Chase Rice

Larry Busacca/Getty Images

This country cutie is taking off! Chase Rice is one of the latest artists to join Kenny Chesney next summer for Kenny's Big Revival Tour, he just got back from the Country Music Association Awards, and he exclusively tells E! that new music is on the way! But before Rice was a country superstar, he was a football player with dreams of heading to the NFL, a contestant on Survivor and involved in NASCAR.

Rice was a starting linebacker at University of North Carolina, but got injured his junior year at his first game. Chase's plans to head into the NFL ended due to his injury. "I got much better at guitar that year, because I was bored and miserable not playing ball," he tells us. It was Rice's dad who really encouraged him to take his hobby to the next level.

Rice recalls, "I was sitting on my couch at home, picking at the guitar, trying to learn how to get better, and he said, 'Man, playing guitar is cool, but you aren't going to get the girls at Carolina unless you learn how to sing.'" Rice continued learning and playing the guitar, but it wasn't until tragedy struck that he started writing. "Then, my senior year, my dad passed away, so I wrote my first song about him." The song Rice wrote following his father's death still hasn't been released, but was the starting point to his songwriting and country career.

Chase Rice, Album Art

Columbia Nashville/Dack Janiels Records

His first album, Ignite the Night, landed at the No. 1 spot on country charts its first week, and his lead single "Ready Set Roll" has already gone Platinum. Plus, he co-wrote Florida Georgia Line's hit, "Cruise." We caught up with Chase at his sold out show in Los Angeles earlier this month, and chatted about everything from the CMAs to his relationship status. Here are nine things he shared with us:

A photo posted by Chase Rice (@chaserice) on

1. CMAs Backstage Was "Hectic as Hell:" "At one point, Florida Georgia Line, Cole Swindell, Thomas Rhett, Luke Bryan, Dierks Bentley and Hunter Hayes, and I were all in one dressing room," he shared. "I was thinking, man there's a lot of cool people in one spot right now…Luke's in the bathroom area, because he's warming up about to go sing 'Rollercoaster.' Hunter Hayes like has people around him fixing him up real quick, because he's about to go present something, or play guitar." Despite the craziness, he recalled it as "just a cool little moment where all of us were in one spot."

Ariana Grande, Little Big Town, CMA

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2. "The Way" He Discovered His New Crush: Rice admitted after seeing Ariana Grande perform at the CMAs with Little Big Town, she's his new celebrity crush.

3. He's Single, Sort Of: Speaking of crushes, Rice seems to have quite a lot of female fans wondering if he's single. So, we asked if he was single, if it was complicated, or if he was in a relationship. "I'm single," he offered, then added, "Well, single to complicated."

4. What He Looks for in Women: "Personality first. I didn't used to at first, but I quickly found out that's more important than anything. I like the fun, bubbly girls. If you have a good laugh, most of the time you're probably a good girl."

A photo posted by Chase Rice (@chaserice) on

5. Dreams Come True: When he was little, Rice says he wrote down on a piece of paper, "I want to pursue my dreams of being an NFL football player, and go into country music. It wasn't something I really thought I would do. Someone was just like write down what would be the coolest thing for you. I need to find that piece of paper!" We spy a good #throwbackthursday!

6. ESPN Is Essential on Tour: When it comes to tour bus necessities, a good satellite signal reigns supreme. Rice admits he'll have the crew move the bus around so that they can watch ESPN's College GameDay on Saturdays. Jack Daniels and his custom American flag blanket are also must haves on the bus. When he's got a little downtime on the road, Rice tours local football stadiums and their facilities. So, who has the best facilities? "Florida and Florida State have been the biggest for me, since I grew up in Daytona Beach," he says. "It was cool to see Ohio State, which was where my dad played." 

A photo posted by Chase Rice (@chaserice) on

7. Backup Plan: If this music thing hadn't worked out, Rice had another career path in mind. "I'd go back in NASCAR, if I wasn't in country," he reveals. "I worked in Hendrick Motorsports Pit Crew, Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon."

8. Staying Fit on the Road: So how does Rice stay in shape? He works with what they've got on the bus: a YETI cooler and two sets of Bowflex dumb bells—Rice uses the cooler as a bench." "We'll fill the cooler up, or if it's full from the night before with beer, ice, whatever's in there, and literally raise it and do whatever we can with it," he says.

Chase Rice, Album Art

Columbia Nashville/Dack Janiels Records

9. Twitter Inspired One of His Hit Songs: One of Rice's most popular songs is "Ride"—artist SoMo sings the original version. After Rice's manager jokingly emailed him to cover the song, Rice tweeted SoMo a Photoshopped cover of his face on SoMo's album. SoMo quickly tweeted back that Rice should cover a country version of the song. Once, fans caught wind on Twitter, their accounts blew up, and Rice says, "It was the second to last song we recorded on my album. That's a fun one to sing live!"

Even though they often tweet tweeting back and forth, SoMo and Rice haven't met yet. "We've texted. I'm sure we'll be buddies. He's pretty busy, and I'm pretty busy too." That might change soon, as Rice reveals "We're looking at maybe doing something together for spring break."

When we spoke with Rice, he told us he was getting ready to head back into the studio to record the first song for his next album. "I have to write for it still…I'm just getting back to writing," he shared. And since he's on the road, he does a lot of writing on his phone. "Most of my best stuff comes at 3 or 4 a.m.," he said holding up his iPhone complete with backup charger. "The title or the melody. They've probably heard me on the bus a few times, just singing into my phone. If I lose this, I'd be screwed. I'd lose a lot of good ideas."

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