Chase Rice’s new album ‘I Hate Cowboys and All Dogs Go To Hell’ saw me give my first five star review of the year – read the review here – a feat that took till September last year!
Previously known for being a co-writer on Florida Georgia Line’s ‘Cruise’ and hits of his own like ‘Ready Set Roll’ and ‘Eyes on You’, Rice’s new album is something of a departure from what his fans and the media may be expecting. Gone are the click tracks and party instincts, instead ‘I Hate Cowboys….’ is jam-packed full of grit, emotion, authencity and honest-to-goodness Country songwriting. Born from the fires of pandemic isolation and the loss of his father the album is a triumph for Rice. It opens a clear pathway to a strong and critically acclaimed future recording career and we were thrilled to talk to him all about it.
Thanks for your time today Chase, we’re really excited to talk to you about this special album.
You’re welcome, thanks to you to. We’re really excited about it, everyone seems to be saying how different and special the album is. We knew we were on to something interesting but it’s cool to hear other people really believing in it too.
I think it raises you a level in terms of artistry. At what point in the writing or production process did you realise you had something different on your hands.
It wasn’t so much in the writing process as the recording process. I had about 20 songs that I knew I really liked and then I went and recorded with Oscar Charles at my house. I trusted Oscar’s opinion a lot because I loved what he did with Boy Named Banjo on their ‘Circles’ EP. We recorded ‘Key West & Colorado’ and ‘All Dogs Go To Hell’ first and from that point on I thought we might be onto something really cool! Everything was written on acoustic guitars instead of tracks, which made the songs feel very different.
It was a long process but now that we know we can record like that it will be easier next time. Even after we recorded the whole album I was a little nervous about some of the songs and we went in and re-mixed a few and then I began to really get excited about what he had achieved.
There’s a seamless flow to the way the album plays out. Did you put a lot of time into the track listing and sequencing of the songs?
Oh yeah, for sure! We knew that ‘Walk That Easy’ was always going to be up first and that ‘I Hate Cowboys’ should be last. We then had to figure out everything else in between. I feel like the album could almost be two different albums. The first half of the album is all different type of songs for me then you have ‘Bad Day for a Cold Beer’, which is just like an ear-worm jam and then it turns into a different album because ‘Oklahoma’ and ‘I Walk Alone’ hit – I mean, ‘I Walk Alone’ is not even a Country song, right? After that the dynamic just flows in a different way with ‘Sorry Momma’ and ‘If I Were Rock n Roll’.
I kept listening to it over and again and put a lot of effort into trying to figure out how to piece it all together.
Which of the songs was quickest to write and which one took the most work to get it to where you wanted it to be?
Most work was ‘Bench Seat’. It took a long time to write and then I kept returning to it to tweak it. I wrote that by myself and knew the story I was trying to cover but it took a while to come together because I wanted to get it just right.
Quickest was probably ‘All Dogs go to Hell’ or ‘Goodnight Nancy’. With ‘…Dogs’ once we figured out what we wanted to say and flipped all the meanings of things to mean the opposite it was pretty cool how fast that one came together. My favourite line in that song is the ‘John Cash ain’t cool and George Strait ain’t king,’ line.
There are two songs on the album with misleading titles in ‘All Dogs to go Hell’ and ‘I Hate Cowboys’. You’ve mashed them together to create the title of the album. Was that always the plan or was it an inspired moment you had?
It was just a moment. We toyed with the idea of just calling it ‘I Hate Cowboys’. Then we thought, why not add ‘All Dogs go to Hell’ to it to really piss people off! (laughing) As soon as we knew we were using the ‘I Hate Cowboys’ title I wanted to use the picture of my dad as the front cover to let people know that it’s a kind of joke. We then thought we’d put a picture of my dog, Jack, on the back too!
The songs are all full of learning and wisdom. I love the line in ‘Life Part of Livin’ where you sing, ‘Here I am, just a kid going on 35.’ Is that where you are as an artist now? Someone who wants people to listen to what they have to say?
