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Joe Nichols Interview



Hailing from Rogers, Arkansas [Joe Nichols] the unmistakable baritone voice that country music listeners and critics alike have come to love is truly one that stands out in our generation, enlisting him as one of country music’s finest vocalists. With an honest approach to the material that he records and an even more effective manner in the way he delivers it at his live shows, Joe Nichols has respectively earned a solid reputation as an engaging performer. 

With the release of a brand-new album “Old Things New,” showcasing a very personal side to Joe that most have never seen before and a Broadway debut scheduled for early 2010, country music isn’t just a genre for Joe Nichols, it’s a lifestyle. The sky’s the limit and we look forward to watching him achieve it.

 

CSC had the great opportunity to sit down with Joe personally for an exclusive interview before his concert this past July in Bridgeview, Illinois, a suburb just outside of Chicago. We’d like to thank the staff at Triple 8 Management, Joe Nichols and his road crew for their generosity and accommodating demeanor. Joe Nichols is a treasure to Country Music and we know that you’ll enjoy this interview as much as we did doing it. God Bless. -Christian F. Scalise

 

(CSC) 1. Thanks for the visit! Please tell us about your brand-new single “Believers” and what you’ve been up to lately.

 

(Joe Nichols)

Well lately we’ve been up to just finishing up the album. We’ve been working on the album for about eleven months. It’s been I want to say, the middle of May or June of last year since we started working on it. It’s now in completion. So that’s good! We’re sending out the first single named “Believers.”  It’s the single we got out there right now but more importantly I’m just focusing on the entire body of work, you know the whole album; what sticks out, what stands out. What came out like we expected. What came out better or worse than we expected. We’re just getting ready for this year. I mean this album is one of those that the more I listen to it, the more ideas and expectations and more upside I see. With some albums you pretty much just know what you’ve got, with this one I don’t know. I think there are a lot of hits on this album. I think we’ve come out with a really solid piece of work. So now, where do you go from there?!?  Now we just got to get it out to the masses. (Laughs) 

 

(CSC) 2. What can we expect artistically from your forthcoming album “Old Things New?” (It has been a while since the last)

 

(Joe Nichols)

Well, I think right now we’re just focusing on what we’ve got. I think we got some special moments on there. There’s a song about my personal struggle with addiction. It’s just a piano and a vocal we did in about twenty minutes. It took about three or four takes of me and a piano and singing a song about giving up booze. It’s not perfect, it’s not the best vocal in the world, tuned or anything like that, but it’s the kind of thing to me and it’s a special moment on this album. It’s a special moment in my career that I’m able to speak freely and artistically about something that’s very, very difficult for me. It’s something that I live every day. So, I think that’s one of the better moments on the album. There’s some vocal stuff on the album that’s right in line with “Man with a Memory” or “Revelations,” some of the better vocal stuff I’ve done. There’s some stuff on here that just feels like big radio songs. I think we’ve got a mix of heart and commerce. 

 

(CSC) 3. If each album of yours is a reflection of the personal stages in your life, how would this new album relate to you currently?

 

(Joe Nichols) 

Oh man, I’d say there’s two different ways I’m gauging this out. One is its taking me so long to make this album. There are so many twists and turns along the way. So many songs cut out, so many songs that came along, that made it into the process. So personally, just having completed the album, just as a work standpoint, it’s like “Ah, we made it to the finish line, and alright we’re done!!” Personally, as far as the message if the album goes, the songs on this album, I think it’s more personal than anything I’ve ever done. I think there are moments on here that are revealing of me in a way that I’ve never been before. I never talked about my addictions through songs you know, like this. Like “Goodbye to an Old Friend” is the name of the song I’m speaking about. I’ve never done a song like this that’s that dead on, very visual, very graphic. So yeah, it’s something brand new, it’s more personal. I think the one thing I’ve heard most from people is people feel like they don’t know me. Whether it be country fans don’t know me that well or country radio, whoever. They feel like they don’t know me. I think this album takes a step towards resolving that. 

 

(CSC) 4. Next year you’ll be performing on Broadway in a production of “Pure Country.” What are you most looking forward to about that and how do you plan to balance your music career at the same time?

