Chase Rice Channels His Inner Johnny Cash with New Single ‘If I Were Rock & Roll’

by Matthew Wilson

With his new single, “If I Were Rock & Roll,” Chase Rice is imagining the road not taken. Don’t let the title fool you though. This is a country song, and suggests the start of an exciting new journey for Rice as an artist.

With its harder sound, the single feels like a tribute to the Johnny Cash mentality. Rice certainly wears his Man in Black influences on his sleeve with lyrics like “And if I were a rebel kid meetin’ with the man, hearin’ Johnny don’t do that/ With a guitar strapped I’d go all black, tell ’em all to kiss my ass.”

But as Rice’s first solo penned major release, the artist is reflecting on the road he traveled and taking aim for where he wants to go next.

“It’s a huge step in a new direction. But it’s a direction I’ve been wanting to try for 10 years,” Rice tells Outsider in an exclusive interview. “This is trying something that’s more me than anything I’ve put out. There’s no other direction I can go. I have to do this right now. It’s as me as anything I’ve ever done.”

The tune is littered with references to Chase’s past. There’s a tip of a hat to his time in the pit in NASCAR and playing on the gridiron in college. Rice also poignantly tributes his grandfather and buddies that served overseas. But all roads lead back to the girl that got away.

Chase Rice Is A Whole Lot of Country

“If I Were Rock & Roll” carries its heart on its sleeve. But the tune has more than a little bite. Rice credits the tune’s harder edge to his producer Jay Joyce, with who he’s collaborating for the first time.

“Jay is helping me to bring together a sound. It’s dirtier,” Rice says. “The drums sound better. The mix sounds awesome. It doesn’t sound like most of the songs you hear.”

But the song’s origin is all Chase Rice. The singer felt inspired one night after watching the Bruce Springsteen “Letter to You.” Rice drew from the hook of the Springsteen classic “If I Was the Priest.” But he couldn’t get Johnny Cash off the brain. In Rice’s opinion, you don’t get more rock ‘n roll than the Man in Black.

“It was the Johnny Cash mentality,” Rice says. “He was a country artist, but the way he lived his life, the way he put out his music was as rock ’n roll as anybody gets. It was that picture of Johnny Cash flipping off the camera. That to me is as rock ’n roll as it gets.”

Grabbing his guitar, Rice wrote the tune down in one sitting. He believes it represents a new direction for him as an artist and a daring new sound. Johnny would be proud.

“I’m very proud to be a part of country,” Rice says. “I just want to make a sound that fits me and who I am. And if that’s considered country then I’m even more proud of it.”