Lee Brice has mastered the power ballad — as both a singer and songwriter. Before his voice was a country radio staple, the South Carolina native made country history when Garth Brooks' "More Than a Memory," which he co-wrote with Kyle Jacobs and Billy Montana, was the first country song ever to debut at the top of Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart. Two years later, his own "Love Like Crazy" did the opposite: It's in the history books as the slowest-climbing Top 10 country hit, peaking after 46 weeks on the charts. Sentimental favorites "A Woman Like You" and "Hard to Love" made it to Number One, while the tearjerking "I Drive Your Truck" won a CMA award. Sure, Brice can deliver a drinking song as rowdy as the best of them, but he knows fans look to him to be swept off their feet. So when writing for his upcoming album, I Don't Dance, he tried to find the balance of appeasing fans of his older music while also showing sonic growth.
"Making the music isn't all you do," he tells Rolling Stone Country. "It's the sequencing, it's thinking about what people know and love you for. The way I sing "Love Like Crazy" — the big chorus — that's what I grew up listening to. I'm still doing what I love, I'm just a little more free to really do what I love."
And what he really loves is taking a hodgepodge of influences into the studio. A standout track from the new album, due in stores September 9th, is "That Don't Sound Like You," which makes its world premiere on Rolling Stone Country today. (Listen via the video player above.) The song is about an old flame whose new guy has stripped her of her fun-loving identity. It's another soaring, lighters-in-the-air ballad, but one with more prominent electric guitar and more modern production than earlier hits.
"One thing I tried to do on this album is a lot of classic sounds, like on Bruno Mars' record, but with a lot of hip sounds that he just created in his mind, or whatever it may have been. There's a great marriage between those two," says Brice. "I love putting classic steel guitar with a classic banjo — all those sounds meshed with new sounds I created in my head."
Brice co-wrote "That Don't Sound Like You" with Rhett Akins and Ashley Gorley. Starting August 26th, it will be available as an instant download when you pre-order I Don't Dance on iTunes. The album's title track — another chart-topping ballad — was originally written as a wedding gift for the singer's wife, Sara.