As anybody who watched 'Survivor: Nicaragua' this season can tell you, finalist Chase Rice gave his budding country music career a swift kick in the butt with his performance of his new single 'Buzz Back' on the show's live reunion episode.

In Taste of Country's exclusive interview with Rice -- which we previewed last week with some 'Survivor' chatter -- we talk to the former University of North Carolina linebacker and NASCAR pit crew member about his time on the show, his upcoming EP and how he got over losing a million dollars with the help of one of country's biggest superstars.

Were you surprised with how the 'Survivor' vote went, and did you still get a prize?
Nah, I thought it was going to go exactly how it did. I never asked anybody, but you can get a pretty good handle on it and can kind of feel who people are going to vote for. I got about a hundred grand out of it. It's better than nothing!

Do you still get to bring a personal item on the show? How come you didn't bring a guitar?
Yeah, we do get them, but they didn't get into it this year. I did not take a guitar because I did not want to be the guy who tries to go on a TV show to promote his music. If i could have had it just for myself, that would have been amazing, but no.

When did you start making music?
I've been doing music since my junior year in college. I've been coming to Nashville for two and a half years.  So this isn't something new for me, but it's doing great. It's picking up right now [and] I'm loving it.

What can you tell us about your debut album, 'Friday Nights and Sunday Mornings'?
It's been out a little over a year. It came out in April of 2009. That was something I did while I was in college. I didn't expect to do a full album like that, but we came out with it. You know, it's got some stuff on there, but I'm really more excited about the stuff we're doing now because we have some amazing, amazing stuff coming out in the next month.

You mentioned on the 'Survivor' finale that you're working on a new EP. Where does that stand?
The EP, I think -- don't take my word for it -- but I think we're gonna call it 'Country as Me' because that's the name of one of the songs. But the single we're releasing today is called 'Buzz Back.'

When can we expect the EP?
Well, we've done all the tracking on it. Now all we have to do is vocals.  We're gonna do them in less than two weeks, so it's going to be ready within about a month. We're gonna try to get 'Buzz Back' out and ride that and push it hard to radio stations -- 'cause it's a radio smash. There's songs that you write and record because you love them [and] there's rock songs, but this one is just a radio hit. So, that's why we're pushing that one. It's just a great tune.  The other four [new songs] will be out along with that in about a month.

Should we take a wild guess as to what 'Buzz Back' is about?
It's about dealing with a hangover. You wake up the next day, you're head's hurting, and I've found sometimes the only way to get your headache to go away is to pop open a beer and drink it.

Did it come to you when you were hungover?
One of the guys I write with, Brian Kelley, he's actually part of a group called Florida Georgia Line -- those guys are awesome, they're rocking it right now. Anyway, he was sitting in a pool down in Athens. Some kid comes up, and he's talking about his head, then he popped open a beer. A couple minutes later, he said, "Well, I guess I got my buzz back!" So that's where we got the idea from. Brian told me, I loved it, we took it to our partner Jesse and he helped us finish it. Jesse's a great writer, he's who we go to with all our best stuff.

Jesse and Brian are my producers, too. In Nashville, I've found it's best to branch out and write with a lot of people, but you always need that group of guys you can go to, and my group is Jesse, Brian and Tyler Hubbard. Tyler's also in Florida Georgia Line, so they obviously work well together.

Who are your biggest influences?
You want to talk all-time number one? That's a no brainer. For me, it's Garth Brooks. I love Garth. To me, he's just one of the best entertainers to ever live. I have actually seen him twice in the last week. [Brooks recently played a series of shows in Nashville to help the city recover from the 2010 floods.]  I went to one Monday night when I got back from 'Survivor.'  I figured a good way to get over losing $900,000 was to go see Garth Brooks, and that took my mind right off it. Garth sounds amazing! Garth will always be Garth. He said on Monday night, "The more of these shows I do, the less my voice is gonna be here, so you've all gotta sing for me!" I didn't hear it though -- his voice sounded great to me.

Are you surprised that he was really able to walk away from his career for so long? Wouldn't that be hard?
Well you would think so, but then, as a musician, it's so hard on your body, its so hard on your family and he's just real devoted to his family, so I definitely don't blame him for taking that much much time off.  It's such a hard thing to do, and he's a family man so I respect the heck out of that.

Have you been on the road much yourself?
I've been on the road some around North Carolina, around Florida and Georgia, but not a whole lot recently. We've been focusing on this next EP and writing. I felt, you know, my old album is a good start but it's not enough for me. I want to get better and I think we've definitely gotten better on this next EP. I think people are going to be loving it.

Can we expect to see you on the road soon?
I think we're definitely going to try to get on the road in the early part of the year. A great thing for us to do would be if me and the Florida Georgia Line boys could get on the road together. It's a similar kind of music, we're all best friends, and I think we could get a rowdy crowd in there and have some fun.