At the very last minute, Chase Rice added a piano-led ballad called "Belong" to his new EP, The Album Part II. He did it because the song speaks to how he's approaching the coronavirus pandemic, and the "Lonely If You Are" hitmaker hopes it resonates with others in the same way.

"Belong" describes finding peace amid chaos and instability. The songwriters (Rice, Jon Nite and Chris DeStefano) take a big picture view in saying, "Sure, it may take a little time, that’s all right, enjoy the ride," and Rice sings the sensitive lyric with something of a smile in his voice, without the same heavy presence that's defined so much of his music. The message could attach itself to any number of journeys, including his own as a country artist.

The Florida-born, North Carolina-raised 34-year-old is known as a competitor in country music who keeps relentless focus on his career and successes. This December marks 10 years since fans first learned who he was during the season finale of Survivor Nicaragua on CBS. Ask him if he's satisfied with all he's accomplished and you'll get an immediate response.

“If my career ended tomorrow I don’t think I could sit here and say, ‘Yeah, I’m proud of what I’ve done,'" Rice tells Taste of Country. "And I’ve done a lot of great things and I’m happy with a lot of things that have happened. But I’m not where — I haven’t done as much as I want to do yet.”

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Early songwriting success ("Cruise" by Florida Georgia Line) led to radio success as an artist, but that stalled as Rice released songs that doubled down on the provocative sound of "Ready Set Roll," his first Top 5 hit. He will speak candidly about the songs on his old records that he doesn't care for, but you won't hear him saying the same about music released since joining Broken Bow Records.

Lambs & Lions and now the The Album collection of EPs find him making more dynamic, centered country songs and releasing them on a schedule that reflects how people are consuming music in 2020. To that end, expect The Album Part III before long, and Part IV or Part V could follow in the next year or two.

Like "Messy" on Part I, "Belong" is the stop-and-thinker on this new collection. Rice's quieter approach is a result of how he actually records his vocals on the more introspective songs. In studio with DeStefano, Rice says he'll turn out the lights and dive deep into the lyrics to ensure the result is convincing.

Even though "Belong" was written about social and political divides of 2018 and 2019, it now finds the optimism of a very difficult time in American history.

“Now what I’m hearing is, ‘2021 is going to be so much brighter, 2020 is the s--ttiest year ever, I thought it was going to be so good,'" Rice says. "Who’s to say it’s not amazing? I’ve made more friends, I’ve sat around more fires, I’ve sat around dinner tables, I’ve had more real conversations than I’ve had in the last 15 years of my life. I choose to look at it as, 'Nope, I love where we are.' Because no matter what, 2021 ain’t coming any quicker.”

Like all artists, Rice is eager to get back on the road, and he's worried about paying his band and crew if he can't do so soon. He's also appreciating a break from the burnout of the touring and record cycle.

Taste of Country last spoke to Rice in January, while he was touring in Europe. After that tour, he returned to the States to record more music and prepare for his spring and summer tour, but that was all the break he had scheduled. It's been non-stop for eight years, he says -- but don't mistake that for complaining.

“I think I am at a place where I love what’s happening now. I love the music I’m making now … I just love who I’m becoming as an artist and as a man," he says.

That is to say that he, too, is right where he belongs.

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