Chase Rice might be a country newcomer, but he's hardly an unknown. In addition to being a promising linebacker for the University of North Carolina football team and finishing second to Fabio Birza during the 21st season of 'Survivor,' the 27-year-old helped write 'Cruise,' a Florida Georgia Line hit you'd have to travel to the moon to get away from.

It's a safe bet that a song from Rice's debut EP 'Ready Set Roll' will soon blanket radio airwaves. Everything this guy touches seems to turn to gold, or Platinum, or -- as is the case with 'Cruise' -- multi-Platinum.

"I think it comes from my Dad," Rice says when put on the spot about what thread runs through all of his achievements. He tells Taste of Country it's because he only knows one speed, and never slows down. "My dad was that way, and that's the way I'm built."

Rice is currently an independent artist flirting with, but not committing to, signing with a major record label. He recognizes the advantages, but doesn't think it's impossible to have a hit song without label support. 'Cruise' almost was that song. The track was working its way up the charts before FGL signed with Republic Nashville in 2012.

"I think that song could have gone No. 1 without a record label," the native of Ormond Beach, Fla. says. Six of the seven songs on 'Ready Set Roll' will draw comparisons to the sound Luke Bryan and Florida Georgia Line helped make famous, but it's the last song -- a soft ballad called 'Jack Daniels and Jesus' -- that may be the most important to the project. Rice spoke with ToC about his debut, as well as how the money he earned writing 'Cruise' has helped his solo career.

ToC: Is the football recruiting process similar to the Music City recruiting process?

Chase Rice: Yeah. The funny part is, I got my first offer from Duke University when I was a sophomore in high school. The way it's most similar is as soon as Duke offered me, then all of a sudden (North) Carolina is there, Florida State is there, Tennessee … It's similar in that way where as soon as one label wants you, the other one is like, "Oh, who is this guy?"

The way it's not similar, is the way we've built it. In college football I couldn't play college football without those schools. In music … I can have a career without a label.

Is imitation a form of flattery when it comes to country music?

I guess so, but I don't try to focus on what too many other people do. Florida Georgia Line, people can compare me to them or whatever, it makes perfect sense. I co-wrote one of their biggest songs. I'm not gonna shy away from that just because FGL does it, that's just what I do and that's what I've always done since I got here (to Nashville).

As far as production goes, I'm trying to find different ways -- that's one place you can separate yourself. Florida Georgia Line guys, that got Joey Moi, who's great. He's a rock producer. I've got Chris DeStefano and Scott Cook, those guys are a mix between rock and hip-hop, so now that's the challenge. Trying to find different ways to separate yourself from guys like Luke (Bryan) and Florida Georgia Line. And everyone is talking about Florida Georgia Line right now because they're so hot, but you know Luke was doing it also before them. I guess everyone tries to go after what's hot, but now my goal is to find … what's gonna be next.

The song 'Jack Daniels and Jesus' is the one on the album that stands out from the rest. How important was including a song like that to round it out?

That's huge. The production is huge -- these songs are loud, rowdy party songs. That's what's hot right now. But as a songwriter, I moved to town to write songs, so showing that other side of me is extremely important. I wanted to break that song down with me, a piano and some strings on there. And it shows we can do the party thing, but we can also do this songwriter side.

How does the financial security from a song like 'Cruise' influence what you've done or what you'll do moving forward?

That's a huge blessing. I don't have a record deal, and record companies have a lot of money. They front the money and they can pay for a lot, and I don't have that security. So me making money from a song like that if it allows me to put it back into -- instead of going to buy a house or going to buy a bunch of fancy whatever -- I decided to put it back into my career. Put it back into helping the band out, better equipment, helping our shows out, have more lights, more rises. Putting better production into songs. That's allowed me to take this next step as far as how production sounds in my live shows.

I don't wanna have to owe anybody money. It's my own money and I'm cool with continuing to do that.

You're a good follow on Twitter. Have you ever gotten in trouble for anything you said?

[laughs] Not yet. I'm trying to completely avoid gettin' in a lot of trouble for anything I say but yeah, I do speak my mind on there, and it's me that posts most of the stuff on there.

Where's the line? I saw the one tweet you posted about the government shutdown (I really wish I could give my opinion on this government situation. It would start with the word F---. And end with O***A, Rice tweeted). Did you get any reaction to that?

Not really. Everyone seemed OK with that. That was too far, for sure. That's probably one of the top two ones I've ever done that's too far. But I mean … I'm not going to say much more about that. I stated my opinion, but it's absolutely -- we gotta get that cleaned up, whoever's job that is.

Is drinking and tweeting a good idea, or bad idea?

Oh, it's terrible [laughs]. I remember one night, it was during my time off. I was down at Tin Roof here in town and I was drinking all night and decided to get on Twitter and go on a rampage. But I never ended saying anything bad, so that was good. It was more actually funny than bad. But I think people appreciate -- I know they do -- me actually tweeting at them.

Do you consider yourself a Florida kid or a Carolina kid?

That's really tough. I don't wanna anger anybody, but I'll go with Carolina. I spent all my high school years there and obviously college too. So I'll claim Carolina.

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