The Platinum-selling country artist shares thoughts about his provocatively titled album I Hate Cowboys & All Dogs Go to Hell.
The name is of the album is I Hate Cowboys & All Dogs Go to Hell, but don’t let that keep you away. Platinum-selling country star Chase Rice is kinda-sorta joshing in both of those title cuts to deliver some ironic emotional truths.
All of which is typical of the risk-taking and rule-breaking approach that the former Survivor competitor and North Carolina Tar Heels linebacker took while creating his fourth studio album. He recorded it during an immersive two-week period alongside producer Oscar Charles and a live band at his farm outside Nashville, using a makeshift recording environment in his living room to capture a pure, raw style unlike any of his previous studio projects. That gamble has paid off handsomely, resulting in vulnerable and personal music hailed by CMT as the distinctive work of an artist who “worked day in and day out to find the courage to knock down the wall he had kept up his entire career.”
We recently spoke with Rice about I Hate Cowboys & All Dogs Go to Hell, which will be available starting Friday wherever you access your favorite music. To begin, we focused on “Key West & Colorado,” a song he has described as “a story about a man trying to figure his life out – trying to figure out his past, trying to figure out his situation with the woman that was in his life that he lost, and the trip that he took to help him along that journey… That’s what this video represents, and it shows me on my own trip across the country. There are no performance scenes because I didn’t want it to be about that. I wanted it to be about my journey for something that I just needed to do.”
Cowboys & Indians: “Key West & Colorado” strikes me as a unique type of country song, in that it’s more or less acknowledging, “Well, OK, if we’re not getting back together again, I have to quit feeling sorry for myself and move on.” At least, that’s what I’m telling myself. What does that song mean to you?
Chase Rice: For me, it was very much about not necessarily replacing the memory that I had already made on that trip, because I have nothing but love for the person that song’s about. It was more so about doing it again on my own. Like I said, not to replace that memory, but to have my own version of that memory that could allow me to continue to move on from that breakup. And I need that type of alone time. I need that type of travel — which I did not know before I did that trip, to be honest. I love being alone, but I’m usually alone flying somewhere or hunting wherever I’m hunting or something like that. I love my alone time. It does help me have that space to create and space to get in my head, just be who I am.
But this trip, man, driving that trip and seeing the country. Wow. I’ve seen the whole country, but I’ve seen it from a tour bus. I haven’t been the one driving. So when I did that trip again, it was like, okay, now I'm not just flying there. I’m stopping along the way, creating my own memories. And during the back half, I had my dog with me. It was just a way for me to find what I’m made of, because that alone time allowed me to clear my head and realize some of the wrong things and wrong ways I’ve been living, and some of the right ways that I want to continue to go down. So it was just a good head-clearing space for me.
C&I: The thing is, while listening to the entire album, I found myself putting it into context as something largely created during the COVID lockdown. And, of course, for many of us, that was a period when, whether we wanted to be or not, we were left alone with our thoughts, and maybe going to the ledger to see what we owed or whatever. Was that sort of the tone setter for the entire album? Because this is kind of a sea change, in want of a better term for you, wouldn't you say?
Chase: It’s a sea change from what I’ve done, absolutely. It comes from the songwriting — it’s back to what I did 10 years ago. We wrote all these songs on an acoustic guitar instead of tracks. I had my time with, and I’ll continue to write with, guys like Ross Copperman. But what they do when they write is, they build tracks. And I don’t want to do that anymore. I want to write with acoustic guitars because it brings it to the most pure form of a song. So the production’s very, very different. We’re taking the songs that are acoustic, bringing them into my home studio that we built with Oscar Charles, and he builds it from scratch. And that's what I’ve always wanted to do.
Chase Rice making music in his home studio.
C&I: So you’ve gone back to essentials?
Chase: I don’t know if it just took me 10 years to figure out that that’s hardcore what I want to do, or it just took me that long to get Oscar in my life to bring what I wanted deep down in my heart to life. And honestly, there’s a point in my life during COVID where, like you just talked about, I just said bleep it. There were so many different opinions about the world, and different opinions about COVID and quarantine, and different things that were going on — take time off, don’t take time off, whatever — that I got so fed up with how people were talking and arguing and bickering at each other on social media instead of having real conversations. That was a way of life that I no longer wanted to be a part of. So I got off all that shit, stopped arguing with people, stopped listening to bullshit arguments that probably wouldn’t happen if you just talked face to face. And that was enough of a line in the sand for me to be like, you know what? I’m going to let these people over there live their life, and I’m going to be over here living my life the exact way that I want to live it and make the music that I want to make.
And all that mindset went into my music. It was like, man, this is what I’m doing come hell or high water. I don't care if that artist is doing this most popular thing. Like, trends in music always kind of follow each other. One person blows up, they follow that. And I was guilty of that in the past. Not any more.
C&I: OK, the name of the album is I Hate Cowboys & All Dogs Go to Hell. You can’t get more aggressive than that, right? I mean, you want to start fights in the audience when you start singing those songs in concert?
Chase: [Laughs] But when you listen to “I Hate Cowboys,” you’ll realize real quick — look, trust me, I’ve sent this to my cowboy buddies, and every single one of them came back with, “Holy shit, I love that!” Because it’s not saying you genuinely hate the cowboy. It’s saying, “Damn, that son of a bitch was better than me at my own game — he came in and swooped up my girl.” Basically, that’s it. It’s actually at the end giving the tip of the hat to say, “Damn, this dude just kicked my ass at my own game. At the end of the day — good work.”
And then “All Dogs Go to Hell” is very much just a web of lies. It’s this guy that lot his girl, but he’s claiming, “I ain’t on your front porch, I ain’t knocking on your front door. I ain’t hat in hand, don't give a damn.” And yeah, I mean, he is basically just saying all these different lies. And “All Dogs Go to Hell” would be the ultimate lie, I think, for most anybody. That’s really the coolest part about it. That all dogs go to hell would be one thing that I think most of humanity can agree on is not true.
C&I: Finally, I have to ask something about your music video for “Way Down Yonder” — your very own musical Western, directed by Kaiser Cunningham. It appears to be one long continuous take. So how many times did you have to do it to get it right?
Chase: [Laughs] Maybe like 13. Yeah, we had probably three takes that were usable. Obviously, during the first few, you’re just kind of getting the feel of it. Then you get comfortable with it. But the problem is, I don’t know how many people there were, maybe 25 people in the music video or somewhere around there. And if one person messes up, you got to start over. So yeah, we ended up with three takes that we liked.
We ended up using the very final one, and the way we could tell that was the one was, when I shoved the guy down, the cards all went in the air — and one of the cards went into my hat. Kaiser and everybody loved it. They were like, “That’s the take.” They were all fired up. The thing is, that take was actually more of a, “Hey, let’s just do one more. We’ve got it, but let’s just do one more just in case.” Turns out, that was the one we used.
Photography: Kaiser Cunningham