Whatever one calls the opposite of an overnight success story, that's Lee Brice. This year, 2012, marks his sixth year working in Nashville, but the first five moved like driftwood across Golden Pond. Fans, radio, other artists --  everyone knew Brice was there and most agreed he was an artist full of talent and potential, but the former Clemson football player's first four singles charted in the range of an NFL fullback's jersey number (29, 32, 44).

Brice kept working. In the south, especially the southeast, he'd sell out clubs and honkytonks with regularity. He created his own momentum, building it the old fashioned way. He wrote songs like 'More Than a Memory' for Garth Brooks, and more recently, the ACM-winning 'Crazy Girl' for Eli Young Band. He volunteered to play charity concerts. In 2009, he released 'Love Like Crazy,' a song that would become a hit after a slow-speed race up the charts.

With his career heating up -- 'A Woman Like You' just became his first No. 1 song as a recording artist -- Brice is actually slowing down. His sophomore album 'Hard 2 Love' hit stores on April 24 (buy it here). It's a project loaded with love notes to his fiancee Sara and their son Takoda. The couple's wedding, slated for 2013, promises to be a pretty big party, but perhaps not as wild of a party as Brice would have thrown five years ago. These days, the 32-year-old obeys the tug from his family more often. But by refocusing on his home life, fans may be in for some of the most sincere and poignant lyrics to come from the South Carolinian's pen.

Does the success you've been having lately feel like vindication for all the hard work you put in up to this point?

Yeah, man. That's what it feels like. Stuff is really going well right now and it just feels real satisfying after putting the years in and everybody around me working so hard. So yeah, it feels awesome to have stuff kind of going in your favor instead of like we're swimming up stream.

What is one song from the new album that above all others you just had to have?

Truthfully … there was one song that is probably the most personal song to me that I didn't care what happened, this song was going on the album [laughs]. It's just really personal, it's called 'One More Day' and it's last on the album. Really it's a thank you kind of to Sara and Takoda for supporting me so much and letting me be gone so much and doing what I have to do to make this happen. And so it's kind of their song and I would have fought for that one to the last day if I had to.

Many of the songs on the album feel like either thank you notes to Sara and Takoda, but some of them feel tinged with guilt -- like they're an like an apology.

Well, I mean, they kind of are. This is an awesome thing to be doing and I love (it), but it comes with a price and that price is being gone a lot and I miss a lot of days with Takoda and he's at that age where he's growing up so fast so I just try to make up for it in every way I can. So when I am home I just devote every second to them.

Your biggest hits as a songwriter have been for other artists, and your biggest hits as a recording artist have been written by other songwriters. Is there any reason for that?

There's really no rhyme to it or reason. At the time there's gonna be the best song for the moment and me, I've just tried to be really open to go, 'You know what, that's what I'm gonna go with whether I wrote it or not.' And, you know … Garth Brooks was one of the best writers (ever) … and you don't hear that much about Garth about him being an unbelievable songwriter but yet he is. And yet two of the biggest songs of his whole career -- 'Friends in Low Places' and 'The Dance' -- were songs that he didn't write. And it's because he was smart enough to go look around Nashville, the most brilliant writers in the world … and go at least check and find out. I did the same thing and I found some amazing songs from this album. 'A Woman Like You,' 'Hard 2 Love,' 'I Drive Your Truck,' 'Life Off My Years,' 'Beer' are all songs that I didn't write. And they were perfect for me and I could identify with them as if I had written them.

Are there cases where there needs to be a level of separation because it would be too personal to you for fans to enjoy as their own?

Maybe too personal for other people to get into, but I mean as a writer 'One More Day' was like that. To me it's so personal that truthfully … if my label would have said, 'This is so personal to you Lee that nobody else is gonna care about this song,' I would have still said 'I don't care about that, this is the story I wanna tell and this is the song that needs to be on there to tell the story, whether it's a commercial song or not. It's something that I want to be a part of my body of work.'

Tell us the story behind 'See About a Girl.'

My buddy Kyle Jacobs is married to Kellie Pickler … and we write songs a lot and he'd always get up and leave and when I saw him I'd go 'Hey where you going?' He'd say 'Aw, I gotta go see about a girl.' And that meant he was gonna go call Kellie. And so I always thought that was cool and then one day I said 'Man we gotta write that.'

Has the ACM arrived in the mail yet?

No it hasn't. I'm gonna have to call them about that.

Where will you store it?

I got my first house that I ever owned that I'm just getting into now and Sara and Takoda, we're just getting all moved in. And there's a perfect spot above the fireplace I think it needs to go.

Were you nervous when you proposed?

Yeah, I was. But I was more excited than anything. And in fact I had plans to wait and I just couldn't hold it in anymore. So I was really more excited than nervous but yeah I had some nerves. I was shaking a little bit.

Which is weird, because as we read the story you tell in the notes for 'Don't Believe Everything You Think,' it's not like you were worried she'd say 'No.'

[laughs] Well, I didn't think she would say 'No.' (I was just) Really excited for me and also excited for us and her and getting our lives started together. We've been waiting awhile and we got Takoda and I just wanted to get him settled. It just felt so right and so perfect.

Will the wedding have an open bar?

[laughs] Probably.

Will there be a live band?

Probably, I'll probably have one of my best friends, he's an amazing artist (Nick Norman), and we'll probably get him to get a couple of boys up there and play some music. It's gonna be fun.