By Kelly King
Drumming was prescribed by a doctor for UK drummer Chris Brice, literally. When his mother was concerned about the abnormally high energy levels of her four-year-old son, she took Chris to see the family physician. He reassured her that there was nothing wrong and suggested she find something with which to channel his exuberance, maybe drumming? While still in his 20’s, Chris has tempered that invisible power source into a career performing with an international list of artists. It’s obvious watching Chris perform that he has a plethora of influences but he’s hyper focused on feel and playing like a songwriter. This winning approach has offered such opportunities as touring stadiums with the band Lyves as the support act for Coldplay on their Head Full of Dreams Tour, as well as drumming with headlining acts like Lainey Wilson and American Young. Chris is proof that authenticity in music comes from the heart rather than a place of origin or through technical acrobatics. He’s immensely well-spoken in an interview but watching him onstage vets that he is a feel-focused musician, saying more with a conservative approach to notes than others do with a deluge.
Preparedness meets opportunity is the winning equation for nearly every successful drummer; sincerity applies to this formula as well for Chris. Playing the C2C Festival in London, he met Louisiana born country artist Lainey Wilson. Both were on the bill and exchanged pleasantries but later the same evening they ran into each other outside Wembley Arena after a Kacey Musgraves show. Politely offering to help Lainey and her manager navigate the London Tube system, the combination of Chris’s fiery drumming onstage earlier that day and his altruistic assistance laid the seeds that would lead to him being pegged as Lainey’s UK drummer. Without the time for extensive rehearsals for these UK shows, the drummer’s easy-going attitude is as pertinent as his musical ability. He relates, “I was sent the music to listen to and prepare but when Lainey and her MD Aslan were here for rehearsals, they’d let me know right away if something felt a little out or had too much push/pull…which I prefer. I want to know how to interpret the music with the attitude Lainey is going for. You shouldn’t be overly precious about your playing as a musician. When you realize the song the way the artist wants it, it’s a win for everyone.” Performing at London’s Indigo O2 was a perfect cap to the European tour for Lainey, Chris, and the entire band.
When Nashville-based duo American Young (vocalist Kristy Osmunson and songwriter/producer/guitarist Jon Stone) were in need of a UK touring band, they sought out the advice of UK Country music scene luminary Luke Roberts of Lime Tree Music. Roberts immediately recommended Brice for the gig who similarly suggested his mate, bassist Phil Donnelly. The rhythm section learned the entire American Young catalogue prior to meeting or rehearsing with the duo, which was a well-planned approach. The drummer confesses, “Phil and I wanted to be as prepared as possible and make the songs feel like we had been on the recordings…all of them. We met them in Zurich, went out for a drink with Jon [Stone] to get acquainted. We got along really well and referenced so much of the same music that he decided to forego any rehearsal before the first show. It’s one of the things I love about this band, that ‘fly by the seat of your pants’ approach. The funny part about that first gig is that Jon called the band’s manager during the break and there was a bit of uneasiness in the back of our minds thinking ‘Maybe something is wrong and he doesn’t want to confront us?’ but it actually turned out that he was preparing to ask us to do the rest of the tour. The band’s manager was over the moon because they sold out of merch on that first show; merch that was supposed to last the entire tour.” American Young’s set consisted of two forty-five minute sets and spanned different parts of Europe and have since played at UK festivals like the Buckle & Boots and Millport Country Music Festival.
When approached with the question about how a UK drummer became such a sought out commodity in the Country Music community, Chris responds with a laugh, “It’s more about good music to me than a style. I want to bring out the best in any style I play. I grew up on Rock, Metal, and Pop, studying four years of Classical. I’ve performed in bands playing everything from Ethereal Greek Acoustic music to Brazilian Funk. My current obsession with Country and Southern Rock is just me following a personal path to discovering creativity. When I saw Fred Eltringham at Glastonbury last year with Sheryl Crow; I wasn’t thinking ‘What a great Country drummer”, I was just marveling at the sweet spot for his ‘1’ and how groovy it made everything. When I watch Abe Laboriel Jr. or Aaron Sterling play, I hear them being creative and laying down a signature pocket rather than trying to confine themselves by a genre based approach. Great music and great drumming isn’t defined by a genre label.” Recording in locations like Air Lyndhurst Studios in London, The Doghouse Studio in Henley, or in front of a crowd of almost 70,000 at the Stade de France in Paris, it’s clear that Chris Brice found his cure through drumming.