Last year, newcomer Lee Brice proved to the world of country music that he was here to stay. His single, 'Love Like Crazy,' took a record-breaking 55 weeks on the chart to reach its peak position at No. 3. The gold-certified digital single was also named Billboard's 2010 Most Played Song of the Year. Besides success with his own hit, Brice is an accomplished songwriter, having penned Garth Brooks' smash 'More Than a Memory' and Tim McGraw's recent power-ballad 'Still.'

Brice has since released his second single, 'Beautiful Every Time,' from his 'Love Like Crazy' album, and like its lead-off single, it too is in a steady climb to the top.

Taste of Country caught up with the singer while on the road in the midst of his co-headlining Higher Education Tour to discuss tour life and the long journey that has landed him as one of country music's hottest new stars.

The road to now has been a long time coming for you …
I’ve been in Nashville for over 10 years. When I came, I signed a deal a couple of years later, but it was a publishing/record deal. So I was just writing, writing, writing. For the last four years that we’ve had singles out, I’ve been on the road constantly and writing. I had a little success as a writer, but as an artist, you’ve got to just keep trucking along. You wake up every day and go play another show, then another show and another show. When you get a couple of big hits under your belt, then you can kind of start sailing along.

Reflect on the past year of your life and career and where you are now.
Just like anything in life, when you work hard for something, it’s really nice to see benefits from it and see stuff actually working and happening. I’m really blessed. The song ‘Love Like Crazy’ is such a great song and such a hit, and we knew that. Sometimes as a new artist, it’s tough to get people on board with a new song just because you’re new and there are only so many slots. It was a fight because we wanted to fight for it. We knew that if we could get it to enough ears it would be a hit. It was a struggle, but it was positive. We were just excited. Every week we were moving up a slot or staying the same … you work hard enough at something, and it ended up paying off. We couldn’t be more thankful.

What has been the biggest adjustment you’ve had to make in the past year?
Being on the road, sometimes it’s so tough to stay feeling good and stay in shape and that kind of stuff. You don’t really sleep, you’re awake all the time … you’re on the road so you’re eating bad … I’ve taken a personal step to just try to get in shape.

How do you manage to stay in shape while touring?
I’m actually training with a trainer out on the road. He’s a pro-fighter, so I’m learning to box and wrestle. I’ve been eating good, and just trying to feel better all around about my health. We’re out here working, so you’ve got to stay in good shape to do it and do it well. I want to do it well. I want to give everybody my best, so I’ve been feeling good lately. It’s been a positive thing.

Do you find it more difficult to write now that you’re on the road so much?
It’s definitely harder to find time to write, but luckily I’m out with Jerrod Niemann right now on the Higher Education Tour, and there’s nobody in the world I’d rather write with than him. So he and I have been sitting down together a lot and writing. I’ll bring out my friends who I write real well with and hang out well with out on the road for a weekend and we write songs. It’s harder, but we get it done. I’m really able to focus on me for writing songs instead of writing songs for a lot of other people. It’s fun to be able to write stuff for me and my future.

Are you more selective these days as to what songs you will allow other artists to cut now that you are in "artist mode" for yourself?
Oh, yeah [laughs]! Oh, yeah! These days it’s going to be tough to let a big hit go because that’s what we’re looking for every day as an artist. We’re looking for those hits. If I write something special, I’ll keep it for myself [laughs]!

How has your songwriting evolved over the years?
Well, it’s just like anything else. It’s like interviewing somebody or building a house. You get better and better at it over the years. It’s those little instincts of life -- is this song really worth writing about? Can it really be something? I’m getting better at being able to catch that early so I can say, you know what … let’s move on. Let’s find some better ideas. Then when you’re in the middle of it, I feel like the longer I’m around radio and hit songs, the more you can recognize a hit song when you’re writing it. It’s just those little things that you get better at, those little muscles. I’m just trying to learn as much as I can.

You mentioned that you're out on the co-headlining Higher Education Tour with Jerrod Niemann. How have the first couple weeks been?
We’ve had about six or seven shows now, and they’ve all been sold out. We are so excited about that. We wanted to get out and we wanted to reach out to the younger crowd because they’re our future, you know? They are the future of country music. So it’s kind of a college tour, so that’s why it’s called the Higher Education Tour. We’ve got to teach them a little bit about partying [laughs]. It’s turning out to be so fun. Jerrod and I always played together and always hung out when we were just in Nashville, so it’s really like going back to the old days. We’re out on the road together, writing songs, playing good music and having fun. Both bands get on stage at the end, and we jam out. It is a blast.

Then you don't get a lot of downtime when the tour wraps because you're heading out on Willie Nelson's Country Throwdown Tour.
Yeah! I grew up listening to all kinds of music, and Willie Nelson was one of my favorites. On top of that, two of my other great friends are on that tour: Randy Houser and Jamey Johnson. For me, to be able to go on tour with all three of them is going to be a dream come true. It is a "Country Throwdown Tour" because I’m sure we’re going to be throwing down and hanging out with Willie every night. I am so excited to just be able to sit there and be quiet and listen to Willie talk!

Tell us a little bit about the new single, 'Beautiful Every Time.'
It’s such a cool story. I wrote it with a couple of friends of mine -- Lance Miller and a guy named Rob Hatch. Rob Hatch, for a lack of better words, is a redneck from Florida. He kind of talks like [the character in] ‘Sling Blade,’ you know? Just a good ol' country boy! You wouldn’t think coming from this burly redneck guy that something this sensitive would come out of a man like that. The song was something that happened to him. He's from Florida, so he grew up around the beaches and around the ocean, like I did in Myrtle Beach, S.C. He says, "Lee, I went back home a while back, and I went to a wedding ... I’ve got this great song idea. I went out to the wedding on the beach. I smelled the ocean, and even though I grew up around it and I’m used to it, it still took my breath away. I thought to myself, 'That’s beautiful every time.'"

What has the feedback from your fans been like on the song when you sing it live?
I’m getting great feedback. It’s really cool. We did a video for it, and we’ve got a line in there that talks about things that are beautiful every time. One of those things is a soldier coming home alive. In the video, instead of just a guy soldier, we actually had a female soldier coming home to her kids. That’s been really touching a lot of people. A lot of women and ladies are responding. It’s really cool to see that side of the military and that hero -- the mother that’s out there. It’s connection, and we’re happy.

Watch the Lee Brice 'Beautiful Every Time' Video