Music News & Reviews

Why country star Lee Brice won’t let Vegas shooting ‘scare me’ — and what he thinks of Trump

Country star Lee Brice performs at a sold-out concert at Vina Robles Amphitheatre in Paso Robles in 2016. He plays the same venue on Saturday.
Country star Lee Brice performs at a sold-out concert at Vina Robles Amphitheatre in Paso Robles in 2016. He plays the same venue on Saturday.

Days after the Las Vegas country music festival where he performed became the site of the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, platinum-selling country star Lee Brice said he won’t allow fear to prevent him from playing concerts.

“I’m not going to let something like that stop me. Somebody who’s trying to instill fear and trying to take away joy, I’m not going to let that stop me,” said Brice, who performs Saturday at Vina Robles Amphitheatre in Paso Robles. “You won’t scare me off the stage. I can promise you that.”

Brice, whose hits include “I Don’t Dance,” “I Drive Your Truck” and “Hard to Love,” took the stage Friday night at the Route 91 Harvest Festival on the Las Vegas Strip, joining a lineup that included Jason Aldean, Eric Church and Sam Hunt.

“The country music fans are rabid there,” Brice said.

Brice wasn’t on the scene Sunday when a shooter opened fire on the crowd from the 32nd floor of the nearby Mandalay Resort and Casino, killing at least 59 people and wounding more than 500 others. He had just arrived in Los Angeles on his tour bus. But Brice heard about the shooting secondhand from his friend and fellow country star Jake Owen, who told him about seeing “blood everywhere.”

“I was scared to death for him and all those crew,” Brice told a South Carolina television station on Monday, calling the shooting “Satan’s work.”

On Monday, Brice tweeted, “Hearts out to Vegas. Route 91 concert, stage I played two nights ago. Musicians, fans, workers, you are all in our prayers right now.”

Brice, 38, is touring in support of his self-titled fourth album, due out Nov. 3. He’s eager to return to Vina Robles Amphitheatre, where he played a sold-out show in 2016.

“I can’t wait to get back. I think it’s going to be awesome,” Brice said.

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Country star Lee Brice performs at a sold-out concert at Vina Robles Amphitheatre in Paso Robles in 2016. He plays the same venue on Saturday. Cindy Huang

Q: Why are you excited to share “Lee Brice” with your fans?

A: I kept this record very raw and very real. I stuck to my guns when it came to tricks and computer stuff. I wanted to keep it raw and real and have a band playing the music and me singing the songs. That’s a fine line to walk. They use a lot of tricks these days to make records sound good. ... There’s a lot of musicianship that’s not in them. ...

I’m really excited for people to see how I really am at heart, broken down, with no strings attached, with nothing to cover me up.

Q: You were invited to play at the 2016 Republican National Convention. (Brice did not perform there.) How do you feel President Donald Trump is doing so far?

A: I feel like we elected a president. I feel like everybody needs to stand behind who we have in that office and help him as much as we can. ...

The only thing I really like to see is stuff getting done. For so many years, I’ve seen stuff get talked about and not a lot of stuff get done. ...

SECONDARY Lee Brice crowd
Country star Lee Brice performs for a sold-out crowd at Vina Robles Amphitheatre in Paso Robles in 2016. He’ll play a concert there on Saturday. Cindy Huang

Q: Do you feel Trump is getting stuff done? Or is he encountering too much resistance?

A: He’s definitely getting resistance. It’s kind of tough to turn on the TV and not ever see an issue being talked about. Whatever the issue might be, 90 percent of the time, I see more of this straight-up criticism or bashing of Trump (and) what he says, instead of the information we’re really turning on the news to find out about. That’s the most frustrating to me.

Q: What are you most impressed by or disappointed by so far in his presidency?

A: I think the most disappointing thing is his lack of presidential (decorum). ... I’m from a redneck town. We say what we think (laughs). I think Trump acts like a redneck sometimes. ... He says stuff that’s out of line. That’s not what presidents used to do. ...

Sometimes I think he should think before he speaks and let his actions do his talking. He might get a little more done.

Lee Brice portrait
Lee Brice performs at Vina Robles Amphitheatre in Paso Robles on Saturday. He performed there last year for a sold-out crowd. Courtesy photo

Q: There’s no question that our country is divided, politically speaking. Do you feel that music has the power to heal those rifts?

A: I really do, even with what went on in Vegas...

(Country music) is not about living in the country. It’s a blue-collar music. People that are blue collar, they might fight in the backyard for fun, but if somebody else from outside of the neighborhood, that isn’t a part of your blue-collar society, comes in then you’re fighting together. You’re not fighting each other. … (On Sunday), the rednecks who were there, rednecks I grew up with, they were running into the fire. They were running into the shots to help each other.

People have asked me if I think this will stop people from going to concerts. I really think it will not. It will pull us closer together.

People who work all week to go to a concert and buy a T-shirt and buy a beer ... they’re not going to let something so hateful, so stupid take it away from them. They have too much pride, too much love for what they do.

I have a tattoo on my arm that says “Where words fail, music speaks.” I love that saying. You can argue all the day long, but if a song comes on, you’re going to stop arguing and just enjoy the music.

Q: Do you feel you owe it to your fans to keep going?

A: I’ve been playing music since I was 9 years old. I’ve been in Nashville for 20 years. I’ve been on the road for 10 years straight. The fans have been there to support me the whole way. ...

As long as the fans keep coming to my shows, I’ll keep playing.

(Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Brice performed at last year’s Republican National Convention.)

On the night of Oct. 1, a gunman opened fire on a concert near the Mandalay Bay hotel in Las Vegas, killing 58 and wounding hundreds of others.

Lee Brice

8 p.m. Saturday

Vina Robles Amphitheatre, 3800 Mill Road, Paso Robles

$45 to $55

805-286-3680 or www.vinaroblesamphitheatre.com

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