Joe Nichols: “We’ve Forgotten Who Loves Our Music”
“As a genre, we’ve forgotten who loves our music, and for the most part that’s middle America, just regular people,” Joe Nicols told the Phoenix New Times on Tuesday ahead of an appearance at the Country Thunder festival in Arizona. “I think in an effort to be cool, the fashionable thing, the hip thing, we’ve kind of forgotten that that’s our bread and butter. We’re country music; we represent the common man and woman.”
Joe’s comments come as similar sentiments have been offered up by other artists, but Joe also communicates the concern about where country music could be headed now that Bro-Country is getting close to the end of its life cycle. Since Bro-Country pushed away many of country music’s core constituents, and now Bro-Country isn’t even around to help fill the gap, it has caused country to enter a period of contraction that could put some of the industry on shaky footing.
READ: Why Country Music Is Sick in 2015
“To me, [country music] gotten a little fickle,” Joe continues. “The music has gotten a little bit redundant at times, which I can’t really complain about because I try not to do what everybody else is doing and try to stick somewhat close to traditional country music because that’s the kind of artist I am, so I can’t really complain that much. There’s hills and valleys in all genres and I think we’ve kind of brought this on ourselves with not knowing what’s going to happen next year, what’s going to be popular… I think it needs to sound like a country song from a country singer, believable as a country song. If it can fit in other genres 100 percent of the time, then you should probably look at what that really is.”
Niochols has spent much of his career as a traditional artist, but has flirted with more commercial material upon occasion, including last year’s “Sunny & 75” that became a #1 hit on radio. Though it doesn’t evidence the worst of what country radio has to offer in any capacity, Nichols admits the song was “one of the hardest things I’ve had to sing and definitely out of my comfort zone.”
April 7, 2015 @ 7:04 pm
Joe doesn’t mince words, I think this interview is a great example of his ability to say more with less.
April 7, 2015 @ 7:20 pm
Joe Nichols has had some great stuff. The yeah yeah song was also just a little out there for me musically but I still like the guy. He needs to get back to dojng songs like the impossible and broken hearts ville
April 7, 2015 @ 7:21 pm
When I first heard ‘Sunny and 75 ‘, I left a comment that I was devastated they’d finally even gotten to Joe …one of THE BEST country singers ever , in my humble opinion . ‘Gimme That Girl’ was the beginning of his slide into the nondescript music on country radio today . ‘Sunny and 75’ was his all -out attempt to play the game , I felt, and was very disheartened by its release. I’m happy to , at least , see Joe acknowledge the same and to reveal so with some honesty .It makes it a bit easier to swallow , I guess ….but again …he’s ‘fessed up” to his transgressions and as I’d mentioned in earlier comments , if more of the established artists did that we may have reason to be hopeful . I can only imagine the amazing record Joe would make if it were all up to him .
April 7, 2015 @ 10:50 pm
I have no doubt that Joe Nichols wants to play traditional country music. But music is a business, especially for a guy like him. So the label comes to him with certain singles, and so to do what he wants to do, he pays his penance. Is it right? Of course not. But I have no reason to believe that what he said here isn’t exactly what he feels in his heart, and the same goes for Jake Owen, Gary Allan, and others who have spoken out. Whenever someone speaks out, I’m going to rebroadcast it, even if it is a little of the pot calling the kettle black. Because in the end, disgruntled artists speaking out is going to be an important part of turning things around.
Cool Lester Smooth
April 8, 2015 @ 12:56 pm
Yeah, I saw an interview with him where he explicitly says that, since switching to his new label, he records a few songs that he thinks will sell as singles, and then fills his albums with the songs he actually likes, hoping that someone who liked his single will buy the album and accidentally discover some actual good music.
April 8, 2015 @ 1:05 pm
I agree speaking out is important but at some point we need to see them back up their words and I don’t mean a single here and there it needs to be a consistent trend of releasing better material as singles because that is what drives the trends sadly not the cool album cuts.
