. He and Carly Pearce won the CMA Award for Musical Event of the Year for “I Hope You’re Happy Now,” but he was unable to perform the hit duet on the show because he tested positive for COVID-19. Lady A’s Charles Kelley stepped in to perform with Pearce while Brice quarantined at his farm, but his isolation is now over and Brice is happily getting back in gear as he launches his new album Hey World today (Nov. 20).
“Today is my last day of quarantine,” Brice told Sounds Like Nashville during a phone interview on Nov. 17. “I get out tomorrow and we’re going to get on back to real life. I’ve been here living at the farm. I’ve been able to see the kids, but from a long, long way away. I sit over in my corner and watch them, but I will say it almost makes it harder because I can’t scoop Trulee up and hug her. She’s like, ‘Daddy I want you to hold me. I miss you.’ The hardest thing is seeing them, but not being able to be near them.”
Brice and his wife, Sara, have three kids, 12-year-old Takoda, six-year-old Ryker and three-year old Trulee. Thankfully, they’ve all remained healthy.
Brice says his diagnosis caught him by surprise. “I would have never got tested if it hadn’t been for the CMAs because I had no symptoms,” he says. “Once I got my results back, I came straight out to the farm and started my quarantine, and that very first night I had some aches and pains. I woke up the next morning and felt like a perfectly fine human being and I have ever since. I lost my smell, which is the weirdest thing on the planet. My taste got a little weird for like a day and then it was back, but other than that, it’s been like a very small cold or very mild allergies or something. I’ve been working, hunting and watching golf here at the farm and feeling perfectly fine. I’m pretty blessed that I had a mild case because I’ve got people very close to me who had a really rough time with it so I know that it’s a big deal.”
Brice is excited to get back to work promoting his new album and fans will be able to see the Curb Records artist perform it during the virtual Hey World Album Release Experience via Facebook Live and YouTube on Friday night (Nov. 20) at 7 PM CST. “We’re going to do a lot of this new record, so I’m going to be singing these new songs for the first time live,” says Brice, who will be sharing stories behind the new songs and also performing some of his hits. “I’m kind of nervous because haven’t played together much as a band, but I’m looking to have a lot of fun.”
Hey World already includes two No. 1 hits—Brice’s recent chart-topper “One of Them Girls” and his award winning duet with Pearce “I Hope You’re Happy Now.” His new single, “A Memory You Don’t Mess With” is currently climbing the charts. “It was tough,” Brice says of choosing the next single. “We got a lot of reaction from a lot of people about ‘Memory I Don’t Mess With’ and the label really wanted to do it. Normally they just kind of hand it to me and go, ‘Anything you want to do, we’ll do it.’ And that’s such an awesome thing to have. With this, they said the same thing, but they also gave me their two cents about what they really thought, what they really would love to try, so that’s why we came out with this single. It’s one of my favorite songs on the record and I knew I wanted it to be put out. I just didn’t know when and so they just convinced me to do it now. It ain’t no skin off my back because I love the song.”
Brice wrote “Memory I Don’t Mess With” with Brian Davis and Billy Montana. “I had written a song that day with a couple of guys and one of them was Brian Davis, one of my great friends and co-writers,” Brice says. “We had finished up a song with somebody else and they left and Brian was hanging around for a minute and said, ‘Man, I’ve got this other idea in my head,’ and he sang that first line. I said, ‘Well, stop there buddy!’ So we sat down for about 10 minutes and wrote this chorus out and did a little work tape real quick.”
