Jerrod Niemann says he was once slapped in the face by a girl who thought he was Lee Brice.

Now that girl is probably slapping herself.

The two country phenoms - and good friends - have not only taken some heat for each other, they have helped each other through when chasing a dream become a hard thing to do.

That was when Niemann was playing his music in a bar in Nashville, - the only source of income he had at the time.

"Things were tough at times, but me and Lee, Randy Houser and Jamey Johnson - we all stuck together," said Niemann over the phone today. "It really helped everyone bond in a time when we were all struggling."

Now things are looking quite well for all four of those names - two of which are performing in Florence this year at the 20th-annual Country Thunder.

Niemann, who says George Strait was one of his inspirations growing up, is returning for the second time in three years.

"It's a great place," said Niemann about coming to the Grand Canyon state. "It's just one of those places you can't help but enjoy."

Not only is there something special about Arizona for Niemann, there is nothing he'd rather be doing professionally.

"I've never had any other option," he said. "Never once, the whole time when I was in Nashville, did I say, 'What am I doing?' I never once thought about leaving."

But, if there were an offer on the table for something else, would Niemann take it?

"Not unless I'm forced to," he said. "Once music gets ahold of you, it's like a disease."

Niemann goes on stage in Florence on Sunday at 5:30 p.m. The artist of "Lover Lover" and "What Do You Want From Me" has some advice for his fans as his performance approaches.  

"Take your vitamins," Niemann chuckled out.

Check out Explorernews.com for updates on each night's performances.

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