Chase Rice is calling his collection of songs The Album because it's the best representation of who he truly is, and reality matches perception this time. The seven songs aren't a dramatic deviation from his previous projects on Broken Bow Records (or before that, Columbia Nashville), but if you compare his first album with this new album, you'll find significant differences.

Age, maturity, a different group of people surrounding him and added life experiences are in large part the reason, but Rice tells Taste of Country he has actively pulled his life together over the last five years. Specifically, he addressed the emotions of losing his father at a young age, and with help from a therapist and lessons learned from an emotional rehabilitation retreat, Rice learned more about who he is and what drives him.

Would 2012 Chase Rice embraced the quiet beauty of "Messy," the most distinctive song from The Album Part I (Jan. 24)? It's unlikely.

"When you’re 22 and lose your dad and don’t deal with it, there's only one thing coming your way, and that’s disaster. And that happened for me."

We talked during CMA Awards week about your anxiousness to get this new music released. Was that because there are certain songs you want people to hear, or was it just because it’s been awhile?

It was mainly because I look at our show, and I think I’ve done a good job. I think I’ve put out good music during my career, but I don’t think I’ve ever consistently put out great music. And I’ll own that. Some of it, like Ignite the Night (2014), at 19 songs. I’m like that damn thing could have been 10. I just know who I am as a person more now. I know who I am as an artist now, producer, singer … overall I’m just in such a better creative space that I’m, like — I really gotta get new stuff out, because I want people to hear these songs and think of me … as opposed to what’s out there already.

Four of the songs were co-produced with Chris DeStefano. Have you worked with him previously?

Yeah, him and I wrote “Ready, Set, Roll” together and that was the first time we’d ever written. Ever since then, Chris and I are two peas in a pod.

Which of the six songs that aren’t released yet are you most excited for fans to hear, and why?

I’d say it’s probably between “Messy” and “Forever to Go.” I’m not real sure which one I could take. Probably “Forever to Go,” but I’m still real intrigued as to what people are going to think of “Messy.” Man, it’s so raw and real, not just production-wise, but lyric-wise, too. It’s like, man — this is real. Everybody in a relationship has s--t that they go through. That’s what love is. You get to be with somebody where you know their shit, but you love ‘em anyway. That’s what “Messy” is all about.

Sonically, you pull back the most on that song. A lot of times you’re heavy in the vocal mix. This one you seem like you pull back away from the microphone.

Yeah, it was just the way I sang it. That’s the way I heard it and that’s the way I sang it.

It’s fun to compare those two songs to songs from your first album. You certainly have evolved quite a bit. Was there a life event or business event that led to you being able to capture some more sensitive sounds?

Yeah, for sure. I lost my dad at 22 and never dealt with it. When you’re 22 and lose your dad and don’t deal with it, there’s only one thing coming your way, and that’s disaster. And that happened for me. Even through “Ready, Set, Roll” and “Gonna Wanna Tonight,” my life was a disaster. And I still got stuff I deal with through that, which is fine. I’m going to be dealing stuff my entire life. I went and got help. I did therapy, did some (emotional) rehab and intensive stuff and it’s stuff I don’t normally talk about, but I don’t have a problem talking about it anymore. If you’re not working on yourself you’re probably going backwards, and I was not working on myself. So I dealt with the death of my dad. I went and dealt with some other personal issues that I got, and I’m going to continue to deal with that, to fight the rest of my life. But at least I’m fighting now.

Broken Bow Records

How long ago did you seek help for those things?

About 2013, so really 2014. My mom, she called me out on so much stuff, she wrote me a letter calling me out on a bunch of shit. And that was December 2013.

Can you point to one thing as an example of that evolution or how the therapy helped?

I don’t really know that I changed anything because I think it happened the way it was supposed to. That’s why I say right now is the beginning of my career. I guess the only thing I would change is there is a bunch of songs that I put out that I would have never put out. Which is fine, and I’m not even talking about hits. None of them were hits. I’d have dialed back to hone in on who I am as an artist.

Was the therapy entirely focused on your father, or were there other experiences you’ve delved into?

Plenty of other stuff, for sure. I thought I was going there to talk about ... I was depressed. I was depressed out of my mind. I thought I was going there to talk about that, which I didn’t even realized I was depressed until a lot of therapy before I went to rehab. It’s cool, man — people think that rehab and therapy is such a negative thing, but that’s the best thing any of us could do, whether you have your s--t together or not.

The Album Part I was released on Friday (Jan. 24), and Rice says a three or four-song Part II will come later this year. On Monday (Jan. 27), Rice will appear on ABC's The Bachelor where he'll perform for Peter Weber during a special one-on-one date. In April he joins Brantley Gilbert's Fire't Up Tour

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