They didn’t finish the song right away, but Brice found himself going back to it and wanting to nail it down. “I kept thinking, ‘This is a smash. This song just moves me. There’s something about it.’ I knew we had to finish it and I knew it had to be on this record. I was writing all these other songs and I kept coming back to this song. So we called up our favorite buddy, Billy Montana, and said, ‘Hey we’ve got this thing going. We’ve just got to write some verses to it.’ He fell in love with it. Me and Billy have another song with ‘memory’ in it and it worked out pretty good for Garth,” Brice says referencing the Garth Brooks hit “More Than a Memory,” which he and Montana wrote with Kyle Jacobs. “So Billy came over and we wrote this song. I was able to go back to a couple of big things in my life, before I ever met Sara, and go through those emotions. I stepped back into them for a minute and it was pretty cool to be able to go back to those places and write something.”
Brice co-wrote 11 of the 15 songs on the album. Among the outside cuts is a song called “Lies” penned Tom Douglas and Scooter Carusoe. “I love both of them,” Brice says of the writers. “I heard this song and it immediately just struck a chord. It was like when I heard ‘I Drive Your Truck’ for the first time. I like to have songs out there that say something and this song says a lot. We wanted to not get in the way of the song so we cut it with me and a piano, simple stuff and let the song speak for itself. The biggest lies we tell are the ones we tell ourselves and I think we do that a lot. The world makes us think of things we have to be, but the truth is, we can just be who we are and not have to apologize for that. It really is a positive uplifting song that can hopefully change the minds of somebody who maybe going through a tough time.”
“Save the Roses,” written by Brice, Jacobs and Joe Leathers, is another of the many standout cuts on the album. It started when Brice’s wife, Sara, was watching one of the Bachelor shows on TV and suggested ‘save the rose’ could be a song title. Brice made a note of it, but the song really came together after he attended his cousin’s funeral. “I grew up with a bunch of older cousins. I love them. They were like my big brothers,” Brice says. “Our older cousin Robbie died and it was really sad to get the news. When I was at the funeral, I was looking at him in the casket. He had a camouflage hat, camouflage shirt, blue jeans and he had his work boots on. I looked around at all of us cousins beefy South Carolina boys sweating in our suits and I just remember thinking, ‘Robbie isn’t there in that body anymore. He’s looking down going, ‘What are you all boys doing? Thank you for coming, but get out of here. The sun is going down. You should be in a deer stand.’
“And I was looking around at all these flowers and I was thinking that he’d be thinking, ‘You all shouldn’t have spent this money on these flowers. You all should have spent it on milk and bread.’ That title Sara had said that night just hit me in that moment—‘Save the roses. Don’t waste them on me.’ It is straight up, stone cold honesty and that’s what makes it so special. I’d love to put that on the radio. I think a lot of people will have some closure and good positive feelings going through times of loss. It’s a special song.”
The title track features a special appearance by Blessings Offor, who appeared on The Voice. “My manager played me a song and I was like, ‘Who in the world is that and do you think that person would sing on ‘Hey World’ with me?’” Brice recalls. “I talked to him on the phone and sent him a track and said ‘Do what you do and maybe do a second verse or whatever you are feeling on this thing.’ So he did and then after we got the recording done is when I got to meet Blessing for the first time in person. It was like too old souls meeting for the first time. It was really cool. He really just impresses me in many ways, first of all as a musician, singer, player, producer and writer, but as a person he’s just so fun and so cool. He’s just a good dude. I was just lucky to have somebody like him come along.”
Brice had recorded half the album before the pandemic hit. The last half of the record had to be recorded remotely with each musician sending in their parts separately. “It slowed the process down but because it slowed the process down, I feel like at the end of the day that I feel like the second half of the record maybe came out even better than it would have if we would have gone in and got it all done in a couple of days because we were able to hear stuff piece by piece,” Brice explains. “You don’t have to try to take all the information in with everything going on at the same time. It was really, really nice to be able to slow it down and make sure every part was just right so I feel like maybe at the end of the day having to record via other places maybe even made it a better record as a whole.”
Brice is anxious for fans to hear Hey World and hopes these songs will impact people in a positive way. “It might not change the world, but if it changes one person’s world, then that’s what matters to me,” he says. “God just put something in me that just has to be making music all the time.”