"I grew up on the edge of a cornfield at the end of a long dirt road/ Carolina plough boy, ain't had a free summer since I was ten years old/ mama made us pick our own switches so we could feel the sting of doin' wrong/that set me straight on the road I'm still on." - Picture Of Me - Lee Brice-Kyle Jacobs-Shaun Shankel.

When Lee Brice smashed his elbow, playing gridiron at college, it was a lucky break for him.

The South Carolina born singer-songwriter quit his Civil Engineering degree and headed north to Nashville.

He wrote a brace of hits for major artists diverse as Garth Brooks, Tim McGraw, Blake Shelton and Jason Aldean and landed his original songs in movies.

Now the fast rising star has his own Top 15 hit - a song he didn't write.

Veteran producer Doug Johnson - session supremo for Hank Williams Jr, John Michael Montgomery and Clay Walker - wrote videogenic smash Love Like Crazy with Tim James.

The narrative detailed the timeline of a couple who defied bucolic odds by attaining huge success by chasing their dreams in their hometown.

The video clip, filmed in the Nashville church used by Patty Griffin for her live gospel album Downtown Church is featured on Series #14 of Nu Country TV.

It's the fourth single from an album recorded three years ago and kick started by another Johnson composition She Ain't Right in 2007.

Now the hit has sparked belated release of the singer's debut album and is competing on charts with Brice original Still, recorded by Louisiana born superstar and singing actor Tim McGraw.

Brice, like McGraw who makes his Australian debut tour in September, wants to follow the singing actor here to perform.

But it won't be this year and certainly not his first visit.

He holidayed in Port Douglas the hometown of expatriate Queenslander and Starmaker winner Kylie Sackley - his former girlfriend and fellow hit writer.


"Jeep tyres burn my driveway black/got my John Deere hat turned back/ brother says there's gonna be a fight/Sumter County Friday Night/one black eye and two teeth later/Sumter High and the Lakewood gators/ Brandy May, Nancy Bean, Waiting at the Dairy Queen!" - Sumter County Friday Night - Lee Brice-Jon McIlroy.

Brice shares similarities to McGraw - son of late Philadelphia Phillies and New York Mets baseball champion Tug McGraw.

He grew up on the outskirts of Sumter - a rural town in South Carolina.

Lee's father, a star gridiron player in high school, declined offers to play for Clemson University and instead married and worked as an electrician.

Brice enrolled at Clemson and made the gridiron team until his unlucky break.

After playing the first game of his senior year, Lee woke up one morning unable to straighten his right arm.

"I was long snapping, doing it wrong, extending my arm," Brice, 31, said in a call from his latter day Nashville home.

"My elbow got all torn up. I had surgery but never got back to way it was. My football career was over. I think it might have been a blessing, as you said. It was one of the reasons I got out of town and came to Nashville."

So how does the injury impact on Brice's guitar playing and exercise?

"It doesn't hurt me unless I'm doing something extremely heavy or violent, like throwing a ball really hard. I'm sure when I get old my joints might get to hurt really bad. No, there are no guitar gymnastics like Keith Urban."


"There's a place I wanna to go/where I can hear the cotton grow/ midnight train whistles blow/a dozen miles down the road/and all I have to do is be still." - Still - Lee Brice-Kyle Jacobs-Joe Leathers

Brice credits maternal inspiration for the McGraw hit Still.

"I wrote it about three years ago," Brice revealed.

"My mother gave me the idea for the song - thanks mama. I do a lot of writing in the Florida Panhandle around Panama City at Rosemary Beach. A friend of mine has a house there. I go down with a few friends two or three times a year and write for a few days.

That was one of those times. It's a very inspiring place. I got a personal attachment to it - a cool place to write all the time."

So how did Brice shoot his song to McGraw?

"My publisher got it to him," Brice said.

"He is friends with his producer and his wife - they enjoyed a lot of stuff I put out. They said 'when you've got a song bring it over to us - we're always all ears for you.' That was one of those songs - we hit it from different angles."


"We got the horses moving/we got woofers grooving/we got the Waylon ailing/everybody's head is bobbing/I got the muffler flowing/I got my horn a blowing/I got the rubber burning/down on all fours." - Four On The Floor - Lee Brice-Kyle Jacobs-Garrett Parris.

That was also the conduit for landing an original in another new McGraw movie Love Don't Let Me Down.

