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The Country Music Hall of Fame's Ford Theater, an intimate 200-plus-capacity performance venue in Nashville, became "Joe's Place" as Joe Nichols kicked off his CMA Music Fest fan club party on Sunday ( June 12).
Now in its eighth year, Joe tells Country Weekly that the fanclub party is something he looks forward to. "It's a time for us to be informal and sing some songs, talk and get to know each other in a way that's not so scheduled like it is before concerts. There's more time to relax at the fanclub party," Joe said.
Joe performed a cover of Merle Haggard's "If Only I Could Fly." Afterward the fans took over, asking the singer a string of questions and shouting out song requests. "You want to hear 'Brokenheartsville'?" said Joe teasingly. "We don't know that one." Another rowdy fan commented on Joe's choice of apparel (jeans), saying he needed to don shorts more frequently. Joe was ready with a witty comeback: "They don't go very well with cowboy boots, but I said the same thing to Carrie Underwood and Julianne Hough."
Another couple flew to Nashville from Australia for CMA Music Fest. Joe recently traveled to the country on a six-city tour. "I'm manly about a lot of stuff," said Joe, "but when you're in the air over the ocean, it's four hours to the next landmass, and there is turbulence, you start making some deals with God. So apparently I'm going to church every day now," he joked before kicking off a cover of Merle Haggard's "Kicking Out the Footlights Again" and then "Brokenheartsville."
Joe also didn't mind talking about his experiences at the recent City of Hope Celebrity Softball Challenge, including his thoughts on American Idol runner-up Lauren Alaina. "Laura is a trash-talker," said Joe. "That entire game, she was in my face talking trash. I was like, 'I don't really know you,'" he said, setting off laughter in the room. "She was like, 'We gotta step it up, man. We gotta win this!' This is softball, not American Idol. No one's texting votes."
Special guest Dierks Bentley showed up to perform his hit "Lot of Leavin' Left to Do." "It's my wife's favorite song," Dierks joked about "Leavin'." Joe and Dierks, both avid Keith Whitley fans, performed a cover of Keith's 1990 song "I'm Over You," which was released roughly a year after Keith's death in 1989.
Joe closed out the evening by posing for photos with fans in front of an American flag backdrop.