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Joe Nichols: Road to Happiness

The newlywed talks about his fans, his philosophy and his “big no-no”.

In the Oct. 8 issue of Country Weekly you’ll find our revealing article on Joe Nichols, in which the singer discusses his recent marriage, his new Real Things album and how his relationship with his late father shaped his life. Here, only online, is more from our interview with Joe.

On Fan Feedback About His Music:
It’s really cool to watch and see if anybody catches some of the things that I’m really tickled about, whether it be performing stuff on the album or certain song selections. Little things. This vocal or that vocal, this guitar part, this other thing. I look for any kind of comments on what my ideas were. “Did anybody catch that I did this?” When they do, I’m like, “Aw, that’s awesome.” I really get a kick out of that. As far as shaping what we do in the studio, with all due respect to the fans, we really won’t change what we started doing on Day One. That’s what brought me to the table, is who I am. That’s natural to me. As long as I do that, they’ve already said by buying the previous albums, “This guy’s cool. We appreciate who you are.” I think that’s a great place to be, when you have that kind of fan approval. Just keep being who you are rather than going out and being someone you’re not to get more sales. I think that’s a big no-no.

On Finding Songs for Real Things:
We were following our usual protocol, which was, let’s find great songs first, then we’ll worry about how it shapes up later. The last thing we want to do is go by a formula that says you’ve got to have this on the album and this on the album. Rather than do that, let’s go out and find great songs. If it starts to shape up right, let it go. We had some things along the way that we cut that didn’t feel right to me. It felt like this would be stretching what I’m comfortable with. This would be compromising to me. Songs like “Ain’t No Crime” scared the bejesus out of me. I’m thinking, “Oh, this is gonna be tough.” But I like challenges. I think I work better when I’m faced with something that I don’t know about. You’ve got to make a leap of faith. And we’ve come out with something that we’re really, really proud of.

The Theme of Real Things:
It’s really interesting to me how it became a story, with all these different songs from different directions, different ideas, different creative points. If you notice, it takes a curvy road. It looks like a big sonic wave, the direction of the album. The first part [“Real Things”], you’ve got a guy that’s saying, “I love the things that I learned at an early age that I didn’t even know I knew until I realize now that that’s what is real to me. That’s what I know to be true. Home. I love stone fireplaces, I love being out fishing and putting up a fight, cracking open a beer, moonshine in a mason jar, new strings on an old guitar. Mama singing, making breakfast. Wow, that’s real to me. I know it now. I didn’t know it then. It took a long time to realize that those are the things that you’ll hang on to forever, that are real to you.” That’s the theme. That’s the guy. The first song on the album sets the tone: Here’s what I am, here’s what I know so far.

This is a relationship right over here [“Another Side of You”]. “I’m in love with a woman because of her little bitty things, the way she cusses when she stomps her toe, the way I call her and flirt with her when she’s at work.” That’s my relationship. Then it swings over here to, “I am a romantic and I want to know everything about this woman because I really want her” [“Who Are You When I’m Not Looking”]. All of her. And then all of a sudden it swings way left—“Coming Back in a Cadillac.” That’s a kid again. “I’m gonna show you all.” Then it stays there for a little while. And it comes back to “Ain’t Nobody Gonna Take That From Me.” The things in life that nobody can take away, no matter what you lose. Same guy as on “Real Things.”

It’s very interesting, the way the pendulum swings back and forth, but it never loses contact with the guy in “Real Things.” Even “Let’s Get Drunk and Fight” is the guy that’s in “Another Side of You.” There’s a definite direction.