 

(Joe Nichols)

(Laughs) Well it’s going to require a lot of attention to detail. Making sure that we can cater to what I love most, which is country music. I love what I do out here on the road. I love touring, I love singing every night in front of a new live crowd, and you know the difference in last night’s show and this night’s show. I want to make sure the fans in country music are my priority. I want them to know that they are my priority. At the same time, I’m looking forward to an extremely new challenge. Going to New York, the one thing I’m looking forward to most is living in the center of the universe! (Laughs) It’s a pretty big city and I’ll have plenty to do. Going to New York and doing a show on Broadway is a huge challenge for me personally. I love to be challenged; I love to be in situations where I need to excel. I look forward to it; it’s going to be fun! 

 

(CSC) 5. It feels like traditional country music is a dying art lately, why is it so important to you to live, eat, and breath that style of music when your fellow peers are continuously crossing over to other genres?

 

(Joe Nichols)

Well to be honest with you, it’s not like I’d want to buck the system or anything like that. I love country music. I’m passionate about it. I’m passionate about the traditional side of country music. I want to pay tribute to guys like Merle Haggard, Gene Watson, and Keith Whitley. I respect those guys and I owe them my career. They taught me how to sing. I listened to their records. Falling in love with their music gave me a path to go down. Its comfort for me singing what I sing, and playing the music that I play. The traditional style feels like home. If I play Rock & Roll music or hot music or try to go one way or another, it becomes somewhat of a fake feeling an empty feeling. So naturally I’m just drawn to what I know and what I care about.

 

(CSC) 6. What would it mean to you to become a member of the Grand Ole Opry, and how does the Opry connect with you musically?

 

(Joe Nichols)

I think there are a lot of people in country music deserving of membership to the Grand Ole Opry. I think it’s a huge honor for people that are chosen to be members. At this point in my career, you know it’s becoming more and more about what I do and not what I’ve done, if that makes any sense. I can look back and say I’ve won this award, I’ve won that award, been on this show, been on that tour and sold these records and it’s almost like talking about an ex-girlfriend or something. It doesn’t have anything to do with what’s going on today or what I’m about to do. So, I continue to keep my head forward, making the best record I can make. Staying true to myself and just enjoying everything I get to do and thanking God that this is my job. I think that that needs to be my focus. If the Grand Ole Opry comes calling one day, well I think it’d be a huge honor, as it should be for anybody in country music, traditionalist or not. But for me I think I’ve got to keep my head on this path and continue to do what I do.  

 

(CSC) 7. You’ve taken a great interest in the men and women who are serving our country. Tell me about your many trips to entertain them overseas!

 

(Joe Nichols)

Well, I went to Iraq in June 2009. It was my first time in Iraq. I have tremendous respect, just from the physical side, of being a soldier or being a Marine in Iraq. The extreme weather conditions and going through the routine everyday. People carry 120 pounds of extra weight on their body with the armor, with the clothes and with the weapon. You know carrying that around with you in 130-degree weather is not fun but they do it every day and they don’t complain. They do it eighteen hours a day most days. They don’t get vacations, holidays and weekends off. They’re there to do a job and they do it twenty-four hours a day, 365 days a year and I think that’s just commendable! They don’t have any other job. They don’t have anybody else on the planet that is dedicated to something they believe in, like the military. So that’s why I respect them.

 

(CSC) 8. Growing up, who were some of the artist’s male/female that inspired your interest in Country Music?

 

(Joe Nichols)

George Strait has been the guy. I’ve loved listening to his records since I was five or six years old. I guess about 1980 or 1981 I had my first George Strait record, a little white cassette tape. Merle Haggard, honestly, I think he’s probably the best singer that ever hit country music. I’ve mimicked his records since I knew I wanted to play music. My dad loved Merle Haggard. I don’t know if it was because my dad loved him or just because he’s that damn awesome! I just have always been a fan and always will be. Gene Watson and Marty Robbins are favorites too. We could go on for days! Keith Whitley, Randy Travis, Hank Williams Jr. I love me some Hank! (Laughs)

 

(CSC) 9. If you had the opportunity to do a duet with the legendary Jack Greene, what song do you feel would be the best choice, and what do you admire most about Jack?

 

(Joe Nichols)

Jack Greene? Oh, I don’t know. He’s got “Statue of a Fool,” that’s obviously his biggest one. That’s a really good question. I have no idea what I’d choose to do as a duet with Jack Greene. I know he’s a singing son of a gun! Still is.   

 

(CSC) 10. What was the hardest obstacle you had to face when you first arrived in Nashville?

 

(Joe Nichols)

The hardest obstacle I faced was keeping my head in the game. I think the one thing that this music business [getting started and being successful] requires is a person being persistent and competent and just knowing that they’re on the right path, and that a couple of roadblocks are not going to deter them. I guess that was the hardest thing for me. I walked Music Row quite a bit, had a lot of appointments, a lot of people came out to see me play in those little showcase places and they always told me no. It was for one reason or another. Maybe it was something like, “One of my labels already has a traditional country singing male. All labels get one and we’ve already got our quota of country singing males” or “You know hey, we just put out a record on a guy like you.” You know it was any number of things, “You don’t wear a hat is the answer; we’re looking for a hat item, or something like that.”

 

Well, I sat down with my guitar player at one point. He used to come to those meetings with me. We sat down and wrote on a napkin how many times we had been told no by whomever and it was thirty-one times! Thirty-one appointments we’ve made and they said “Uh, no” before somebody finally said, “I think we could do something with this.” So, I don’t know if it was stubbornness or just getting out of my own way or just a mixture of all things, persistence, I don’t know. One of the guys that told me no is the president of the label I’m on now; the new president of the label. He’d probably kill me if he knew I was talking about this but he turned me down too, early on.

 

Well, I’ll tell you what, nowadays in any business for that matter, they don’t leave a whole lot to chance. There are not a whole lot of risks taken. I know that the web is a powerful, powerful, powerful tool. It’s marketing with sales, just everything. I think that’s changed quite a bit over the past seven years since my first record came out. A lot of things have changed with labels now doing more of a manager’s role. They’re doing more hands on all facets of an artist’s live career. I think that shows you a sign of the times. They want to be more involved in all the revenue streams, of course the entire decision making and everything like that. That’s quite a change from where I started.

 

(CSC) 11. At this point in your career, what are you proud of most and what would you like to accomplish next?

 

(Joe Nichols)

You know the number one thing I’ve always strived for and I’ll still maintain that today, I want longevity. I want to be here in thirty years. Thirty years after my first record came out, I want to say, you know what, I’m still putting songs out on the radio that people still like. I’m still making music I’m not disgusted by. I’m still doing what I love. Thirty years later, I’m actually able to send my child to a good school or able to afford her first car. You know things like that. That’s always been my goal, and still is my goal. The things that come along in the interim, you know the awards, or the big hit songs, or the big tours. Those things are awesome and they kind of protect that long term goal but at the same time, it’s just about staying power. Again, if you make good music, have a good team around you and do the right thing, then I think you’ve got a good shot at it.  

 

(CSC) 12. Lastly what is ONE thing about yourself that people would never assume to be true?!

 

(Joe Nichols)

(Laughs) I’m a rabid sports fan. I actually can do myself a lot of damage, blood pressure wise, just watching sports. I really, really get into sports and I’m actually kind of educated on a lot of that stuff. So, I don’t know if anybody knows that about me. I’m really into any trivial stuff, small stuff, I’m a baseball fan, so small things even matter to me. Like I said, I can get pretty upset. (Laughs) A lot of the guys out here on the road with me and the guys that have been in my band for awhile have seen some major league fits, when my team doesn’t do well. I’m not one of those guys that are mean to other people about it. Those people suck! But I will actually go into hiding, go into exile if my team loses. (Laughs) I do take it to heart. I love pro baseball. I love college football probably the most and pro football, as well as basketball. It just depends on what time of the year it is. I follow it all. Not much of a soccer fan, never have been. Ironic since we’re playing in a soccer stadium today, of course I won’t be saying that from the stage tonight! (Laughs) 

 

Part II of our interview with Joe Nichols;


(CSC) 1. Great to see you again and congrats on the #1 single “Gimmie That Girl” since the last time we visited. How have you enjoyed the huge success of the song so far?

 

(Joe Nichols)

It has been great; it’s rejuvenated a lot of things especially our fan base. It is a big ole blessing that’s for sure. Just when we needed a big song one came along for us and we had another good one that we followed that up with called “The Shape I’m In.” It was a good song that worked really well for us and did a lot of great things. I’ll tell you what, the new stuff that we’re working on that should be out later this year, is something we’re extremely excited about. It’s looking good man and we’re pretty excited. It was a good year last year, and it’s been a good year so far this year so it looks like we’re in a great spot.

 

(CSC) 2. You recently released a greatest hits album this year; did you have a difficult time narrowing down the tracks?

 

(Joe Nichols)

No, I don’t think so. It could have been called “My Only Hits” instead of a Greatest Hits. (Laughs) The label thought it would be a great idea to reconnect fans with some of my earlier stuff and some of my later stuff; it was a good idea and it seemed to work!  

 

(CSC) 3. Thinking back on your career starting at day one, what does it mean to you as an artist to have the hits and longevity to create an album like this?

 

(Joe Nichols)

Personally, it’s a wonderful thing to be able to fill an album full of select songs, that’s a pretty great feeling and it’s a tremendous accomplishment. It also feels like a chapter of my music career is over and I hope that a brand new and bigger one is just beginning; that’s what we’re hoping for. We have picked some good songs over the years that have turned people on and hopefully we can have another nine years like the last nine years; they’ve been pretty good to me.

 

(CSC) 4. When can fans expect an album of brand-new material, and what type of direction will you head with it?

 

(Joe Nichols)

Well, I can tell you this, it’s going to be FUN!! It feels a lot like it did when we headed into the third record (III) with “Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off” and “Size Matters.” There’s a lot of fun stuff on this album and we’ve starting working on it and I’m taking it as it goes. So far, it’s working really, really well working with Mark Wright and Buddy Cannon as well. I couldn’t be more proud of the way things are starting off and we’re about halfway done with the record. On that note, it’s going GOOD!

 

(CSC) 5. Tell us about your upcoming headlining tour that kicks off next month in Australia!!

 

(Joe Nichols)

Yes. We are going down to Australia on the 27th of April, our first day of media kicks off on the 28th and then we begin our tour on the 29th. This is my second tour that I’ve done in Australia; I’ve actually been there twice before and I was just there this past year for a few weeks. I had a great time in 2009 where we did about two weeks’ worth of headline shows. I have connected pretty well with the Australian country fan base. It’s swelling down there, there’s a really good vibe; an earthy kind of an organic country growth down there, it is really cool to watch and be a part of. They invited us back and I’m proud to go back.

 

(CSC) 6. You’ve played in Australia before; do the fans differ in comparison to those in the States?

 

(Joe Nichols)

They are actually similar in a lot of ways and in some ways they’re different. They remind me of Texas-country fans because I think Texas country music has its own kind of a vibe and its own whole. Australia’s country music is much of the same; it’s got its own thing. They have a great bunch of talent down there and artists that are great writers, singers and performers. I also think that it is really cool that they invite American country music to be a part of that!

 

(CSC) 7. Do you plan to allow leisure time during your trip, and if so, what would you like to do when visiting?

 

(Joe Nichols)

Downtime is pretty rare but I love sleeping. (Laughs) I know that sounds like a pretty boring thing but when we are in between touring and out on the road, I love to get caught up on rest. With this particular trip to Australia, I’ll be taking my daughter with me. We pretty much have a vacation planned in between the dates down there so we’re going to get to do some fun stuff mixed into the tour. She wants to be a marine biologist when she grows up, so what better of a place to study on that than Australia, so this will have a lot more leisure than a normal tour!

 

(CSC) 8. You are good to your fans and pretty accessible in the way that you interact, so why is it important to you to have the bridge from artist to fan?

 

(Joe Nichols)

Well, I think it’s my personality, I hope so; I can’t get a real good accurate read on that, it’s tough to say. I hope that’s the kind of personality I have; being a very approachable person. I consider myself extremely normal (Laughs) and always try to be at least courteous and gracious. I know that if I put myself in my country music fans shoes, and I am a fan of country music; I love Merle Haggard, George Strait, Alan Jackson, George Jones, Hank Jr. and all those guys, I’m a fan of country music so I know that as a fan I want those guys to be approachable and likeable. I want them to live up to who they seem like they are on the radio, guys that I wouldn’t mind hanging out with; nice guys and pretty cool dudes. So, I suppose that is kind of what I think about when I think about how I try to interact with fans and people that come to see the shows.

 

(CSC) 9. Would you like to record a duet with someone that you admire like Merle Haggard or George Jones on this new record?

 

(Joe Nichols)

I haven’t talked about it completely what I’m going to do as far as duets go and I don’t know what options are on the table but we talked about it several times about doing a duet with Merle. I would love to do a duet with Merle, I just think he is great and he is my hero; an all-time favorite. I would just love an opportunity to sing with him one day. I feel the same way about recording with Jones and George Strait; these guys are my heroes and I would kill for that opportunity. We’ll see how the record goes. I think the one thing I don’t want to do is force anything that doesn’t feel natural. If a duet presents itself naturally with an organic chemistry, then I say ABSOLUTELY! I love George Jones though, he’s the man! I’ve done dates with him several times. I have so much respect for him not only just the history behind him but also the fact that he’s still singing great, still touring, still works and he’s overcome more than we could ever imagine. The same with his wife Nancy, she has been the rock that guided him along the way; she’s a great individual herself.

 

(CSC) 10. Who is the one person in your life that keeps you grounded and why?


(Joe Nichols)

I would have to say Heather, my wife. She keeps me grounded because she’s not afraid to challenge me. She’s pretty strong willed, we both are, which can sometimes make for an interesting conversation with different ideas and different opinions. She reminds me of who I am when I need it most. She has known me longer than anybody except for immediate family just about. (Laughs) We have known each other for almost sixteen years now. She is a good friend to have.  

 

(CSC) 11. At this stage in your life, what have you learned to appreciate the most?

 

(Joe Nichols)

I would hope that the things that I have learned to appreciate the most, I hope this is how I am, is God and the recognition that something bigger than me has saved me and bailed me out, helped me along and loved me and blessed me more than I could ever deserve. I think that I appreciate that more than I ever have before. I would have to say as far as my career goes; the things I appreciate now are the fans. Especially the ones that have been country fans of mine for all the past nine years since my first record came out. I appreciate it and I appreciate their loyalty, honesty and devotion. 


Part III of our interview with Joe Nichols;


(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?!?   

 

(Joe Nichols)

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?

 

(Joe Nichols)

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?

 

(Joe Nichols)

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?

 

(Joe Nichols)

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?

 

(Joe Nichols)

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?

 

(Joe Nichols)

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.

 

(Joe Nichols)

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.

 

(CSC) 8. What impresses you most about your fan base after all these years of having a friendship with them?

 

(Joe Nichols)

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?

 

(Joe Nichols)

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?

 

(Joe Nichols)

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?

 

(Joe Nichols)

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.


Part IV of our interview with Joe Nichols;


(CSC) 1. Great to be with you! Having experienced Platinum success and two #1 singles with “Crickets,” were you a bit apprehensive returning to the studio with “Never Gets Old” after a four-year break in between recording?


(Joe Nichols)

Uh, yeah! Antsy and apprehensive. When you spend that much time making a record, there's a lot of second guessing, because we changed directions four or five times and finally had to settle on the best ten to thirteen songs. So, when you narrow down the album like that from sixteen to eighteen songs, and you feel great about all of them, it can be scary because you think, “Man, what if I just cut away something that Blake Shelton is going to have a hit on tomorrow?” That can be very scary.


But at the end of the day, we wanted to make it appeal to the traditional country fan base out there, yet still touch what radio's doing. Songs like “Breathless,” “Tall Boys” and “Girl in a Song” ... Those are songs that are kind of meant to touch on the younger fan base that is still very strong in the country music world.

 

(CSC) 2. You’ve said that returning to the same approach from the early days of your career has been a full circle moment. Looking back, how has the Joe Nichols of then improved as a singer and songwriter to the Joe Nichols of today?


