Steve Rice is the lead vocalist and guitarist of the popular Okahoma-based band known as No Justice. Guitarist Jerry Payne, bassist Joey Trevino, drummer Armando Lopez, and lead guitarist Cody Patton round out the the rest of the No Justice lineup. The band has gained a large fan following in the Lone Star State, having charted seven Top 10 singles and four number ones on Texas country charts in only a four-year span. I recently had a chat with Steve over the phone about the latest No Justice projects, including their most recent album 2nd Avenue, released last July on Carved Records
Ben: The first thing I wanted to hear your thoughts on is how would you say the Red dirt music scene is different from the mainstream Nashville country scene?
Steve: Well, we’re all broke! That’s the first one. A lot of these bands, we all work together for the same cause. There’s no real competition or anything like that. It’s just a real laid-back environment. The fans are really loyal and dedicated. You’re starting to see it less and less in the Nashville music scene, but there’s a lot of originality down here for the most part. Then again, you have your cookie-cutter stuff just like you do anywhere else. But then you start to see a lot less of that cookie-cutter type stuff. In Nashville, people like Jamey Johnson are coming along and doing stuff that’s a little different. But yeah, that’s pretty much it, and the big one is that we’re all broke.
Ben: Do you have any favorite Texas or Oklahoma artists?
Steve: I like some new artists that are coming out. He’s not from down here, but he plays down here. He’s a Nashville boy - Sean McConnell. There’s the Turnpike Troubadours that are just getting started and making some waves. There’s a lot of them, man. If you asked me who I don’t like, I could probably give you a lot better of an example… No, I’m just joking! I’ll keep my mouth shut on that.
Ben: Tell as about your experiences in touring with artists such as Willie Nelson, Jack Ingram, and Dierks Bentley.
Steve: I’d say they were pretty pleasurable. We’ve toured around with Jack and Dierks. We only played a couple shows with Willie Nelson. Dierks is like a buddy you’d have in high school – just a really nice guy. He goes out of his way to make sure everybody’s taken care of, which is cool, you know. A lot of people don’t do that.
Ben: How does your current album 2nd Avenue fit in with the previous No Justice albums? In what ways is it similar or different?
Steve: A lot of the similarities would be just style-wise. We definitely push the boundaries with the rock and blues genres on the new record. We still have kind of the same melodic exploration that we’ve always had.
Ben: Do you have a favorite song on 2nd Avenue?
Steve: Oh man, they’re kind of all favorites, and it’s kind of refreshing to be able to play something new after a little hiatus since the last record. I like the roller coaster melody with “5 More Minutes,” and I like the inspiration with “Coming Up the River,” and I like the rock side with songs like ”2nd Avenue.” We want to take somebody on a one-time ride with this record instead of the same thing ten times in a row.
Ben: Do you feel like being able to take a hiatus for a few years made for a better album?
Steve: I’d say yes. Three years ago we wouldn’t have made the same record that we made recently. I don’t think it was “our time” to record any earlier than we did. I’m a believer that you shouldn’t rush a record.
Ben: Have changes in membership had a significant effect on the band’s sound and group dynamics?
Steve: Since Cody has added a third harmony vocal and his signature lead guitar to the mix, it has definitely changed our sound a bit. It’s hard not to with such a dominant instrument.
Ben: Johnny Cooper and Rebecca Lynn Howard contribute vocals on a couple of tracks. Could you tell us how they came to be a part of the project?
Steve: Johnny was there quite a bit during our recording process, and I thought it would be cool to have him on a few tracks, just to throw a wrench into the gears and switch things up a bit. Rebecca and our producer, Dex [Dexter Green], were friends and we thought her voice would really compliment the song. We were very happy with the outcome on both performers.
Ben: Would you like to tell about your next new single and video “Gone Ain’t Far Enough”?
Steve: ”Gone Ain’t Far Enough” is my first attempt at writing a waltz. It is also one of the more country tracks on the record. It will be interesting to see how we do with a more country song on the radio since the first two singles off the record that went to radio were definitely more rocking.
Ben: Final question - What is country music to Steve Rice and to No Justice?
Steve: In a nutshell, I think its based on simplicity and honesty. It stretches from the good people that we meet to the great musicians we work and share the highways with. Country is one of the few genres in today’s music scene that actually still has some good values.