Who is Bryan Rice? I asked the question when I received my invitation to his media showcase. Punted as an up-and-coming male pop vocalist from Denmark, his record company flew him out to South Africa for a performance before the world (read: the UK and USA) becomes enthralled with his subtle good looks and delightfully romantic, almost tortured music. Or so they said.
Entering The Palms in Rivonia one Thursday evening I was skeptical about whether this Danish pop star would be able to better the palpitations I had from an Aston Martin parked downstairs (anyone who knows me will testify that I’m a sucker for attractive men, romantic music and fast cars). But I doubted in vain, for the minute Bryan Rice started singing, I melted – something that made interviewing him the coming Monday morning a daunting task.
At his hotel, Bryan Rice is as cool and collected as can be, relaxing in the sunshine next to the elaborate swimming pool. Dressed in jeans, t-shirt and a zip-up sweater, his casual appearance suits his humble personality like a glove. Introductions are made, coffee is ordered and our chat begins.
I can’t resist beginning by asking who exactly Bryan Rice is. “Fortunately for me I am an unwritten paper, being relatively unknown still”, he replies. “Normally when you travel to a new country people already have this impression of who you are, but I like the fact that I am an unwritten paper here.”
“It happened that way in Denmark as well because I was picked out and made a pop star in one month. The media just didn’t know what to write about this new singer and people thought that I was from England or the USA,” he says. “The image that I would like to have of myself as a person is that I’m just an ordinary guy, your typical boy next door. I don’t want to be one of these big icons that are unreachable,” he adds. “I want people to see that I’m a guy who loves what he is doing and has one purpose, which is reaching out and touching people. If I can change something in someone’s life or help someone, make him or her happy then I have reached my goal.”
Bryan’s debut album is entitled Confessional, a collection of twelve tracks that lean toward love, romance and relationships. “I would say that the keyword for my music and my album is ‘profound’”, says Bryan. “I didn’t just go into a studio and star singing. I’ve put every corner of my soul into the songs and I want people to dig into them to find that. To me music is what gets my day going,” he muses. “I have music and songs for every kind of mood and I really hope that my music and my debut album can become something that people use in their day to day life. I chose most of these songs specifically for that purpose, the lyrics and the mood and everything”, he says smiling, “I hope that they can enter someone’s soul and make him or her happy or make them feel that they can go on. I hope people can use it in a way other than just listening or partying to it”.
I ask him whether there is a difference between Bryan Rice the person and Bryan Rice the singer. He replies in the negative; “It’s just me. I haven’t had to act to be this person. I co-executive produced my album for the same reason – it had to reflect me. That’s also why I want to keep both feet on the ground. For example, when I do a concert I don’t like to leave the stage. I’d rather go down and talk to the people and hear what kind of difference I can make and have made in their lives, which song on my album is their favourite – things like that – because it’s the only purpose I really have with my music.”
He insists that he’s not driven by the expected motivators of performers: “I haven’t thought about fame and money and traveling; it’s just the fact that I can reach out to someone that I don’t know that amazes me. And everyday I go out and I see that it is possible to do that by singing and making music, and also by showing them the person that I am”.
“The idea of singing to a person that is lonely and telling him or her that I can help you, I can be your guide, I can put my arms around you – I find that very beautiful…”
And Bryan Rice has achieved just that with his debut CD. It’s an album that sounds both immediately familiar yet excitingly new, enough to make you start all over again when you come to the end of the final track.
Out of the 12 songs on the album, at least five of them have “hit” written all over them. “I had about 800 songs to choose from and therefore feel that the twelve songs that made the album really come from my own mind and my own heart,” says Bryan.
He had a massive hit in Denmark with the song No Promises which was featured on the soundtrack to the movie Nynne. “No Promises means everything to me really because if it wasn’t for that song none of this would’ve happened. A few years ago I made a demo for the songwriters, just helping them record the things that they wrote,” he explains, “and No Promises was one of those songs. That’s how it all started. So the song is very, very special to me.” Written by Jonas Schroder and Lucas Sieber, it was number one in Denmark for 10 weeks, and after 43 weeks it’s remarkably enough still in the Top 20.
The first single from the album is Homeless Heart, a track that is receiving phenomenal airplay in South Africa at the moment. But then again, it’s written by Desmond Child (remember Ricky Martin’s Livin La Vida Loca?), Andreas Carlsson (who’s worked with everyone from the Backstreet Boys to Britney Spears) and Harry Sommerdahl (from Ace of Base to Lindsay Lohan).
“It’s first of all just a beautiful love song,” says Bryan. “It’s got all the clichÃ©s but in a beautiful way. The idea of singing to a person that is lonely and telling him or her that I can help you, I can be your guide, I can put my arms around you – I find that very beautiful,” he smiles.
Another stand out song is the title-track, written by Steve Lee, Tina Harris, Pete Gordeno and Jamie Hartman (who’s worked with artists such as Natalie Imbruglia, Will Young and Lucie Silvas). “Confessional was actually one of the first songs that I chose,” explains Bryan, “We were very fortunate to get it because it was actually on hold for Britney Spears. First of all it’s a great pop tune because the music and the chorus are perfect. I’ve always felt that music was a place where you could confess, not saying that I have the urge to confess personal things as such, but as a place where I can tell people things, to get out some messages that people can take into their lives.”
I’m not easily bowled over by male pop vocalists. Some songs may have tugged at my heartstrings and touched my soul a bit more than others (I’m thinking songs like Addicted by Enrique Iglesias, Breathe Easy by Blue, Can’t Stop Loving You by Phil Collins) but I struggle to remember any other recent songs by men that truly rocked my world.
It’s phenomenal then that Confessional did all this with just the first three tracks. It’s also remarkably sad that my time in the company of Bryan Rice has passed so quickly, but Bryan assures me that the limited experiences he’s had in South Africa has him hooked, and that he’ll most certainly be back very soon. And a performance in an all-gay venue for an all-gay crowd? “I’d like that,” he grins, “I think it could be fun!”
I could easily have spent another hour talking to Bryan Rice. He is undoubtedly talented, immensely humble and – above all – human. He has no superstar-attitude or ridiculous demands. In fact, the more interaction he can have with people who enjoy his music, the better. The more hearts and souls he can touch with his music, the happier