(Joe Nichols) 

I think I was a hard-headed a-hole! There's no other way to put it! I didn't want to listen to anybody. I had my own idea of how we were going to go forward, and I really didn’t want to hear ideas about how to change things or how to adapt. I just wanted to make old 1960s and 1950s records that would sound like my heroes. But at the same time could hopefully be timeless. I think nowadays I still have the timeless thing in my mind, but I'm open to hearing I'm not the smartest guy in the room.

 

(CSC) 3. It is so refreshing to hear authentic old-school country songs on this new record! As an artist, how do you manage to stay true to yourself, while keeping up with the ever-changing trends on radio?


(Joe Nichols)

It's really tough. It's an uphill battle with anything that’s traditional, and I think the demographic with country music is driven by sixteen to twenty-five-year-old females and even sixteen to twenty-five-year-old males. They weren't alive when I was growing up on the music that influenced me, so it's hard to get them to connect with what I feel passionate about. But sometimes they do. I've seen a lot of college kids really kind of branch out and take the chance or take the initiative to go out and buy our records – actual records – and learn some of the old history of music.


That’s what I think is all behind the resurgence of traditional country music. Chris Stapleton and Sturgill Simpson… I think those guys are having success because younger crowds are going, "Man, there was some great stuff made then and these guys are making probably even better records!" And you know, why not? It fits my life style. I love the content, I love the talent.


So, like I said; it's really hard. It's an uphill battle. It takes a long time to get a single to break through in a lot of more urban cities with huge country stations. It's understandable. There's a lot of places that play a lot of country music. But you know, it’s tough getting real traditional country songs to be played a lot there; it can be a bit of a of battle, because you have to have something that pushes you into statistics where they believe it will make a difference. You know what I mean? To change their mind, it takes some kind of data, some type of information to show somebody who doesn’t necessarily believe that it will work.

 

(CSC) 4. The title track “Never Gets Old” is reminiscent of the music of the late Don Williams. How much of an influence was Don on your career? Can you share with us your feelings on the recent losses of Don Williams and Troy Gentry?


(Joe Nichols)

I'll start with Don. You know, it seemed like he lived a long time in doing a very enviable style of music which is front porch country. It's not complicated, it's not something you have to put on for people. It's something that you walk out onto the stage, sit on a stool, put your feet up on your monitor and you just sing your songs and that’s good enough. You know he was just such a good poet. And more than that, I think he was such a good philosopher. Whether he wrote it, whether he sang it; he brought an element to country music that wasn't there before, besides a guy like Merle Haggard.


Philosophy and country music has been a little tricky, you know? A guy like John Denver had a little trouble because he was outside of what the mainstream was. I think his voice was so endearing. He had such a soothing voice, and people loved whatever he said before the end of the song. So, in my mind, in my world, I've always said this about every interview I've ever done, “I have a top five who’ve influenced me. It's hard to put just the top five together; but George Strait, Merle Haggard, Randy Travis, Don Williams and Keith Whitley.


Those guys have been the biggest influences on me for different reasons. Not that I think Don Williams would out sing anybody, but I wanted to capture what he made the crowd do which was feel comfortable enough to like him no matter what he did. And his philosophy, the things that he said, were smart. It wasn't dumbed up enough for the masses to latch onto a certain hooky melody (Joe sings a bit of “Good Ole Boys Like Me”). People will have to Google who Uncle Remus was today and then a lot of references in that song. That’s what I loved about him; he was so philosophical, so smart that he was beyond most country songs and most country artists for his time. Eric Clapton was a huge fan of Don Williams, and that says probably all you need to know.


(Troy talk)

I've become a fan and a friend of Troy over the last ten or twelve years. When we first started, they were also just getting started, and they had a lot of success early on. They were rowdy and they were friendly, but they were so loud and going ninety miles an hour that it was really hard to get to know somebody like that on a personal level. But as the years have gone on, you know he and I both have kind of slowed down a little bit in that area of our lives, and he's become a friend. He was always very, especially like I said in the last ten years, he was always very thoughtful and always very engaging and always wanted to know how you were doing before you said anything. "How are you?" "How can we help?" "What's going on with this?" "I heard about this, can I help?" And that’s truly a person that grows. He was that guy that you had an opinion of fourteen years ago, and you do a 180 because this guy has changed your mind completely. Hopefully I can be that kind of person too. But it's hard to do. He accomplished that.   

