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Getting personal: Family man Brice still turning out the hits

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    Lee Brice performs during the Northwest Ohio Rib Off in 2017. The country artist will be the headlining act at this year's Rib Fest, as well, set to perform Saturday.

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    Lee Brice

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    Steve and Hollie Schwochow of Detroit take their daughter Cali, 7, to the Lee Brice concert during the 34th Annual Northwest Ohio Rib Off Friday, August 18, 2017, in Maumee, Ohio.

    The Blade/Jeremy Wadsworth
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Lee Brice’s fourth album, released last November, is self-titled, a common move for a new artist, but not so much for an established superstar.

“Hey, someone reminded me that Metallica’s [fifth] album was self-titled, and it was their biggest record. If they can do it, I can do it too,” Brice says with a hearty laugh.

Digging into the production and tracks on the album, the Lee Brice name actually makes a lot of sense. 

“When I name an album, I look for a song that has a ring to it or a piece of the whole album in it, and there were a lot of songs like that on this album. And the record was more of a heart-on-my-sleeves type of album,” Brice says. “And when I was recording it, I was playing the guitar. I was playing a lot of the instruments, and my band from the road was playing with me. I didn’t do any computer tricks. I just let it be a band-playing-music record.”

It is also the most personal album for Brice, who has five No. 1 hits, has sold more than 11 million albums in his career, and was inducted into Pandora’s “Billionaires Club” in June for having more than 2 billion streams of his music on Pandora.

If you go

Lee Brice

When: 8 p.m. Saturday.

Where: The Blade’s 35th Northwest Ohio Rib Off presented by Taylor Automative Family, Lucas County Fairgrounds, 1406 Key St., Maumee. Gates open at noon.

Tickets: $12 in advance at all Tireman locations, Buckeye Broadband Stores, etix.com, and Stranahan Theater or $15 at the gate.

Information: nworiboff.com

His current single, “Rumor,” which uses clever word play in the chorus, is a homage to his small-town South Carolina upbringing. Another cut on the album, “Songs in the Kitchen,” is one of Brice’s favorites and recounts the times of singing in the kitchen and in the car with his brother Lewis, or squirming in a church pew.

The first single off the album, “Boy,” which was not written by Brice, reads almost like a letter to his sons, Ryker, 4, and Takoda, who will be 10 at the end of August. The lyrics hit home with Brice, especially the idea of being a boy and thinking you know everything and believing your dad is trying to hold you back.

“The things I write are very personal to me, like taking pictures of my life. ‘Boy’ is the same way,” Brice says. “The funny thing is that I didn’t think about my two boys before I thought of my daddy. I get all the times I thought he was being hard on me or not wanting me to have fun. Now I understand. Everything he did, he was trying to teach me or love me or trying to help me get ahead in the world. Now that I have my boys, I’m trying to teach them and love them in the same way, and they are like, ‘Daddy!’ “

If a fan gets the impression that family is almost everything to Brice, then they have a good reading on the man. He is married to his longtime sweetheart, Sara, a Youngstown native, and besides Ryker and Takoda, the couple has a daughter, Trulee, 1. The whole family (though Sara was pregnant with Trulee at the time), even the dog, appears in the video for “Boy,” which was shot on Brice’s Nashville-area farm. Brice has built a fully equipped studio on his bus to limit the time he needs to work. He brings friends and co-writers on the road with him.

“I’ll get a lot of my writing, my producing, my record and demos recorded out on the road,” Brice says. “When I get home, I can be with the kids, be with my wife, just have that time with them.”

But his songwriting is one of his strengths as an artist, so he tackles it in concentrated bursts – on his bus and at a yearly retreat, which he has coming up soon near Panama City Beach, Fla.

“I get five of my best friends and co-writers together and we’ll have a house and do nothing but write for five days,” Brice says. It is a strategy that Eric Church has used effectively. Church writes almost all of his songs in a cabin in the mountains of North Carolina.

“I wake up and literally all we do is write songs. I get in a real groove,” Brice says. “ ‘Rumor’ came out of a retreat three years ago. You just can’t get that vibe or energy by showing up at an office in Nashville to write.”

Brice’s appearance at last year’s The Blade’s Northwest Ohio Rib Off was memorable. It attracted the largest crowd in the event’s 35-year history, and the fans were ready to party. “They are rabid up there, bro,” Brice says in remembering the appearance.

So fans can expect more high energy when he cranks up his hits, “Parking Lot Party” and “Drinking Class.” But make no mistake, the sensitive Brice knows what his sweet spot is. His biggest hits are from his heart: “A Woman Like You,” “Hard to Love,” “I Drive Your Truck,” and “I Don’t Dance.”

“If I have to be really honest, my performances that are most authentic and deepest are the ballads, the things that matter, the big vocal moments. Performing songs that matter are most natural for me. I love ‘Parking Lot Party’ and I love ‘Drinking Class,’ but they don’t appeal to me as much as ‘Songs in the Kitchen’ or ‘I Don’t Dance’ – or even ‘Boy.’ “

Whatever he is doing, 2 billion streams seem to be a pretty good indicator that it’s working.

“Billionaire’s Club – with a ‘B,’ “says the country hitmaker with a chuckle. “B for Brice!”

Lee Brice will headline The Blade’s Northwest Ohio Rib Off at 8 p.m. Saturday, with Kasey Tyndall opening for him. Gates open at noon. Tickets are $12 in advance at all Tireman locations, Buckeye Broadband Stores, etix.com, and Stranahan Theater or $15 at the gate. More information can be found at nworiboff.com.

Contact Brian Dugger at bdugger@theblade.com or on Twitter @DuggerBlade.

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