“Originally, I wanted to be a chiropractor,” Lewis Brice shares. It’s a sunny summer afternoon and the Sumter, South Carolina native has a brand new EP that the world getting to hear. Brice looks – and sounds – born to make a musical impact, a Carolina-bred mix of rock, country, and gospel who’s friendly and engaged from the starting gate. His self-titled debut EP, released this July, is high-octane, a bucking bull of a release that leaves any chance for listener ambivalence choking on its dust. It may be a bit odd to imagine him trading his distressed jeans and Caliville snapback for a doctor’s lab coat, but for Brice, his artistry seems very informed by the what-I-almost-was.
“I love science,” Brice continues. “The curriculum was a two year degree – until I got my two year degree, and they changed it to a four year degree.” Brice was already on the fence about school, so he considered working in his dad’s business back in Carolina. “At the time my brother was here,” he says of brother Lee, whose chart-topping voice is instantly recognizable to any country listener. “I was like, I’ll be a 23 year old kid and I’m gonna go have fun in Nashville.”
Brice worked at a local venue bartending, was in a country duo, appeared on the show Can You Duet? But it was an experience back home, where he was splitting time, that solidified his pursuit of music.
“I was doing some work with my dad, 96 degrees in South Carolina in the middle of a baseball field, six feet deep down in a hole, busting my knuckles on clay to uncover a wire that’s in a pipe to cut the pipe off, cut the wire, put the wire back together, put it back in the pipe, and cover it back up, that nobody ever sees,” he says. His brother Lee has described in similar detail the back-breaking work that he did working for their father, and the profound impact it had on his work ethic – and his desire to be in Nashville. “I’m in the ditch and I’m like nope,” Brice continues. “I already had a little taste of music, what I could do, and I was like, [this] ain’t for me. That day I went home, I learned 25 songs, and I haven’t tuned back since then.”
Countless shows, writing sessions, and studio days led him to Lewis Brice, a debut that demands listener attention. “It’s a Carolina sound,” Brice shares. “When I think of Carolina – my brother, same way – that Carolina sound does have that churchy kind of gospel-y soulful feel, but it has a little swamp influence as well, so there’s that dirty gritty south sound but still the wholesome stuff, some of the gospel stuff.” It manifests beautifully – pay attention, for instance, to the incredible backing vocals on songs like “Rob You Blind.”
“It was never my main focus,” Brice says of creating music. “I was a kid, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. [But once] I made that decision, I haven’t turned back.” He adds that he’s happy now, but he doesn’t need to – it emanates from him, and is pretty easy to hear even one listen into his new music.
“Even though you can’t see somebody, you can tell if somebody’s smiling when they’re singing and when they’re not,” Brice shares as we discuss his approach to laying down vocals for the EP. “You really can. It’s just ’cause you smile, just that little bit, a lot of energy comes out.”
Lewis Brice is definitely smiling.
Listen on iTunes, stream below: