Joe Nichols was born on November 26, 1976, in Rogers, Arkansas. His father was a truck driver and his mother, Robin, was essentially on her own while raising Nichols, along with his older brother, Mike, and younger sister, Kelli. When he wasn't driving a truck, Joe's father, Mike, sang and played bass at bars and VFW halls, and raised his family in Arkansas and Missouri. His grandfather and uncles also played classic country. "Their kind of country," Nichols said on the GATV.com website, "was the music I've always liked to listen to, my favorite records: George Jones, Merle Haggard, Marty Robbins." During his high school years, Nichols's friends all listened to rock music like AC/DC and Motley Crue. Although he liked the same music, Nichols kept coming back to country music and stars like Randy Travis and Alan Jackson.
At age 19, Nichols recorded an album for the short-lived independent label Intersound Records. While Nichols's music videos received some attention on Country Music Television, his music got very little radio airtime. Although he continued to display his baritone voice by taking low-paying jobs singing in bars, Nichols also took on a number of odd jobs while hoping for musical success. He changed oil in cars, sold steaks door-to-door, moved furniture, and installed cable television systems. "I'm drilling a hole in this lady's wall and installing her cable, and she says, 'Excuse me, but are you Joe Nichols?'" he told USA Today. "I said 'Ahhhh, yeah … that'll be $49.95, thank you very much.' Things like that can really humble a person." At times he considered giving up his dream of country music stardom, but Nichols was persistent, and continued to write music and cut demos.
In 1999 Nichols's friend Brian Spradlin introduced him to studio guitarist Brent Rowan. The two were kindred spirits and began working together, both appreciating the simplicity of good quality country music. The duo captured the attention of two music executives, Tim DuBois and Tony Brown, who were working with Universal to develop Universal South, a new joint venture record label. As the label's first release they chose Man with a Memory, an album sung by Nichols and produced by Rowan.
Nichols was determined to make his second effort work. "It helps that my first deal didn't work," he recalled on his official website. "That kind of failure motivates you to never be in that spot again. So I'm doing everything I can to make this record successful." The album was a hit, receiving three Grammy nominations for Best Country Album, Best Country Male Vocal Performance, and Best Country Song for the ballad "The Impossible." Billboard magazine called the song "an inspiring tribute to life's possibilities." The album was certified gold for sales of over 500,000 units, and the upbeat song "Brokenheartsville" hit number one. Billboard enthused, "This guy is absolutely going places."
In 2002 Billboard named Nichols as the Top New Country Artist, and certified "The Impossible" as the tenth most played song of the year. The artist won the Country Music Association Horizon Award in 2003 and was named by the Academy of Country Music as the Top New Male Vocalist of 2003. Country Music Television named "Brokenheartsville" the year's Breakthrough Video. The readers of Radio & Records voted Nichols the Best New Artist of 2003. He was the first artist to win all three major top Country awards—from the Country Music Association, Country Music Television, and the Academy of Country Music—all in the same year.
Nichols played the Grand Ole Opry every available Saturday night. A few days after the death of his father in July of 2002, he performed the Merle Haggard classic "Footlights," a favorite of his father's. "I think the old man would have appreciated that," Nichols said in USA Today, "getting to say goodbye at one of his favorite places, in one of his proudest moments, with one of his favorite songs."
Nichols was invited by Alan Jackson to open selected shows on his 2003 Drive tour, and he performed more than 150 dates for him. In 2004 he was invited by Brooks and Dunn to open for their Red Dirt Road tour.
In early 2004 he was named as a spokesperson for the Children's Miracle Network, which raises money for children's hospitals in North America and Canada. On his official website Nichols declared, "Whether it's a broken bone or battling leukemia, you want to know your child is receiving the finest care and research possible. The Children's Miracle Network prides itself on representing the hospitals that do just that. As a father, I am very honored to be associated with them. Over the next year, I hope to help raise awareness and support for this organization that helps to care for all of our children." Nichols has a daughter, Ashelyn, who lives with her mother in Seattle, Washington.
In April of 2004 Nichols hosted the Country Music Television special for the 2004 Flame Worthy Video of the Year. The special featured videos as well as interviews with artists and experts in the music industry. Nichols has continued his relationship with Brent Rowan as producer and with the Universal South label. "The core of your songs and music," Nichols commented on the GACTV.com website, "needs to be about what you know, what you feel. You can spice it up, flavor it, add this or take away that. You can add colors, make it modern-sounding, make it different, unique, or off-the-wall. You can, I believe, add things to classic country without making the core of it vanish. You can wear any kind of clothes that you want to wear, you can put on this or that. But that classic country base, that's what I'm always going to come home to. Because that's where it is for me."
Joe Nichols, Intersound, 1996.
Man with a Memory, Universal South, 2002.
For the Record …
Born on November 26, 1976, in Rogers, AR; children: Ashelyn (daughter).
Released Joe Nichols, 1996; released Man with a Memory, 2002; toured as opener for Alan Jackson, 2003; became spokesperson for Children's Miracle Net work, 2004; hosted Country Music Television's Flame Worthy Video of the Year Special, 2004; released Revelation, 2004.
Awards: Billboard magazine, Top New Country Artist award, 2002; Country Music Association, Horizon Award, 2003; Academy of Country Music, Top New Male Vocalist award, 2003; Country Music Television, Breakthrough Video, 2003; Radio & Records, Best New Artist, 2003.
Addresses: Record company—Universal South, 2200 Colorado Ave., Santa Monica, CA 90404. Website—Joe Nichols Official Website: http://www.joenichols.com.
Revelation, Universal South, 2004.
Billboard, August 10, 2002, p. 20; February 1, 2003, p. 39.
USA Today, November 12, 2002; November 6, 2003.
"Joe Nichols," CMT.com, http://www.cmt.com (April 13, 2004).
"Joe Nichols," GACTV.com, http://www.GACTV.com (April 13, 2004).
Joe Nichols Official Website, http://www.joenichols.com (April 13, 2004).
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