| NASHVILLE, Tennessee
NASHVILLE, Tennessee It's a tough decision to make -- tour with one of your best buddies in country music or with one of your heroes. Fortunately for Lee Brice, whose "Love Like Crazy" was Billboard's most played country song in 2010, he gets to do both.
The singer heads out on The Higher Education tour with his friend Jerrod Niemann on March 10, hitting more than a dozen college towns. Then in May, he joins Willie Nelson and guests Jamey Johnson and Randy Howser for the Country Throwdown tour.
Brice gets nostalgic when talking about his college shows and playing with Neimann, who has been by his side for years. As for touring with country legend Nelson, the 30 year-old Brice says he is just "ecstatic."
"I'm excited about going out with Jerrod. We've been running together since we both moved to Nashville -- working, playing, rocking out and dreaming about being on the charts and on the road," he told Reuters.
Brice, who was raised in rural South Carolina, said performing with Niemann will be fun, but writing songs with his old buddy is truly what he is looking forward to doing.
"There's a magic between us when we write. We have had (songs performed) by Kenny Chesney and Blake Shelton, so I'm looking forward to that," Brice said.
As for Nelson, Brice grew up listening to and loving the country star, and the idea of spending three months touring with Nelson is something of a dream come true.
Brice said that he also would love to just sit down with the old master and write some songs. "Who knows?" Brice said, "He's been known to do something like that."
2010, A BANNER YEAR
Brice is coming off a banner year in 2010. "Love Like Crazy" broke Country Music Hall of Famer Eddy Arnold's record 54-week run on the Billboard country singles chart, which Arnold did with "Bouquet of Roses" back in 1949.
"Love Like Crazy" racked up 57 weeks on the chart, climbing as high as No. 3. It also was named the most played country single of the year by Billboard.
"When something like this happens, it takes you to another step in your career and it changed my life," Brice said.
The singer has released another single, "Beautiful Every Time," which is already in the top 30 on Billboard's country singles chart. He said he has a good feeling about it because he thinks people can relate to its message of realizing that everyday occurrences can be beautiful every time you experience them. Musically, Brice says the tune is different than anything on the radio.
The singer co-wrote the song with Rob Hatch, who he calls "a redneck from Florida" with a tender side that comes out in his songs.
Brice liked the title immediately, and loved the song even more when he heard the story behind it. Hatch hadn't been to his native state for a long while, before finally returning for a wedding.
Hatch told Brice that when he walked over the states' sand dunes and saw the ocean, it literally took his breath away, and he hit on the song's title from that experience. The two sat down and wrote about other experiences that are beautiful, like a baby sleeping and the sight of a blushing bride.
"Love Like Crazy" (released in June, 2010) is Brice's debut album and while the singer/songwriter said he could have released a CD in 2007, he is glad he waited.
"It would not have been near the album we have now," he admitted. "Being out on the road changes your perspective, and you start to grow as a person.
"These past few years I learned that, as a songwriter, I can focus on quality, not quantity. I have less time to write now, but I only focus on a song that will be something special."
(Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)