Not just a 'Rumor’: Lee Brice tops country charts again

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If You Go

What: Lee Brice in concert

When: 8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 15

Where: Luther Burbank Center for the Arts, 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa

Admission: $46-$69

Information: 707-546-3600, lutherburbankcenter.org

After roughly a dozen hits and more than a decade of recording country songs, Lee Brice is on top again, with his July release “Rumor,” which has hit number one on the Billboard country airplay chart.

“It’s a big thrill having a song in the number one slot again after a few years. It’s awesome,” said Brice, 40, by phone from his home in Nashville, where he was spending some precious time with his wife and three young children.

Then he’s out on the road for a string of new shows, including a stop Thursday, Aug. 15, at Santa Rosa’s Luther Burbank Center for the Arts. Balancing his home life with his career isn’t always easy, but Brice has come up with some ingenious strategies.

“I put a full studio inside my tour bus and I have an engineer with me out on the road,” he said. “We work all the time, writing and recording, and put out as much music as we can, so when I get home for a few days, I can just be with my family.” “Rumor,” written Brice and two co-writers, is a new tune in the classic country music tradition. It tells a straight-forward story about a couple who may the last to know they’ve fallen in love, because everyone else in town is already talking about it. The punchline lyric goes, “Why don’t we make it true?”

The video for the song shows the husky, bearded Brice at his back-to-basics best, looking out the barred window of a dusky little bar, with folks in the background drinking beer from the bottle.

While his songs still sound fresh and honest, they’re always pure country, and they’re almost invariably about romance.

“I was a sucker for that growing up,” he said. “That stems from gospel music, and that’s all love songs, in a different way.”

Commercially and technologically, Brice stays current, racking up nearly three billion spins on the Pandora streaming service, and while he has help with his social media outreach, he does as much as he can himself.

“I’ve gotten used to it. I’m old school, but you have to be up on Instagram and the rest of it, and get your music out there,” he said. “I do most of my own stuff. I reach out personally to folks, depending on what they have to say. It’s all about connecting with people.”

When it comes to the songs themselves, Brice stays solidly committed to the country music tradition.

“I’ve walked a fine line between what’s going to be a hit and stuff that I liked,” he said. “It’s tough to stay true to yourself and now go down some new road. Styles change, but if you try to chase the changes, you’re going to fall behind anyway.”

One example that proves his point is his 2014 hit “I Don’t Dance,” about a groom who’s not at ease on the dance floor but dances anyway, which remains a staple at many marriage ceremonies, even five years later.

“I still have people tell me every day, ‘We had that song at our wedding,’ ” Brice said. “There are songs in country music, no matter who wrote them, that will be around forever. That was the intention.”

As he travels, Brice finds that the right territory for reaching country music fans is practically everywhere.

“I’m from South Carolina, and when I first started touring, I wondered if there were going to be country music listeners up north or out west. I didn’t know any better,” he said.

But he has a totally different view now: “There are hard-core, blue-collar, beer-drinking county music listeners all up and down the country, from Canada to Mexico.”

You can reach Staff Writer Dan Taylor at 707-521-5243 or dan.taylor@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @danarts.

If You Go

What: Lee Brice in concert

When: 8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 15

Where: Luther Burbank Center for the Arts, 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa

Admission: $46-$69

Information: 707-546-3600, lutherburbankcenter.org

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