Playing sports and showcasing music have some common denominators. Both are about performance and typically feature confident participants.
But elite athletes and recording artists have one major difference, according to Chase Rice, who performs Friday night (8/17) in a Club 5 standing-room-only concert at the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids.
“What you see is what you get between those playing sports,” said Rice of Nashville by phone from Portsmouth, N.H. “It’s evident who beats who when you watch guys between the lines. It’s usually more than fair in the sports world. It’s ‘I win, you lose.’ But in the world of music, some people who move forward might not be as deserving as others. That’s just the way it is. It’s unfair, just like how life is unfair.”
Rice, 32, is well aware of both worlds, since the country recording artist was a starting linebacker for the University of North Carolina, the state in which the Florida-born singer grew up. His football future looked bright until injury issues ended his career on the gridiron.
“There was no doubt that I was headed toward a run in the NFL,” Rice said. “But that just wasn’t meant to be.”
His football career ended a decade ago. Shortly after calling it a day on the football field, Rice picked up a guitar.
“I started learning and playing the guitar and that led to me writing songs,” he said. “The first one I wrote was inspired by my father’s death.”
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That initial number, dubbed “Larger Than Life,’ was never released. However, Rice has crafted four albums worth of material.
“It’s all been natural to me, kind of like playing football,” Rice said. “I love writing songs.”
Many of his peers select songs from professional hitmakers.
“That’s fine for them but that doesn’t work as well for me,” Rice said. “I like to create and have control.”
“Lambs & Lions,” Rice’s 2017 album, contains 10 songs, which are their own entities. He is adept at taking his fans on different journeys with each cut.
“That’s by design,” he said. “I don’t want to make the same song over and over again. What’s the point? With ‘Lambs & Lions,’ I think each song stands on its own. I never wanted to be one of those guys who makes a single and follows with songs that sound exactly like it. I’m not about making a hit. It’s all about the music.”
When Rice agreed to take part in “Survivor: Nicaragua” in 2010, he decided not to exploit the vehicle to advance his musical career. (He made it to the final three.)
“That would be wrong,” he said. “I do all that I can, not to talk about my experience in ‘Survivor.’ If you ask me about it, I’ll talk about it, but I won’t bring it up. It’s something I did. I’m not a reality show kind of person. That show has nothing to do with what I wanted to do with my life, which is to make music.”
Rice hasn’t been writing much of late because of touring. “I’m not there yet when it comes to the next album,” he said. “‘Lambs & Lions’ still has life. The album only came out a year ago. It still feels fresh to me. I know how lucky I am. I get to work at something everyday that I’m passionate about.”
It’s a similar feeling Rice had when he was drubbing the opposition on the football field.
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“I never thought I would find anything that I was as passionate about as football,” he said. “The injuries were blessings in disguise. I love what I’m doing, and what are the odds that I would go from where I was playing football to become a successful country artist?”
Brian Kelley of Florida Georgia Line can relate. Kelley, who is close friends with Rice, was pitching for Florida State University but decided that he would rather become a singer/songwriter. The two co-wrote FGL’s breakout hit, “Cruise.”
“Brian is a hell of an athlete but I think he and I, who were really close when I was starting out, ended up in the right spot. I can’t imagine doing anything else.”
WHAT: Chase Rice
WHERE: Club 5 at the U.S. Cellular Center, 370 First Ave. NE, Cedar Rapids
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday (8/17)
TICKETS: $36.50 advance, $39.50 show day, general admission, mainfloor, standing room only; venue box office, 1-(800) 745-3000 or Uscellularcenter.com/events/
ARTIST’S WEBSITE: Chaserice.com