Lee Brice is a man whose time has come. On his stunning sophomore album, Hard 2 Love (Curb Records), the Academy of Country Music winner demonstrates a new maturity and patience, both in his songwriting and vocals.
"I made my first album, Love Like Crazy, over six years," explains the South Carolina native, lifting his trademark turned-around ball cap and rubbing his forehead. "It didnt feel like a cohesive record, but more like a lot of different songs. And six years later, Ive grown as an artist and a writer.
"Everything on the new album is very pertinent to who I am right now and where I am in my life. I have some very personal stuff on there, and I had to be really honest with it. Hopefully, folks will see that."
Certainly radio listeners are already aware of "A Woman Like You," a married couples starkly honest meditation on love and devotion. Immediately upon release, the mid-tempo ballad became iTunes number five most-purchased song and sold more than 30,000 copies a week. Not bad for a first single off an album. "Its moving faster than anything Ive ever had," Lee says with a smile in his warm, familiar baritone. "Its just so real." The single went on to take the top spot on the country radio charts and earned platinum certification. Shortly thereafter, the albums title track followed suit, marking two consecutive No. 1 platinum-certified songs for the award-winning singer/songwriter.
As "A Woman Like You" suggests, Lee presents himself throughout the album as a man who fully knows who he is and steps up to own it. He co-produced every track, bringing in friends Kyle Jacobs, Jon Stone, Doug Johnson and Matt McClure to share production duties on various cuts.
"At 32, Im growing up, and Ive done a lot more singing, not just in the studio but live. Ive done about 200 shows a year for the last five years, and I realized that you can move people and peel their faces back without necessarily screaming at them. Im just learning there is a patience that you gain with experience and Im trying to dig in. You could be a great singer or performer, but its the whole package that makes an artist. It starts with the music thats out there."
As co-writer of eight of the 13 tracks on Hard 2 Love, Lee has aimed for strong melodies and smart, emotional storytelling that aims straight for the heart of the human condition: the bluesy sigh of "See About a Girl;" the tailgate reverie of "Parking Lot Party;" the bittersweet tug of love in "Seven Days A Thousand Times;" and the down-on-your-knees gratitude of "One More Day."
Much of Lees new self-awareness comes from his engagement to longtime girlfriend Sara Reeveley. The two have a son, Takoda, "a Mini-Me...a Mini-Lee," as his father describes him, chuckling.