April 7, 2015 @ 7:27 pm
His version of footlights is awesome!
April 8, 2015 @ 7:28 am
You ain’t lying, he knocks that out of the park. His version of Gene Watson’s “Should I come home” is on point too.
April 8, 2015 @ 8:13 am
Yeah thats one of the greatest covers ive ever heard, well done!
April 8, 2015 @ 10:51 am
And lets not forget Farewell Party, what a great job on that one as well!
April 7, 2015 @ 7:38 pm
Artists shouldn’t be forced to go too pop to get played on country radio. Labels and radio need to stop treating country music like penny stock scams.
April 7, 2015 @ 7:56 pm
In a lot ways the artist have allowed that to happen though. I can understand new or minor artists bending to the will of whatever the radio “Gods” want at the minute, but the major artists of this era have done zero favors by essentially becoming yes men who will record whatever their managers and record labels want them to record.
April 7, 2015 @ 9:43 pm
April 7, 2015 @ 9:58 pm
True and it’s easier for the bigger superstars to say “hell no I’m not selling out to pop” and still get played. It would really help country music if those guys took a stand but like Aldean said they don’t give a shit what country fans think.
April 8, 2015 @ 5:02 am
I think personally that artist are afraid to get dropped by their lable
Technically you don’t need a lable to get your music out anyway so I don’t know why they worry
In the age of YouTube, streaming, and 99Â¢ songs it’s a lot easier to get your music out their for the masses
It could be money, cause sometimes it’s not easy to stay rich even if your are sucsessful
Example: Metallica has lost more money then they have made through failed projects such as the Through The Never film. They are currently in the red
So an artist may fear becoming a Metallica, I don’t really know, but most likely it’s probably fear of being dropped.
April 8, 2015 @ 5:13 am
April 8, 2015 @ 7:45 am
God I can’t spell today
April 8, 2015 @ 10:31 am
Sure many are concerned they will get dropped if they don’t do what the label says but there’s no way a label would drop the leaders (biggest selling acts) like Aldean for not going as pop as his Old Boots, New Dirt album or Bryan for rejecting That’s My Kind Of Night because their sales and tours were already so huge from the massive airplay they got before they changed. Unless it’s in their contracts it’s their call and even if it’s in contracts those can be renegotiated. Universal and radio getting Bryan to do That’s My Kind Of Night or however that went down was the gateway drug to the pure pop Sam Hunts.
No country artist should be forced to change their sound so much synthesizers replace country instruments and there’s very little or no country instrumentation or sound left. Those who do it anyway without protest don’t care about country music. And when the biggest acts are or go pop they are seen as leaders and many follow, like all the new guys trying to copy FGL. We don’t see Aldean speaking against country going pop like Joe Nichols, Carrie Underwood, Tom Petty, Zac Brown, Miranda Lambert, Kellie Pickler, Jake Owen, Kacey Musgraves, and others who care. Sure some of them have a few pop or pop leaning songs but they refused to remix songs for pop radio and go pure pop and they still use country instruments.
April 8, 2015 @ 10:40 am
I think the truth is that guys like Aldean or Bryan are not really “artists”. Sure they make “art”, but they really don’t put any heart or thought behind the words they sing or in rare cases, write.
I firmly believe that someone like Jason Aldean growing up was more focused on the benefits of being a big Country singer like the money, fame, women, etc. than he was ever focused on “I just want people to hear my thoughts and words”.
Another way to put it, is artists like FGL, Aldean, Bryan, etc. were probably not listening to Guy Clark or Townes Van Zandt growing up, they were probably listening to hair metal bands and dreamed of being Tommy Lee or Vince Neil. I honestly think those guys that are leading the genre right now are just vapid people who honestly could care less what they record as long as it allows them to live the lifestyle they longed for growing up.