Yeah, for sure. That comes with both being older and living through what we’ve all lived through these past few years. It also comes from writing songs on a guitar rather than being focused on melodies and tracks. When it’s just you and the guitar you have to have something really interesting to say.
I’m just in a different place in life now and the way we wrote these songs was completely different too.
Can you see yourself staying in this lane going forward and producing your next album in the same way?
It’ll stay right here for now. The topics we cover might be different, the songs will sound different but the way we create the next album will be the same. I’m gonna keep writing on guitar and I’m also going to keep producing the next album in the same way. The process will be the same. Hell yeah, I’m not moving away from this! (laughing)
‘Bench Seat’ is clearly the song with the biggest emotional impact on the album and you wrote it by yourself too. Tell me about the story behind it and what happened to your close friend.
Yeah, it was a close friend of mine who almost shot himself. He put the gun to his head but didn’t pull the trigger because his dog came over and put its head on his lap. The weirdest part of that is that for a long time after he perceived himself to be a coward for not being able to do it. I was like, god damn, dude, it was the best decision you ever made. He’s one of my best buddies and I’m so glad he’s still here. He just got engaged last week, so with the help he got, his life is back on track again now.
I let him know that I was writing a song about it up front so that he knew. I don’t need to say his name and all that, but he’s cool with it and he understands that it’s an important message to get out there, in terms of depression and suicide. Especially if it helps another person. The video is so emotional and we hope it resonates with as many people as possible.
‘Oklahoma’ is such a great song. It’s nearly 8 minutes long and the 3 minute outro-jam is insane! How did that song evolve and grow?
I wrote it because I was supposed to go to Texas for New Year last year and the girl got a bit wishy-washy about it so I ended up staying in Oklahoma with Cody Cannon from the band Whiskey Myers. We hunted for five or six extra days and had a blast and I never wanted to leave Oklahoma!
When I took the song to Oscar Charles we really just wrote the truth. We then thought it would be great to get Read Southall involved, given he’s from there, and bring in some authentic, Red Dirt Country vibes too. The recording process on that song was sick! (laughing) We rocked it out, went with false endings and came back in again too! We said we’d play it out and the engineers could fade out after about 90 seconds but they just kept playing for about four minutes! We talked about editing it down for the record but then decided that if people didn’t like it they could just hit next!
Will ‘Oklahoma’ make it into the live setlist? It deserves to.
Oh yeah. I don’t know how quite yet and it will depend on where we are and what other songs blow up and raise their hands from the album. I’d love to play it with Read Southall sometime too. That jam session will definitely happen!!
You’ve already said that you don’t think ‘I Walk Alone’ is much of a Country song. It’s so atmospheric and that last third where you cut loose, vocally, is so strong. Tell me about that song.
Josh Hoge and Jaxson Free sent me a version with Jaxson singing on it. The second verse and the back section of the song hadn’t been written at that point. I just related to it right away. It seemed to relate to my career in terms of having done a lot of it myself and not necessarily always in a good way. That kind of self-induced isolation where I didn’t want to be a part of the industry of Country music when I probably shouldn’t have had that mind set. There’s a lot of good people in our industry.
All that kind of realisation and self-analysis is what this album is about.
Just how biographical and personal to you are the lyrics to ‘Sorry Momma’?
(laughing) My mom raised three boys so they are very, very real. That song is really just an apology to her that she had to put up with all that shit! (laughing) She laughed about it and she enjoys the song. We’ve got a bit of Jerry Lee Lewis piano in there on that song which should sound great live.
How will the album inform your live set lists going forward? Would you ever consider playing it from beginning to end? Can it be interspersed with your older songs and hits?
I’d love to play the album from top to bottom, even if it was just at one show! We’ll figure something out. There will be a lot of songs from this album in the live set, for sure. We might start with hits and then turn it around to this album. The Eagles are touring their ‘Hotel Caifornia’ album in its entirety right now and then playing some other songs after. That’s a cool model to think about.
I love this album so much. To me, it’s the pinnacle of my career and the best thing I’ve done so why would I not play it?