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Chris Rice Chris Rice

'What An Audience Is Waiting For'

Chris Rice continues to head in a fresh direction with his new studio release, What A Heart Is Beating For, on INO Records/ Columbia.

Rice is perhaps best known for last year’s top 10 mainstream AC radio hit, “When Did You Fall (In Love With Me?)”, which has subsequently become a wedding staple. Currently, Rice’s new single, “Lemonade” is soaring up the Billboard AC chart.

The new album, produced by Monroe Jones, also features the provocative stand-out track “You Don’t Have to Yell”, a song which calls the media to task for creating news and not reporting it, reality television for emphasizing shouting matches as a solution, and criticizes narrow-mindedness and intolerance.

After more than a decade in the music business that brought industry accolades, sales success and a loyal fan base, the singer/songwriter could have become accustomed to the status quo. He might have continued down the same path, reaping the same rewards, but that’s not what a true artist chooses to do, and it’s not what Chris Rice did. Instead he took a chance with his last album, “Amusing.” He left the security of his previous label home and partnered with longtime friend/producer Monroe Jones to become co-owner in the innovative imprint Eb + Flo. Then joining forces with INO/Columbia Records, Rice set out to expand his audience.

Taking it from the top and what were your musical influences growing up and how many still factor into your music today? Chris Rice - "I listened to so little music. I do remember Jim Croce, and Andrae Crouch, and my first memory of “Band On The Run” on the radio. High school was The Bee Gee’s era, you know, “Saturday Night Fever”. Choosing influences is hard. I guess I was soaking music in without knowing it, and I’m not sure who to blame for what I’m doing now."

For the Average Joe who may not have heard of you and was thinking of buying your new CD, how would you yourself describe your sound? "There is a variety of sounds on my new CD, from lighthearted pop, to more serious medium rock, to even a few Sinatra-esque songs."

Your bio has you pinned as a 'Maverick spirit with a creative passion,' but is that also how you see yourself, perhaps? "I’m pretty bonkers about creativity in all forms. I’m also a pretty reserved, more quiet person. But the ‘maverick’ part of me is the part that’s just stubborn enough to not let other people dictate how I use my creativity."

Your album title 'What A Heart Is Beating For' is an interesting choice, but perhaps it originates from a more personal standpoint for you? Is there a theme to it, perhaps? "Throughout human history and literature, the heart has come to symbolize life and purpose, and mostly love. A lot of the songs on this CD point to different aspects of love, whether romantic, or love for needy humans, or hints of connecting to God, so if there’s a theme on this CD it would be: “Love without reserve. That’s why we exist. Don’t hold back".”

Indeed, how easy (or hard) is it to constantly create a new, vibrant, wanted-by-the-public sound that both builds on and surpasses the musical wonderment's/accomplishments that preceded it within the industry? "It’s pretty challenging to find your spot in the creative world. Modern music especially has the constant challenge of creativity vs. commerce, balancing what it takes to reach a public through the commerce-driven channels, and still creating unique work that stretches myself and an audience. Mostly, for me, I try to listen enough to current music to stay in touch with what people are listening to now, but continue to be myself. I figure if I’m enjoying the writing and performing, than I will probably be able to find other people who connect with my work."

Please tell us more (in a quick fashion!) about what was going on in your life when these songs were being written and recorded:

'So Much For My Sad Song' - "I’m often called out for being too optimistic, so I thought I would make a fun song about trying to write something sad, but having all the elements turn against me, ending up with a happy song anyway."

'Pardon My Dust' - "I’m amazed at how critical we all are of each other. This song just comes out of a need to give each other some slack, as we are in process, under construction."

'Punch Lines and Ironies' - "I see humor built into the universe. There’s a reason we humans are drawn to humor, and to irony in stories and movies. It’s kind of built into us. Not denying suffering and pain at all. But even looking at relationships, it’s amazing how most stories behind ‘how we met’ or ‘how we fell in love’ seem to be peppered with the funny and ironic twists. Our stories are interesting. I wanted to point that out in this song."

Please take us back to the time when you were in the backseat of a station wagon belting out 'Band On The Run' with your brothers! Where had you been coming back from or indeed where were you headed? "I was a pretty young kid. Don’t even remember the year. My two brothers, and our three next door neighbor kids, were sitting in a station wagon in a parking lot at a small office supply shop where the neighbor dad worked. I guess he was running in to pick up something and left us all in the car with the radio on. My first introduction to a good ‘hook’ in a song was the point where all of us boys were singing along with the chorus, like rockstars: “Band on the run! Band on the run!” I even remember thinking in my elementary school aged head, “I wonder what that means?” as I belted out the lyrics at the top of my lungs."

What '80s (and possibly cheesy!) pop/rock song would you love to cover today if asked ... and why?! "Don Henley’s “Boys Of Summer” It’s probably one of my favorite songs ever. It feels great! It makes me remember the feelings of being a teenager. It has an amazing instrumental hook in the intro and throughout the song. It moves at the perfect pace. I just love this song!"

Lastly, and throwing in a comedic curve ball, Exclusive Magazine love Penguins ... do you?! "I AM a penguin! Of course I love penguins!"

Interviewed by Russell A. Trunk

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