For Joe Nichols, New Music Is (Calculated) Risky Business
Joe Nichols' new album is a mix of risk and warm blanket, and he wouldn't have it any other way. For every song like "Billy Graham's Bible" there's a "Tall Boys" and "Baby Got Back." Yes, that "Baby Got Back."
"I feel less satisfied when we have success being cautious," Nichols tells Taste of Country. His current single "Never Gets Old" is true to who the traditional-leaning country singer is but somehow feels like a risk in the current country climate. It's a tremendously important song for him, and he admits he had Don Williams and Randy Travis on the mind while cutting it.
"Simple, but not easy," is how he describes the album's title track, adding, "Which is difficult these days."
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Never Gets Old is Nichols' first album in nearly four years. Crickets produced back-to-back No. 1 hits, but songs that followed continued the commercial roller coaster he's always been on. "Freaks Like Me" and "Undone" didn't make the Top 40 or the album. Both were risks in their own ways, which is something the 40-year-old enjoys. One of his biggest hits was "Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off," a song everyone advised him not to release as a single.
"Tall Boys" was cut soon after Crickets was released in October 2013. It's an edgy production with a traditional country theme. Nichols admits the song stretched him creatively and he could never get away from the energy it brings to the album.
"It sounds cool and it still sounds country," he says. "It sounds modern."
"Billy Graham's Bible" is a song he included on his last album — does it get any safer than that? The reason for repeating it, Nichols says, is to give it another shot at becoming a radio single. More people need to hear his message.
"In the right hands, they come alive / You understand, the reason why / Some things wind up where they're meant to be / Like Billy Graham's bible / Willie's old guitar, and me," Nichols sings during this ballad.
Never Gets Old is Nichols' ninth studio album, something that's astonishing even to him. "I know a lot of guys who had a lot of talent that came out around the same time I did … that only had a chance at one or two albums," he says. "To be here and be that fortunate to make the ninth album is pretty good."
These days he tries to savor the roller coaster's peaks, something he didn't do 15 years ago. He was, he says, aloof back then, assuming award nominations, No. 1 hits and accolades were an endless bowl of country candy.
"The Grammy stuff, I was like, 'Two years in a row, we’re gonna do this every year!' And it’s not true."
Perspective and greater understanding of who he is as an artist may mean his biggest hits are still to come. He is only 40, after all, with a voice as timeless as Travis' or George Strait's. The title of his album may indeed be much more than a song.
Joe Nichols Talks About Cutting "Baby Got Back"