Chase Rice used a photograph of his dad for the album cover of his new I Hate Cowboys & All Dogs Go to Hell album. If you're guessing that's one of the two cowboys he's hoping to make proud, you're right.

Daniel Rice died 15 years ago after suffering a heart attack. The country singer recently opened up to Taste of Country about how that tragedy — and his inability to properly deal with it — led to all sorts of bad behavior since college at the University of North Carolina, and especially since becoming a hitmaker as a songwriter ("Cruise" by Florida Georgia Line is partially his) and recording artist.

These days he's seeking a sort of redemption, so that's Daniel with two Coors banquet beers in his hands on the front of an album that defies the 37-year-old's catalog. Rice says his father was 31 or 32 at the time and the picture was snapped in Jackson Hole, Wy.

Flip a physical copy over to find Jack, Rice's dog.

"That's the theme of the record, cowboys and dogs," he says.

As interesting as the music is that the music is coming from this country singer — who epitomized pop-country for most of the last decade — he has slowly been finding what he says is his true voice in recent years. Lifetime he has a pair of No. 1 hits and two more Top 5 radio singles, but in a way he's trying distance himself from aggressive party tracks like "Ready Set Roll."

Some will get whiplash trying understand this sudden pivot, but a closer inspection reveals it's less exploration and more homecoming. This brings us to that second cowboy, one who could also be found in Wyoming. He also died before age 60, and he could also be found around the Rice family home.

"From the time I was a little kid, Chris LeDoux was my guy," Rice shares.

How did the album's title, I Hate Cowboys & All Dogs Go to Hell, come about? 

That's two different songs on the album."I Hate Cowboys" is basically, "Mr. Steal Your Girl." Cowboy walks into a bar, steals your girl. He's better than you. Just beats you at your own game.

"All Dogs Go to Hell" is a web of lies. It's all those obvious lies that you know, as soon as you hear the first line ... you'd get it.

You recorded this album more or less in your living room. Is that the way you'll do it moving forward?

For sure. It was one producer — Oscar Charles — who was very different than who I've worked with before. Not just the way we recorded it — which was in my living room, raw as can be, we didn't have tracks, it's all just based off of feel — [but] the way we picked the songs each morning was different. Like, "'What do you wanna record today?' 'I dunno, let's do 'Walk Alone' and I'd be like, "'I didn't even think we were gonna record "Walk Alone.'"

It was that simple. It wasn't, we need a hit for the record. It was, this makes the record better and if you end up with an album that has zero hits on it afterwards, we were cool with that.

attachment-i hate cowboys and all dogs go to hell Cover
Broken Bow Records

Your dad passed away at a young age (57) from a heart issue. Do you worry about your heart?

It made me think about it, for sure. I went to New York earlier this year and got tested top to bottom. The only thing I never had tested is my brain, and I know they have a lot of CTE stuff, ways to hopefully start testing for that because I played football my whole life and I've dealt with all that. I go down some dark roads. You see that in the "Bench Seat" music video, it's like, how the hell did you think of that?

I got my whole body tested ... guy was like, 'There is a 99 percent chance that you will not have a heart attack at this point in your life.' They can tell all that and they can get ahead of that way better than they used to.

Is there an artist you would consider a mentor?

Garth (Brooks) was my guy growing up, but I would say LeDoux influenced what I wanted to do my whole career more. I wasn't doing it because I was doing all that poppy stuff. But even in the middle of that, I had a song called "Whisper" that (Chris LeDoux's son) Ned LeDoux — while this song was out and was the single — I re-recorded "This Cowboy's Hat" with Ned LeDoux. They were really cool for doing that; they didn't have to do that. It didn't make any sense to be honest.

Do you see a young Chase Rice in any artist out there now?

God, I hope not (laughs). I will say, there are a lot of artists that talk, and the way they're talking is very similar to the way I was in the beginning of my career which is ... they just haven't figured it out yet. I just encourage them to not chase the thing that's hot right now.

Zach Bryan's hot right now. He's hot because he's good at what he does, and he did it. (Morgan) Wallen, same thing. He's good at what he does and he stuck to it. I just try to tell 'em every time we talk, don't try to chase what's hot right now — it's going to come around to something else in the next couple years. Figure out what you really want to do and you're passionate about, and do that.

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