When you hear that one of Chris Rice's boyhood heroes was marine biologist Jacque Cousteau, and that most of Chris's playtime as a kid was in the nearby creek and in the Maryland woods, and that growing up only expanded his wooded playground to include hiking and backpacking trips around the world, only then you might understand why so many of his songs contain descriptive images of nature.
If you were to look at his calendar for the past twenty years and see how much time he has spent at high-energy, sleep-deprived youth camps and retreats, you'd start to figure out why his songs often talk about sleep and dreams!
When you hear that he comes from a family of strong faith, well, that explains his lyrical fascination with what heaven might be like.
There's a lot of deep stuff on Chris's records, so it's obvious he spends a lot of time musing. He's a self-diagnosed introvert. His family (two parents, four brothers and no sisters) says he was the quiet kid growing up. Did a lot of thinking. Didn't talk much. But even his deep, thoughtful songs are in simple, understandable language, which means he must spend enough time with people to know how to communicate. (His college degree IS in Communication and Psychology, after all.)
"Yeah, I'm pretty introverted. That doesn't mean I don't love to be around people, it just means I have to manage how much time I spend around a lot of people. Friends are not an issue. Strangers are harder to manage."
So how is an introvert, who has a hard time with strangers, able to manage a very public career as a singer/songwriter, having sold over a million-and-a-half CD's to ‘strangers' who want to talk to him, or get an autograph, or get a picture with him?
"I'm not this artsy guy, trying to be mysterious and ironic and unapproachable. In fact, most people are surprised to find out I'm an introvert. I really enjoy people. I have an amazing group of friends and families around me all the time. That's what makes it easy for me to have a public career. I keep my calendar balanced with time on the road and time at home so that I always feel like I have a ‘normal' life mixed in with my public life."
"Balance is the key to sanity!" he says with a chuckle.
That chuckle reveals there is a balance of light-heartedness along with the depth in Chris's songs, as well as in his life. He is known for his unusual and sometimes quirky selection of words in songs that almost force the listener to smile. Words like "clumsy," "whiskery," and "prestidigitator" dot his musings. Phrases like "pillow hair," "knock my halo loose," and "the universe laughs at its joke on me" conjure strange and funny imaginings in the listener's mind.
"That's why I do music. Songs have an amazing way of stretching people in how they think. If I can get someone to consider a very serious subject through a song, then I'm all about it. But at the same time, I want to make people laugh at a funny thought too. Humor stretches people too! The key for me is to take my work seriously, but not to take my work too seriously.
"In one sense, they're just songs. Period. But on the other hand, a song can trigger a thought that might lead to a change. That's not unique to music, though. We ALL have that potential with our lives and our work."
Seems to be a theme for Chris Rice. The balance of depth and light-heartedness seem to be deliberately arranged to encourage listeners toward their potential.
Chris acknowledges very human struggles in his work. He's honest about our internal and external dilemma. He also points to potential and hope. This is where his faith unapologetically steps in. He's never preachy, but he does write of hope and purpose in life. Over the span of his body of work, Chris gets us to think about God and how we are created for connection to him. But never in a condescending way. Just in a matter-of-fact, ‘here's something to consider' kind of way, which appeals to a broad spectrum of people.
"I have always tried to make sure I'm not writing only for people who agree with me. That's too narrow and safe. With all of the philosophies floating around out there in the idea realm, there's room for mine too. You just have to nudge your way around and find a spot. People enjoy good music, and they enjoy considering other peoples' thoughts. (If they didn't, reality TV wouldn't be so popular!)"
Nudging his way around to find his spot brought Chris from his Washington D.C. birthplace and childhood stomping grounds to Nashville, TN some twenty years ago. "I've been here long enough to have an accent now, plus the pace here is way more laid back, like me. I love Tennessee. And I love that I can walk out of the back of my neighborhood and be surrounded by beautiful farmlands and woods. Once again, the great outdoors is still important to me!"
Little did Chris know that his first roommate in Nashville, Monroe Jones, would end up producing all of his CD's and that their friendship would lead to starting up a new label in 2004-2005 called Eb+Flo Records. Facing forward in music business, Eb+Flo also launched an online music store, www.ebflo.com, and became the perfect place for Chris to do his recording. An agreement with INO Records joined the forces of the two labels to become a home for Chris Rice's artistry. INO brings in its relationship with SONY/EPIC Records, further expanding Chris's reach into the musical world.
Chris's latest CD, Amusing (released August 23, 2005) taps into this broad spectrum with a variety of styles and topics. His first radio single "When Did You Fall" is a refreshingly innocent romantic-comedy kind of love song.
The optimistic perspective in "Lemonade" ("…we're gonna need another straw!") balances the melancholy title song "Amusing" ("…this love can never be…").
"The Final Move" is Chris's clear and beautiful declaration of hope for humanity, stating "Paradise has up and flown away for now, but hope still breathes…"
"Tick-Tock" takes a fun and rowdy look at how we measure, waste, use, and get dragged through Time, while "The Best Song Ever" cleverly unites the human race under our shared ideal of something ultimate. "Sleepyhead Sun" nods to our consistent solar roof-warmer as proof of God's care for us.
This collection of songs is rounded out with:
"Love Like Crazy"
"I See The Moon"
Appearing on Chris's new CD is legendary guitarist Duane Eddy, who in his own right sold over 100 million records back in the ‘50's and ‘60's. Mr. Eddy, considered one of the most influential rock ‘n roll guitarists in history, contributes his unmistakable "twang" on the Prelude to the CD, a blending and remixing of sounds from the song "Love Like Crazy" in which Mr. Eddy is also featured.
Says Chris, "I'm completely blown away to have Duane Eddy playing on my CD! I've always felt like an amateur in the music world, and Duane's caliber of musicianship is both humbling and thrilling at the same time. This is fun stuff!"
This IS fun stuff. Mixed with some deep stuff too. That's what you always get with this nature-loving, introverted, youthful, honest writer and singer, Chris Rice.