(CSC) 1. Great to be with you again! Congrats on the new music, new label, and latest single “Sunny and 75.” How have these new beginnings given you a fresh outlook on your career?!?
More than anything, I think it has given me a brand new chance to start all over again, rekindle the relationships with radio, and certainly introduce myself to a different part of the country music fan base that maybe has never bought a record from me before with the new sound. A lot of things are brand new, mostly I think due to the new direction of the record, I think it's more like a reinvention of me, not a complete retooling, but an expansion of what I've already done, which is what the label challenged me to do and certainly a good chance, like I said, reach an entire new fan base.
(CSC) 2. You mention that this record is something you wished you had been able to record at different points in your career but were held back. How so?
I mean that and I take the blame for most of that as well. I think at certain points I had an urge to really want to expand my sound into a more progressive sound, but was really afraid to alienate some people that were country music purists, like myself, a traditional fan. So that fear of losing touch with those people kind of kept me from maybe reaching out there and seeing what I was capable of. There were times the record label that I was at, that A&R process, wasn't as organic and honest as I liked it to have been, but a lot of circumstances make those things happen, it's not just one or two people. I think, given all the circumstances though with the course of my career, I share as much, or more blame than anybody for not doing what I always wanted to do, which is what I'm doing now, which is: expand, create, a new sound, see what I'm capable of, see where the boundaries are, see what is good for me out there.
(CSC) 3. What was the main factor that influenced your decision to finance the music independently before presenting it to the major labels?
I did, I cut the first few things myself out of my own pocket. I wanted to, first of all, have music in hand to show people, this is what I'm thinking, this is the music that I've done, I feel like I have hit in my hand ready to go to radio today. That was number one. Second of all, I wanted to see what I was capable of in the studio without any kind of leadership beyond myself, my mind, and the producer, I wanted to see what that felt like. I wanted to go in there with the mindset of, “I'm gonna find the best songs for me and go cut them with nobody telling me a timeline or a budget or anything else.” That's why I did that. There were several motivating factors in that, that's kind of what I ended up with, with songs that were singles that will be singles and certainly got lots of labels excited about signing me.
(CSC) 4. During your approach to making this record, you talk about being open to songs and sounds that most people wouldn’t expect from you. Why was that aspect of the recording process so important to you?
I think with the time away from radio, I think something had to change. A lot of things had to change about me, about the music. I can't just reintroduce myself and have the same, basically feel. I wouldn't expect any different result. I had to stay current, stay with 2013 and beyond 2013 and compete at radio, and to do that I had to let go of some of the old ideas of how I'm supposed to make a record. The thoughts I always had in my mind, I'm supposed to be more country than anybody else, and I’m not supposed to let money or success or sales dictate any part of my artistic integrity in making a record. I didn't quite do that, but I actually had in mind, why not listen to what is happening, what is driving people to shows, what is driving people to buy records. Taking that into part of the consideration of making a record can't be anything but wise; I would be a fool to ignore what is driving country music these days. I feel like I can take that information, and the information that I have from always loving traditional country music and somehow try to find a good balance of what is acceptable for me, acceptable for my fans and create it and new and fresh and exciting and quality. So that's what we did, that's what I've done with this album.
(CSC) 5. Tell me about your working relationship with Benny Brown, the founder of Red Bow Records. How has his involvement encouraged you to think outside the box as an artist?
My working relationship with Benny Brown is great and largely because it doesn't feel like a working relationship, it feels like a family. You know, Benny gives me a lot of leeway to follow my gut and he gives me very solid input when I think something up. I'm always open to the fact I may be wrong. Benny explains early why he believes it if I am wrong and we disagree on something, he believes early why. At the end of the day I still feel right, he lets me have that. It's almost like a parent kind of figure there. Instead of a record label president that just says, "Shut up and sing." I hate that mentality from a person in that position because it creates nothing but this rebellious attitude in me that says, "I'm gonna prove you wrong if it kills both of us." So, that's never healthy and I don't get that at all from Benny Brown, what I get from him is a very good sound logic, him and John Loba. With a very good sound logic, and they approach A&R in a philosophical way rather than a what's dollars and cents today. Those records always are going to be great. When you have a pile of songs for whatever reason that everybody agrees on, everybody find special and marketable being the key. To me, that feels like it lessens our chances at failure because it feels right to all of us.
