Joe Nichols Talks New Album, Reflects On His 15-Year Career

It’s hard to believe, but Joe Nichols is celebrating fifteen years as a hit recording artist in 2017. It was back in 2002 when the singer first hit with “The Impossible.”

What goes through his mind when he looks back at his successes so far? “I’ve never had a job this long. It feels, at times, like it has been a struggle over the years. But, at the same time, it feels like every year has been a great year. I can’t describe it,” he shares with Sounds Like Nashville. “When you hear fifteen years put like that, it sounds like I should be having some kind of a reunion with somebody. There have been a lot of friends in my band and management that I have worked with over the years, as well as at record labels and writers and producers. I think about those people – not just the albums we’ve recorded or the shows that we’ve played. I think about all the people that participated in my career.”

The singer, who just released his tenth studio album, Never Gets Old, doesn’t really think of words like legacy in his career, as he’s still trying to create – and make a living. “I do think that people that have had fifteen year careers have been a lot bigger superstars, and maybe a lot more consistent,” he admits. “I will say that my story is a lot different than most, or any artist in Country music. My business manager, Chuck Flood, told me that one day he was going to write a book – he’s had many clients over the years – and has been in the business for a long time. He told me ‘If I ever write a book, I swear I’m going to devote an entire chapter to you and how interesting your career has been.’ There’s an element of what I’ve already done meaning something to me, but I’m still in young kid mode where I want to go into the studio and make something great. It’s not like I’m going in thinking that I want a number one record or something like that, but I want to make something great. I want to make a Country album – with steel guitar and fiddle blaring loud. I want to feel like I did when I was ten years old, and wanted to be George Strait. That’s what I have tried to do with every album, and hope I get the chance to do many more.”

Looking back on where he has been so far, what would Nichols tell himself about his career when he kicked it off, a la Brad Paisley’s “A Letter To Me?”

“It would be a long letter, but I would tell myself to enjoy the moments – the big gifts that we have – whether it be awards, number ones, or duets. Things like meeting Merle Haggard for the first time or George Jones. Sitting in the dressing room with George Strait and Alan Jackson at Madison Square Garden watching the CMA Awards because they didn’t want to sit in the crowd. It was just us three in the room watching the show. It was one of the greatest moments in my life. I would tell myself to enjoy those moments and savor them while they are happening. The other thing is to slow down. I was too fast and impatient at everything. I wanted so much more than I already had. I was so much in a hurry. Maybe if I had been a little more patient, I think I might not have had all the dips and the valleys that I have had in my career over the years.”

If fans of traditional Country have their way, Never Gets Old will be nothing short of a hit. The album leans the most in that direction than any Nichols project in a while, especially on “I’d Sing About You,” of which he says he’s a big fan of how it turned out. “The thing I love about that one is that it’s really Country. The steel guitar is as loud as anything. It’s a simple message – which is I am who I am. These guys who were icons sang about these things, and my special meaning is you.’ Mentioning all the song titles – which are women’s names definitely gives it a little bit of a story.”

It’s tracks such as that one and “Girl In The Song” that were written and performed with the female demographic in mind – much the same way that Conway Twitty patterned his career – to record songs that every woman wants to hear their lover say. “I think that Conway was brilliant at finding songs that spoke to women how they wanted to be spoken to. Songs like ‘I’d Love To Lay You Down’ and ‘Hello Darlin’ spoke to a woman. He had an ability to find amazing song after amazing song. His song selection was incredible.”

Twitty would no doubt be proud of the saucy “Hostage,” of which Nichols admits “is a little bit ‘Fifty Shades of Gray ‘ – a little bit,” he says with a laugh. “I think it has some energy for being that kind of song. It’s got some passion in it. it’s one of the more aggressive songs on the album. We went in the studio, and thought ‘This sounds like it could be something. Let’s see what we can do to it.’ It’s a pretty cool bedroom song, maybe a little bit risque.”

Nichols confesses that he never has played the seductive card in the studio with a song choice, so he had to stretch a bit. “It’s a little blushy for me. I’ve always been a little conservative with that kind of material. There’s a point where you can be tasteful, and there’s a point where you can go overboard and be blunt and crude. I think this is a little more in that way, but not too much.”

Nichols also lets listeners see a spiritual side Never Gets Old, particularly with “We All Carry Something,” which he says was a no-brainer for the project. “Lyrically, ‘We All Carry Something’ is beautiful. It’s got a sad yet a redeeming quality, and a message of compassion for other people. It’s got a lot of my own personal story in the song with the little boy that grows up in a pretty tough environment. Then, in the last verse about Jesus dying on the cross – he carried that for us. To me, it was important for that to be on this record. I am that way, and I do think that way. I feel that way, and am that spiritual. I wouldn’t sell that out and leave it off the record.”

And, Never Gets Old closes with a song that Nichols has been performing at his live shows for years – “Baby Got Back,” the classic 1992 hit from Sir Mix A Lot. “This song is interesting, because even the young teenagers that weren’t around when the song was huge, I think even they remember the song jamming to old school rap. It amazes me how many younger people know that song. Certainly, anyone thirty or older remembers how big that it was.”

Nichols put a very traditional spin on the Rap classic, which gets great reaction from his fans – and the original artist himself! “Pretty much, everyone when we kick into the song, they get that instant gut laughter. They start singing along, and it’s fun. It’s a quirky and different arrangement, and it fits well with what I do. I’ve talked to Sir Mix A Lot, and he said ‘I love this cover. You didn’t copy anything of what I did. You made this your song. For that reason, I love it.”

Never Gets Old is available for purchase on iTunes now.

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