Chase Rice says that he thinks his new song, "Key West & Colorado," just might end up being his best to date — but it actually got written by accident.

"We wrote that on a boat in Florida," Rice tells Taste of Country. The track boasts a lengthy list of co-writers, including Florida Georgia Line's Brian Kelley, as well as Hunter Phelps, Corey Crowder, Blake Pendergrass and John Byron.

"And we were just hanging out that day and drinking some beer, hanging out on a boat. But it ended up being what I think is gonna be one of the biggest songs of my career," the singer continues. "I'm pretty fired up on this one."

Even though it was Kelley who brought the title to the group, Rice was — unwittingly — the one who came up with it. "Key West & Colorado" had been the caption of an Instagram post he'd previously made, and when BK saw it on his feed, he kept the title saved as a potential song idea. Kelley made a suggestion about a direction for the track, but Rice re-steered the writing session towards another interpretation — one closer to his life, and the experiences he'd been going through when he made that Instagram post.

"That's a trip I actually did. I did it and then I posted it to Instagram: Key West and Colorado," he continues. "That was an accident, because we were supposed to go from Key West to Nashville, but Nashville was snowed in...so it was like, 'Well, let's just go to Denver! Go to REI and get some stuff, snowboard. That was a trip that happened."

The song's lyrics tell a story of moving through a breakup by physically traveling from place to place, and Rice says that as an avid traveler, he feels a profound connection to the idea of getting from one emotional space to another via physical travel.

"That's what this song is about for me, is going on a journey like that to figure my own s--t out," he concludes.

"Key West & Colorado" marks a new musical direction, too, and heralds a major stylistic shift that'll be more apparent as he heads into his next album cycle. In the past, Rice used click tracks and pre-programmed musical beds; this time around, he opted to write and record his material using only real instruments. The songs on his next album were primarily written on acoustic guitar, he explains, in a move back toward the way he used to write songs when he was first getting started as an artist.

"That's how I started this whole thing. Why did I get away from that?" he wonders.

"Because you can take an average song, produce it, pop it up while you're writing it, and you think it's better than it really is," he points out. "You can't do that with acoustic. It's just you and a guitar."

Rice set up a home studio in his living room, complete with an upright piano, drums and percussion, guitars, bass and keyboards. He also switched up his production team: The singer made his past records with legendary Nashville producer Jay Joyce, but this time around, he took a gamble, committing to making a whole album with a producer he hadn't worked with much before, Oscar Charles.

Charles — who was the mastermind behind Rice's home studio, and transformed his guitar-led first recordings into a fleshed-out, still real and raw-sounding finished product — was actually someone that the singer intended to work with years ago. But when the call came and he learned he was getting the opportunity to work with Joyce, who's known for his work with everyone from Eric Church and Miranda Lambert to Cage the Elephant and Coheed and Cambria, he couldn't pass it up.

"I just straight told them, 'Y'all, I gotta chase this down,'" Rice remembers. "I'd always wondered what it would be like [to work with Joyce], and now I know. And I loved it. It was great. But for a whole album, to really dive in, I needed someone who was all in — and Oscar was that."

Charles is known for his work producing acts including Elvie Shane and Boy Named Banjo, and his previous work gave Rice the confidence that Charles was the right person to help him fulfill his musical vision.

"I loved Boy Named Banjo's Circles EP, so I I knew he could do something along the lines of what I wanted to do," the singer continues. "It was kinda risky, going, 'All right. We're gonna do a whole album together.' I had no idea if it was gonna work. And it worked. It absolutely worked."

The goal was to make "the most Chase Rice album possible." Rice, like anybody else, is a multi-dimensional person, so nailing down the kind of music that is truest to his artistic identity is a challenge, and a moving target. But the singer says that honing in on his true self meant finding music that he doesn't get sick of. Once he started enjoying listening to his own record, he knew he'd hit his stride.

"That's just part of the journey. We all have to figure out who we are," he admits. "I don't know if we ever really figure it out, but we at least head in that direction. Chasing addictions, facing deaths — you know, losing my dad when I was 22 rocked my world, more than I ever thought. And then taking that and having no shame about it, just taking it to a guitar....it's like, 'I believe it.'

"I've been listening to a lot of old stuff this week," he adds after a pause. "Just messing around with my buddies, playing old songs. And some stuff, I'm like, 'Okay, I believe that song.' Some stuff I'm like, 'Okay, it's a hit, but eh. It doesn't do anything for me.' And this record [I'm getting ready to put out], there's not one song I don't believe in. And you can hear it in my voice."

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