 

(CSC) 5. How cool was it being able to finally record a video for your country cover of “Baby Got Back” with rapper Sir Mix-a-Lot? I know you’ve been performing this song for quite a while in your live shows!


(Joe Nichols)

Well that sort of snowballed. It was just for fun and then it became a thing! One day, at one point in the show, five, six, seven years ago, I would give the band a break for a song or two. I would just sit up there with my guitar and I would play maybe two or three songs different every night. Most of the time it would just be me. I would just play guitar and sing and sometimes the band would join in and help me finish out the set. It was a fun deal. It kind of showcased me and it kind of let them have a breather, and all the focus became about me instead of the show.


At one point one day, we were at a festival. I think in Arizona maybe, and I was on the bus and I thought what if I screwed with the band right now? What if I had a little sideways action for them that they would go, “What is wrong with him?” So, I learned a few words of the song (sings) "I like big butts and I cannot lie. You other brothers can’t deny" And so I learned about three lines of that song, but the band kicked in before I could stop the song and so the joke was on me (laughs) and the band was like, “Come on keep it going!”

So, the next day we all had to get together and I had to learn a lot of words because that song has a ton of words. I only cover about a tenth of the song and it’s a two minute and twenty-second song now with only a tenth of the words. But the band helped with that and it stuck because when I did that, it was meant to be funny and break the ice with the crowd. I was doing acoustic. It was at a festival and so people are drinking beer and they're kind of looking, and they're like oh well! You’re singing up there and you're having a good time, and you're really not having a party yet, but when I did that the people went nuts. They came alive! And so, it said to me, “This is something we can do beyond today.” We can do this every show and surprise people and it would be something in the show nobody would ever expect. And so, we did it the next night, and we kept doing it every night since.


I guess Mix had somebody in the crowd a couple of years after that when we played close to Seattle, and he had a friend that called him during the middle of the show and held his cell phone up and he said "You got to listen to this!"

What he said to me was really cool. He said "I love this version more than any version I've heard as a cover because this version has everything to do with the lyrics, but nothing copies me on this song. You made it totally you… and I respect that kind of thing more than anything in music; as a publisher and as a writer."


And so, we did that for four or five years. When we were making this album, we were on our last session with Mickey Jack Cones, and we had about an hour to spare for our last session, and he said, “Man, we cut the last two and we have an hour to spare. We have the players here and we have the charts done. We don't have to give them something complicated that they have to learn for an hour. Just throw that three or four chords in the studio and let em roll! They'll love it! Let em fly! Let that steel guitar player roll!” And he did. I was so happy that we even got to try it.


I was thinking the record label will never go for this. They'll think, “God you've wasted money!” Which we didn't. We were still spending. You know, we just hadn't spent all the money anyway. This was a freebie almost. So, I got in the studio and did my scratch vocal, and later that day I did the actual vocal here on the record.


It came time to narrow the songs down to the record. I was shocked that the record label said we've got to put "Baby Got Back" on here and I was like, God I would've never had thought that a label would take me seriously on something that is so out of the box. But they did. They did a really good job of sitting behind me and taking a chance on something that could be an out of the box success, or visibility success.

 

(CSC) 6. If you had to choose, which song from the new album is your current favorite and why?

 

(Joe Nichols)

You know, I have a couple. I'd be dumb if I didn't say "Never Gets Old" isn't one of my favorites, because the first time I heard it in its finished version, I played it so my two youngest daughters could hear it and they sang along immediately. They caught on and the next time I played it for them that day, they sang the whole chorus; and they're only three and five. Three and five-year-olds don't usually do that. So, I figured either they're geniuses (laughs) and can retain information unlike no other three and five-year-old, or it's something that’s catchy enough to work. But I think "Never Gets Old" is one of those songs that if it works, if it pushes through, if people give it a chance and it actually connects with people, it can be one of those defining moments. It may not ever be number one, it may not ever sell what "Cruise" sells but it could be something that defines me today.

