Everything up until now has been rehearsal. That's the way Chris Rice thinks. Today is the important day, and everything in his life up until this point has been the preparation.
This is obvious as he charges forward in his artistry with his new release "What A Heart Is Beating For."
"Following up the radio success of "When Did You Fall' could have been intimidating. But instead, that success set the stage for these next steps I am taking as an artist. I just live life that way--having a sort of laid-back optimism, and building on new opportunities as they present themselves," says Rice.
For Chris, "What A Heart Is Beating For" is a logical step resulting from those opportunities, as well as a launching point for a host of new ones.
The steps leading up to "What A Heart Is Beating For" began in Clinton, Maryland, a suburb of Washington D.C. where Chris was born and raised. A shy kid, according to his family members, who say that even as a kid he "observed everything, and seemed to be studying and mulling over thoughts and people all the time."
The woods and creeks of Maryland, the political and historical scene of Washington D.C., and a house of four brothers, seem like the perfect mix of nature, thinking, and humor to start preparing young Rice for his success as a songwriter and recording artist, who would be well-known for his artful lyrics with clever turns, moving images of creation, and a knack for bringing out at least a couple of smiles per song.
And although never in a preachy way, some of Rice's songs also drop hints of his on-going faith, which he attributes to his wise parents who raised him and his brothers in church, but "never hid us there."
It is this "never-hid-us-there" mentality that has compelled Rice to boldly and deliberately move into the pop AC world, even though his past success has been with Christian radio and retail.
Chris explains, "I never intended to limit the reach of my songs and artistry, and there is absolutely no reason to." There's that optimism again.
From Maryland, and after several years of college-hopping (to figure out what he wanted to be 'when he grew up') Chris finally landed in Tennessee in his mid-twenties, with a Bachelor's degree in Psychology and Communication, and a curiosity about the music business.
"I wondered if I had career potential as a songwriter, and I knew that some publishing companies were in Nashville, a town that had way more appeal to my laid-back personality than the big cities (L.A., New York, Minneapolis, Atlanta) where music was happening."
Chris's first roommate in Nashville, Monroe Jones, helped put together Chris's first song demos, produced his first indie project in 1993, and has produced all of Chris's recordings ever since, including "What A Heart Is Beating For", Chris's sixth studio record.
Jones also invited Rice into a label partnership and birthed Eb+Flo Records, the perfect home for creating his records, with agreements for distribution and marketing through INO and Columbia Records.
Rice's collaboration and history with Jones has led to record sales nearing the 2 million records mark. Not a bad turnout for a random roommate situation over 20 years ago!
"Although we track instruments in 'real' studios around town, all of my vocals over the years have been recorded at Monroe's house, usually with his kids playing around my feet while I'm trying to sing! There's something so relaxing and natural about recording that way, just enough out of the norm, that really comes through on the records."
The new record opens with a fun look at the songwriter's attempt to write a sad song, when the day turns on him and ends up causing him to write a happy celebration of love, called "So Much For My Sad Song."
The title song on Chris's latest, "What A Heart Is Beating For", immediately shows Chris's song potential that goes beyond any one format. Electric guitar opens the song simply, but builds over the course of the song to a powerfully driven emotion-filled rock song.
In similar fashion, "You Don't Have To Yell" is one of Chris's first true 'social statement' songs, calling attention to our addiction to conflict in 'reality' TV, politics, and news analysis. A poignant message that sees the value in disagreeing, and taking a side, but reminds us that "louder doesn't make you right."
"Pardon My Dust" is a richly musical blues/jazz mix that asks the listener to reconsider our quickness to judge, and give each other some room for humanness.
Chris celebrates in "Punchlines And Ironies" the sense of humor built into the universe and into our relationships.
"Lemonade" promises another pop single success for Rice, with his signature optimism, and the idea of falling in love and sharing life with his girl. "We're gonna need another straw!" Remixed and re-mastered for this record.
Crooner Rice shows up in the Sinatra-esque "Here Come Those Eyes."
"Let The Words Escape" is a borrowing and retooling of lines from Elizabeth Barrett Browning sonnets that Chris weaves into a beautifully moving and poetic love song.
Rice's faith statement is made most clearly in the simple re-telling of the gospel story in "Tell Me The Story Again."
The 13-song collection is rounded out with intriguing titles such as "Love Is Gonna Break Through," "Kids Again," and "Sneakin' Into Heaven."
The record closes with a moving, melancholy farewell to a dying friend, building on Shakespeare's phrase, "All the world's a stage" and carrying the metaphor through to the end of her show, titled "Baby Take Your Bow."
WHAT A HEART IS BEATING FOR is a brilliant showcase of the depth and breadth of Chris Rice as an artist and writer, sure to solidify his presence in the wonderful world of music.