"Gwyneth Paltrow plays a songwriter and Tim is her manager-husband," Brice revealed.

"That's really cool. My song Boy is in it. I'm really excited about it."

So was Brice aware that fellow South Carolina born singer-songwriter Marshall Chapman played Paltrow's tour manager in the movie?

"Wow, I didn't know that," Brice laughed.

"There are now movies with my songs. I had another Four On The Floor in Camille. It's also on my album."

Camille, made in 2007, stars Sienna Miller, James Franco, Ed Lauter, David Carradine, Scott Glenn and Mark Wilson.

The Waylon Jennings inspired Four On The Floor, penned with Kyle Jacobs and Garrett Paris, shares billing Doug Johnson song Anybody But Me, Craig Wiseman-Hal Ketchum collaboration One More Midnight and Cowboy Crush.

It's described as a "twisted honeymoon adventure about couple on way to Niagara Falls."


"Got some gas and won the lottery/now I'm investin' in my neighborhood/ my friends and family, they're all livin' pretty good!/my trailer park's full of Cadillacs/and upper middle class white trash/well I got my homeboy Chris a brand new shop/for all those cars on cinder blocks/and cousin Charlie, well he thinks it's cool/to keep a large mouth bass in his new swimmin' pool." - Upper Middle White Class Trash - Lee Brice-Jon McIlroy.

Brice's life is equally colourful - he was raised on gospel in church and at the age of seven began learning piano.

At 10 he wrote songs, soaking up diverse influences and harmonies of his father's albums by Alabama, Oak Ridge Boys and Statler Brothers.

He was sheltered from popular music of the day.

"I got my first clock radio when I was twelve," Brice recalls, "just as Garth Brooks was becoming huge. He's the reason I first picked up a guitar to write - he had a definite effect on my writing."

But the immediate environs of the town and back-roads fuelled original songs on his album, released on June 8.

"It's a slice of my home town," Brice explained.

"The whole record is a picture of me - a collage of songs and pictures of me. My dad was an electrician in Sumter. It now has population of about 30,000. We lived out in the country, down dirt roads, that kind of thing. Daddy worked for the power company forever and then started his own electrician business and is still doing that. I grew up hunting and fishing - that kind of deal."


"Cause when you're dialling her number just to hang up the phone/ driving cross town just to see if she's home/waking a friend in the dead of the night/just to hear him say it's gonna be alright/when you're finding things to do not to fall asleep/'Cause you know she's waiting in your dreams/that's when she's more than a memory." - More Than A Memory - Lee Brice-Kyle Jacobs-Billy Montana.

It was a different circuit that enabled Brice to score a #1 hit for Oklahoma superstar and mentor Garth Brooks.

More Than A Memory, one of only four new songs on Brooks Ultimate Greatest Hits, was the first in Billboard chart history to debut at #1.

"I woke up in the middle of the night and started writing that song," Brice recalled.

"I wrote half of it and told Kyle Jacobs about that. We mulled over it whenever we got together. We talked about it over a couple of months and thought it was time to write it. We sat down with Billy Montana and finished it. It didn't take long, maybe a day of writing. But it took about three or four months to make sure we had it mapped out in our heads."

Ironically, it was another latter day superstar who was the first to record a Brice song.

"Kenny Chesney actually recorded Sumter County Friday Night," Brice recalled.

"He got into a vocal booth and felt it wasn't quite him. He recorded it but it didn't make the album. It was my first song I had recorded by an artist."

But it's second time lucky for Brice.

"Kenny has just recorded another song of mine, it was really special," Lee confessed.

"He did an amazing version of Seven Days A Thousand Times. A guy goes back to this time when he meets a girl on the beach - he goes back to that for that whole week stretch. I wrote it with Billy Montana. We don't write a lot together but when we do it's special. I wrote a couple with him yesterday. We had a good day yesterday."


"They called him crazy when they started out/ said seventeen's too young to know what love's about/ they been together fifty-eight years now, that's crazy/ he brought home sixty-seven bucks a week/ bought a little two bedroom house on Maple Street/ where she blessed him with six more mouths to feed." - Love Like Crazy - Doug Johnson-Tim James

But the hit that's breaking Brice worldwide is Love Like Crazy - tale of a country couple who took chances at 17, wed, ran their own business and remained together for 58 years.

The song is accompanied by an evocative video and featured in the new series of Nu Country TV and also on CMT and CMC.

