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IN THE SPOTLIGHT
For a country singer, headlining Nashville's legendary Ryman Auditorium "is the bucket list," says Lee Brice, who got to check off that very milestone with his sell-out show last week. "People might assume it's easier to sell out a crowd in Nashville but it's harder to do than almost anywhere else. So it's a big deal as an artist." Here, the "I Drive Your Truck" singer gives PEOPLE a peek behind the scenes at his first Ryman headlining show.
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TOAST WITH THE MOST
"I'd gone out to the bus before the show because I wanted time with the band. This is kind of our ritual," Brice says. "I think that night we were drinking Jägermeister. I've got a band that's not just a bunch of guys I've hired. We are brothers."
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IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF GREATS
"I was walking back from the bus, and this is right before I got to the Ryman door," Brice recalls. "That gives me chills every time because of everybody who has walked in that alley and through that door. That was a cool moment."
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A FATHER'S PRIDE
"That's me and Daddy backstage. My parents came in from my hometown in South Carolina and it was really special. I get super emotional when it comes to my parents. As a parent now, I realize how much they have done and sacrificed for me. I was in my fourth year of college and had a year to go in civil engineering when I left for Nashville but they never stopped supporting me. I just feel like a kid when I'm around my daddy. For him to be proud of me is as big as anything could be."
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MOMENT OF CALM
"I don't get nervous for shows very often, but that night, I felt unusually nervous and anxious. I guess it's deserved – it's the Ryman," the singer says of this shot, taken moments before he hit the stage. "There was so much chaos going on backstage. When you're in Nashville, all your friends, everyone in the industry is there. I was in the hallway and people were passing by and I just decided to meditate and pray. For that moment, I was somewhere else, trying to lower my heart rate and calm my soul so I could go out and be clear-headed for what I was about to do."
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BROTHERS IN ARMS
"Jerrod is my musical brother," Brice says of pal Niemann. "We came to town at the same time, we went through the same stuff for so long. He was the last one I saw before I went out on stage, my last connection. I was kind of freaking out and he was like, 'You can do this. This is what we do.'"
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TAKING IT TO CHURCH
"That was during 'Love Like Crazy,' during the line 'Never let your prayin' knees get lazy.' I usually don't dramatize that moment, but being, to me, in church at the Ryman, with my mother there, I just felt like, let's just be real. Let's let everybody see a little bit of God in this place for a minute. I've sung that song 10,000 times but I always try to think about every word I'm singing. "
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"When we got off the stage, Sara was the first person I wanted. I wanted her to be proud more than anybody, and she was," Brice shares. "It's everything to have her there. She's my partner in life and I lean on her for so much. People were rolling by us with carts and pianos and boxes and stuff but I just wanted to take in the moment so I dragged her up to the stage and had a picture snapped. There was so much emotion and excitement so we wanted to drink that moment in."
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"Kyle and I met writing a song and made a deep connection. He was standing there as my mama was telling me how proud she was. She was emotional and there were lots of tears. Mama puts it all on her sleeve and it makes you just want to hug her! So Kyle couldn't help it! I had probably just let go of her and he went in for a hug."
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