Joe Nichols to play unplugged show Saturday
Country artist relects on two decades of creating music
A lot of odd jobs and sticking to his country roots are a few things that got Joe Nichols where he is today. The award-winning and Grammy-nominated country music star got his start over 20 years ago and is still going strong. Nichols takes the stage at the Vilar Performing Arts Center on Saturday night for an unplugged show, so expect to hear a lot of stories.
“Or bad jokes,” Nichols said.
Nichols sat down with Tricia Swenson for an interview on “Vail Valley Live” earlier this week to talk about his new album, where he sees himself in the next 20 years and any New Year’s resolutions.
Nichols grew up in Arkansas and listened to county music at a young age and liked the sounds of Buck Owens, Merle Haggard and George Strait. That style of music left and imprint on Nichols.
“I was a disc jockey in Springdale, Arkansas at Beaver 105 – Today’s New Hot Country. I got fired because I played a lot of the old stuff and I wasn’t too great at following the program log with today’s hot new country, so that was my first kind of push back against ‘the man’ of current country music.” Nichols recalls.
Support Local Journalism
He moved to Nashville to try to break into the music business in 1997 and, like everyone else who’s waiting to make it, Nichols had a lot of odd jobs. He worked as a UPS driver for a few months during the holidays and said that was a “really good job” and he also said he was a cable guy “for a minute” and moved furniture, worked construction and concrete and said that working with concrete was “brutal.” He also was a steak salesman for one day.
“That was an adventure in itself. I am a terrible salesman because I can’t lie that well, or at least my poker face is not that great. So, with being a steak salesman, it’s all about the pitch and I’m more of ‘hey, if you like steak, I’ve got steak, otherwise I’m not going to sell you anything.”
That honesty and authenticity has helped Nichols stay true to his roots and is what makes him so endearing to country music fans – traditional and contemporary. Nichols was signed to Giant records in 1999 and he spent a couple of years there developing his sound and writing. Then Giant got absorbed by Warner Brothers and soon they wanted Nichols to become more of a pop country artist and conform to the times, but Nichols stuck to his traditional country sounds and asked if he could bow out of the contract.
“They did a very cool thing, and you don’t have many labels that do this for people, but they let me out of my deal, free, with music, and they let me go seek a label that was more interested in the kind of music I did. And, finding that label, which was Universal South, I realized that having the nerve to say ‘no’ in the face of ‘hey, we’ll make you a star, but it just has to be our kind of star,’ I was like, ‘no thanks, I want to do it my way,’ and that’s when I believed in myself enough where I was on to something that people would like,” Nichols said.
And people do like Nichols’ music. He has six number one hits and eight Top 10 singles including “Sunny and 75,” “Gimme That Girl,” and “Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off.” He is also an award-winning artist, receiving the Academy of Country Music’s “Top New Male Vocalist” award, the CMT “Breakthrough Video of the Year” award as well as the prestigious “Horizon Award” from the Country Music Association and has been nominated for a Grammy three times.
“As I look back on 20 years, it will be 21 years in March, it seems like it was yesterday and, my goodness, the amount of luck, fortune or blessing or whatever you want to call it, I have been the benefactor of a lot of blessings and a lot of stuff I didn’t deserve and a lot of hard working people around me that fought for me and did some amazing things,” Nichols said.
Nichols has been busy touring the country with his band after the release of his latest album “Good Day for Living” in February. He also found time before that to play a bit role in a movie called “Murder at Yellowstone City” that was released in 2021.
“I think I’m in the trailer for two or three seconds and I think I’m in the movie for about 20 seconds,” Nichols said. “I found out it is all about the editing. I had the director say to me, ‘I’m so sorry, we had to cut this down and I know you worked really hard on this’ and I told him, ‘no worries, as long as the movie is good and the way you want it, you don’t have to make me a star, I’ve got a side gig.’”
When asked if he skis or snowboards, Nichols said he tried snowboarding in his 20s but it messed up his back, so he skis when he can.
“My girls, who are 8 and 10 years old, they like to ski if we make a trip to the mountains. We like to ski, but mama, not so much,” Nichols said.
Nichols’ wife and kids live in Tyler, Texas, where his wife is from. With him being on the road a lot, they wanted their daughters to be close to relatives. Family is a big priority for Nichols and spending more time with them is one of his New Year’s resolutions.
“One of my goals for next year is to get all of the work done before December so I can take the month of December off. With the kids being at their age, I want to be there the full Christmas season,” Nichols said.
Watch the entire interview to find out a few more things about Joe Nichols, like what he’d be doing if he didn’t make it in the music industry, the shows he is binge watching and how he left his wallet in the dressing room after a concert at Red Rocks.
Tickets for the 7 p.m. show are $48 and this concert is eligible for the Ticket 4-Pack where you can buy tickets in a group of four at a discount. The 4-Pack is $144 total so gather some friends and save a few bucks. This show is also part of the Pick 3/5/8 winter ticket pages where the more shows you buy, the more you save, so look at the website to see the line up through the rest of the season. Free parking is available at the Villa Montane and Ford Hall parking garages in Beaver Creek Village with a valid Vilar Performing Arts Center ticket for that same night’s show. For more information, go to VilarPAC.org.