(CSC) 6. Being a dedicated traditional country music artist, what do you value most about the freedom to broaden your appeal as you continue to make music?
My opinion is that I’ve got very little to lose. I think that's kind of the freedom of this record, is that I have. A lot of people may look at it as a very pressure filled time for me, like its do or die, this album’s gonna make or break me. I don't feel that way. I feel like I've done a lot of things. I've gone down a lot of wrong roads; I've gone down some right roads. I feel like this album is kind of freeing because I have no pressure, everything is up from here. I've been without a label, without a single for the past year and a half and I am reintroducing myself to radio with my hands clean and my mind fresh, and with my mind new and a great outlook on ideas and I'm not that jaded guy that will only hear what I want to hear.
(CSC) 7. I’d like to talk to you about the great duet you recorded with Randy Travis and your personal thoughts on the passing of George Jones, I know you’ve performed with him in the past.
It's hard to put into context what George Jones meant to country music and the people in country music; the personalities, and the actual people in country. Of course he was a big male musical vocal influence on just about every male singer, certainly the traditional ones. As far as his impact on country music as a whole, it's immeasurable, you can really quantify it. You can't put a number on it and say he meant this much percentage of how great country music is. I think if you put it in baseball terms, it would be like Babe Ruth, there's a guy that meant to baseball, everything. Guys have surely passed his numbers to date, but you cannot ever put into a number or a stat how much Babe Ruth meant to baseball. Same with George Jones, he meant to country music what Babe Ruth meant to baseball, what the Beatles meant to Rock ‘N’ Roll. It doesn't matter with sales, it matters impact, and influence and lasting; George Jones will always be the voice of country music.
Enjoy PART II of our interview with JOE NICHOLS:
(CSC) 8. What impresses you most about your fan base after all these years of having a friendship with them?
I love the devotion of my fan base, because of the music they dig deeper than the singles to hear. I love that they buy the albums, they listen to the albums over and over again, and they memorize songs that were never singles, and they ask questions about lyrics and obscure songs from my past. To me, that gives me a tingle inside, that means they've lived with the music, they have lived with it long enough for it not to be just wallpaper they put in the CD player every now and then depending on the mood they're in. They actually care about what I've done on record; even the stuff that the masses don't care about.
(CSC) 9. Being a seasoned artist in the business, at this stage of your career, what professional achievement are you most proud of and why?
I'm most proud right now of longevity; eleven years into this, touring and putting singles out. I'm proud because I'm not a guy that exploded and went to the top and stayed a headliner status. Those guys are certainly out there, and guys that have come along since my release and surpassed me and gone beyond. Certainly there have been some that have come out, exploded and then faded away, but I'm proud mostly that I'm still able to go up on that stage and people are still able to recognize my face and the songs that are coming out of my mouth. I'm proud of the length of the career that I have, and what excites me most is that I think the best is yet to come. I think our future is something I've always hoped for in the past and just hoped I had some good luck somewhere but this time I feel like we've really got music to back it up.
(CSC) 10. How have you adjusted to being a father once again and what is life like having a new baby around?
Sometimes I take her with me; I love every part of being a father. I love that that little girl misses me, and I get to hold her so tight when I get home. She's learning something new every day. I hate that I miss her, I hate that I have to be away from her sometimes. Having a little baby at home, gives me something to smile about all day long. She is fifteen months old now and she’s a hand full man, she's everywhere; she is smart as a whip. (Laughs)
(CSC) 11. Thinking of all the endeavors that you are a part of, what goals would you like to accomplish for the rest of this year and going into next?
Well, for the rest of this year, I think that on the surface the goals are to have tremendous success with this single, to keep the tremendous momentum we have going at radio continue, and to have a successful album launch. I believe that will set up what happens over the next eighteen to twenty four months more than anything. My goal is to take advantage of this time of growth that we have right now and really set ourselves up for the long term plan, to eventually make it later and later in the show and these festivals. Instead of playing at 5:30pm, maybe next year we will be able to play at 8:00pm, and maybe the year after that we will be able to play 10:00pm and close the show out; that’s the long term kind of thinking. Right now, the plan is to be prepared as these little steps happen; and as these little things happen, we're able to achieve these little things like a hit and then on top of that another hit to be prepared and ready for whatever that comes with. Whether it be bringing a show out where there's a stage, a set and start doing some real, real art to your shows.
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