 

You know, this could be the chapter of my life where I don't have to move onto the next single and pick something else. I think there's a few songs on this record that really stand out as my favorites and as single choices; but my half of my brain thinks business and the other half thinks art, and that’s the balance I want to have. I think "Reckless", "We all Carry Something", "So You're Saying There's a Chance" and "Diamonds Make Babies” are the ones that are the most obvious to me. And maybe "This Side of the River" has an outside chance of being the last one people hear from this record. "Billy Graham's Bible" is good by the way.

 

(CSC) 7. It’s been quite the family affair these days with your wife and kids joining you on the road. How do your daughters react to being up there onstage, and do you foresee them following in your musical footsteps?

 

(Joe Nichols)

Maybe. I think my five-year-old is definitely a performer. My nineteen-year-old is an academic. She's studying to be a doctor and acing everything. She’s a very smart kid. My five-year-old uses a stage in our upstairs family room that’s about as big as this whole backstage area, and at the very end we have a full 9x6 stage with curtains and lights and everything. They love to get up there and perform and sing. They have very good pitch and a very good memory. My five-year-old writes songs every day. She'll wake up and sing a song that’s four lines and they all rhyme. Yeah, only some of them make sense, but they all rhyme and she sings them in key.  

 

(CSC) 8. Out of all the hit songs you’ve had over the years, which song has surprised you the most with its success?

 

(Joe Nichols)

I think "I'll Wait for You" surprised me the most and here's why I say that. We had 35 to 40 weeks on the chart with "I'll Wait for You" and it climbed into the top twenty with a struggle. It was so slow. It was about death. Folks don't necessarily want to hear about their mom or dad dying on their way to work, so it surprised me.


Also, at that time, Anna Nicole Smith died, and you'll find that her family called and asked me to come down to the Bahamas to play at her funeral, which was out of the blue. I knew her a little bit. I only met her a couple of times. She came to the Opry and we became acquaintances. She was a friend, but I didn't know we had grown so close that they thought I should be there.

 

When I went down to the Bahamas, I didn't want to give a single interview. I had gotten requests from CNN, Headline News, FOX, ABC, CBS, NBC... even Larry King called; himself. Everybody called and asked if we could just give them five minutes of our time. They just wanted to know what it was like; what my part was, what I knew about her, and what my experience was with her. I didn't do one interview because I thought it was extremely disrespectful to make that occasion about me. The reason I decided to decline the interviews was because I saw that everybody there was trying to make that moment about them. How can I capitalize on this woman passing away? How could I make myself a name? And so, I decided the high road is seldom taken, so, let's take it. Let's just be quiet and play our songs at the funeral and honor her, because she's worth honor. And that’s what we did. Then we went home. I was surprised that after that event, the song went from twenty-five to number 12 or 10, and sold half a million records in that short amount of time.

 

(CSC) 9. Aside from country music, what are you most passionate about?

 

(Joe Nichols)

I'm passionate about my kids. When I see them, they give me joy that I have never felt in my life, no matter what I've done. I love a lot of things related to sports. I love a lot of things related to food and eating. I love a lot of things to do with the fellas, but nothing gives me joy than spending time with my kids and seeing their faces when I come home and walk through the door.

 

(CSC) 10. As you begin to wind down 2017, what exciting plans do you have in store for 2018?

 

(Joe Nichols)

You know 2018 is kind of a mystery. We have a lot of promo stuff at the end of 2017, but I think 18's going be filled with… it depends! (laughs) It depends what 17 ends with. We have a lot of things in the fire to really amp up our album; our single and our fan base. And it always seems like something weird happens at this time where people go, “How did that happen?” Like that Sir Mix A lot thing. You know that was not planned. That came together in two weeks. We didn't expect that. We were expecting to put out something with "Never Gets Old" and be done with it. We put out a video that we put together in ten days that cost us nothing. It cost him (Sir Mix A lot) to come and drive out for the video shoot for a day. Then we got six million views on line. So, 2018 is a mystery to me! I'm hopeful that it’s consistent with every other time. I don't know what's going to happen!


Enjoy photos of our interviews through the years with Joe Nichols;

 










 




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