And, with sweet serendipity, it was filmed at the same historic Nashville Presbyterian Church where Patty Griffin recorded her live gospel CD.

"I had a great director, he had some folks in mind for the video," Brice explained.

"I'm not sure if he knew them or what. He did a good job at a big church in downtown Nashville. We were in the pews of the church and hallways - a really cool set. It's a church in 5th Street, very big famous church here in Nashville."

So was the Maple Street in the lyrics in Sumter or a generic grove?

"Doug wrote that," Brice quipped, "only he knows. There are probably Maple Streets in nearly every town in America."

The single's chart success has enabled the album to be belatedly released in the U.S. on Brice's 31st birthday - June 8.

"That's a lot higher chart position than ever before," Brice added.

"I've had two or three Top 30 songs but this is much higher. It's rocking along, really changed my life. We got first copy of the album yesterday."


"We've got barefoot ladies and tricked out Mercedes" - Sunshine And Summertime - John Rich-Rodney Clawson-Kylie Sackley.

Brice had plenty of inside info on Australia after a two-year romance with a former Tamworth Starmaker Winner.

"I dated a girl for a couple of years who is from there," Brice confessed. "She's a great songwriter here in town in Nashville. We then dated for a couple of years. I came down for about 12 days, was above Port Douglas where she was from."

That seemed like enough clues for the sleuth - yes, it was Kylie Sackley.

Sackley, now 28, decamped to Nashville to chase her dreams after her triumph at 18 in the 2001 Tamworth Starmaker quest.

The singer-songwriter penned LeAnn Rimes Top 5 hit Nothing 'Bout Love Makes Sense with ex-Pure Prairie League singer Gary Burr and Joel Feeney.

It was on Rimes 12th album, This Time, that sold 100,000 copies in its first week.

< Kylie Sackley

Then there was the collaboration with John Rich and Rodney Clawson on Sunshine And Summertime off Faith Hill's sixth disc Fireflies that peaked at 329,000 copies on debut as it topped pop and country charts.

Now Sackley is celebrating the huge success of Georgian born superstar Alan Jackson's latest hit single It's Just That Way that she penned with hotshot producer Keith Stegall.

Stegall, a prolific songsmith, also produced fellow expat Novocastrian Catherine Britt's debut Nashville album with Bill Chambers.

So how did Brice meet Sackley?

"I met her in a studio, she was doing a vocal," Brice recalled.

"She was kicking back the whiskey. I thought you know I like a girl like that. She was singing her butt off. She was doing it for her own demos. We then hung out a songwriters festival."

The relationship was a nice little earner for both budding stars.

"We wrote songs together," Brice confided.

"In fact we wrote what might be my next single Some Things Never Change. I loved it when we came over there - we wrote a lot of songs that will be cut by other people. She's an amazing writer. We had a great connection in writing songs together. We wrote one after we broke up - even that song's great too. It's called Some Hearts Bend."

A fruitful legacy, I asked?

"Yes, I'll never forget it," Brice added.

"We were together two years. She's an awesome person. But at her point in life she was about ready to move on."


"They called him crazy when he quit his job/they send him computers boy they'll never take off/well he sold his one man shop to Microsoft/and they paid like crazy." - Love Like Crazy - Doug Johnson-Tim James.

Although Brice is now enjoying success as an artist it was his writing that landed him the recording deal.

"I usually start writing for myself," Brice says.

"But if I get half way into a song and think this is not for me, maybe it might work for Chesney or someone else I go in that direction. I try to write the songs the best that I can."

Those beneficiaries include Oklahoma star Blake Shelton - long time partner of Texan Miranda Lambert.

"My song There'll Always Be You is on Blake's first Six Pack release," Brice added.

"He did a great job on it. I'm really excited."

Canadian Adam Gregory also recorded the Brice song What It Takes.

So how has Brice's success changed his touring?

"I have been touring on my own, playing up to 3,000 seat venues," he explained.

"I also did 20 shows with Clay Walker and 12 dates with Dierks Bentley. I opened up acoustic with Willie Nelson with just my guitar player at a gig in Alabama. That was a pretty receptive crowd as Willie has that reputation."

And what about the debate on modern country?

"I love what I'm hearing on the radio today," Brice said.

"People aren't trying to be perfect or slick anymore. It reminds me of records back in day when everything sounded like it was played live."

In many ways the singer is emulating the characters in his hits.

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