THE sold-out crowd at CMC Rocks made the festival's international artists feel right at home in Willowbank yesterday.

Arriving on our shores from Japan three days ago, American singer Chase Rice was the first overseas artist to take to the main stage.

"I was clueless about everything (in Japan)," Rice told APN.

"We were eating sushi one night and we were putting our soy sauce in ash trays because we didn't know any better.

"Here feels a lot more like home. We can at least speak the same language."

Chase Rice and his band perform for fans at CMC Rocks at Willowbank.
Chase Rice and his band perform for fans at CMC Rocks at Willowbank. Inga Williams

The 29-year-old is also no stranger to raceways, having served on Jimmie Johnson's NASCAR pit crew team for one and a half years before going on the American TV series Survivor: Nicaragua.

Only learning guitar while playing gridiron for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Rice found his biggest success so far co-writing Florida Georgia Line's hit song Cruise.

But even before he took to the CMC Rocks main stage Rice had found success on the Australian charts with his album Ignite the Night debuting at No 1on the ARIA Country Albums chart last week.

"I wanted to wait for the right time (to come to Australia) and now's the right time," he said.

"In the (United) States you can't just play all the festivals. You've got to build up your career, but you come over here and you do these big festivals and people get to see you. It's a really cool experience for us because we get to play to a lot more people than we normally would."

Passing showers didn't dampen the mood of the first day of the three-day event.

Punters arrived early to get a good spot in front of the main stage for the evening's headliners Blackjack Billy, Kip Moore and Lee Brice.

Redneck rockers Blackjack Billy used their second CMC Rocks appearance to premiere their new Canadian single Tread live on the main stage using the broadcasting app Periscope.

"The song's about not wanting to go home when last call hits, like who's got some tread left in their tyres?" guitarist Jeff Coplan said.

"I'd call it an extend-the-party song."

Chase Rice plays again tonight, warming up the main stage for the festival's major headliner Jason Aldean.


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