April 8, 2015 @ 11:26 am
‘guys like Aldean or Bryan are not really “artists” ‘
Totally agree and that’s why I try to generally refer to mainstream country singers as ‘acts’ or ‘performers’. It may just be semantics but I think the term ‘artist’ carries with it a level of talent and vision that most of these people don’t possess.
April 8, 2015 @ 2:42 pm
So much “Yes!” to what Mike W. just said.
I couldn’t reply directly to his comment.
April 7, 2015 @ 7:42 pm
At least Sunny and 75 was awesome. Those steel licks sear into you.
April 7, 2015 @ 7:51 pm
I like Joe and agree with his comments, but all these artists complaining about the state of Country music, are the very ones that may not be doing the most damage to the genre, but they also are not exactly helping save it or turn it around.
It’s great that artists like Joe Nichols and Jake Owen understand the state of the genre and how screwed up it is (at least at a mainstream level), but recording songs like “Yeah” or “Hard To Be Cool” that are essentially diet Bro-Country songs is not the answer either.
Cool Lester Smooth
April 8, 2015 @ 1:04 pm
He gets a little more leeway than Owen, as someone who’s recorded some great songs, and is actually aware that his singles aren’t all that good.
From an interview with the Boston Globe a few weeks ago:
“I think with “Yeah” and some of the stuff that was made for radio, a lot of times it”™s a tricky thing where you have to be engaging, but you don”™t want to make people think too much. I think the climate we live in nowadays with country radio, you should probably save the meat of your album for non-singles.”
He records a few radio songs to put food on the table, and then fills out the album with songs he likes.
April 8, 2015 @ 1:09 pm
Yep, that might be good for his bottom line but it’s not good for country music as a whole.
Obviously no one single performer is responsible for the state of country music but if nobody stands up with those good country songs then eventually they will cease to exist even as album cuts.
Cool Lester Smooth
April 8, 2015 @ 5:25 pm
It’s not just about his bottom line, though.
If he doesn’t release singles that do well, he won’t be able to release albums full of good songs (other than his singles) and have them reach as wide an audience.
It’s a big, vicious circle.
April 8, 2015 @ 5:54 pm
Vicious cycle, indeed.
Do the crappy singles attract more people to the good country album cuts or do they dissuade more true country fans from buying the album and thus hearing the good country album cuts?
It’s all such a cynical game, sadly.
April 7, 2015 @ 7:55 pm
Nichols has also followed the trends, for the sake of achieving a comeback after being dropped from his label. But, his recent pop-country singles are not nearly as egregious as his bro-country or urban-country colleagues. At the same time, I am not sure if Nichols is doing a whole lot to bring country back on track. He’s a great guy and very talented. We need him to take a stronger stand with his music, not just with his words.
April 7, 2015 @ 10:34 pm
Agreed, wish more artists would just put out a decent country song instead of talking about it.
April 7, 2015 @ 11:05 pm
Artists cant just make solid country songs and expect it to make an impact on music. In a perfect world maybe, but we weren’t force-fed bro-country as much as it seems, it was a slide. Any more i count a small improvement in songs as a victory because short of a format split, country can only change with a graduating slide of progressively better music. If the gods that be simply played true country music on a dime, would it save radio music, or drive it into the ground because people would feel too uncomfortable and change the station? Just my two cents.
April 7, 2015 @ 11:11 pm
Good wisdom Jay.
April 7, 2015 @ 11:29 pm
I know that bro-country grew out of an existing grassroots movement, but its takeover of radio was rather rapid. It went from virtually non-existent to completely dominant in a matter of just 2 years (from mid-2011 to mid-2013).
April 8, 2015 @ 8:14 am
Eric is right. In 2010 you could hear “Do I” and “Give it Away” pretty regular on the station, then came “hillbilly bone” and “dirt road anthem” and the bros came out of the woodwork like termites, by the end of 13 they were here to stay.
April 8, 2015 @ 4:33 pm
Exactly. Considering how much radio overplayed the first bro-country songs it was a steep slide. More like a dive off of a cliff. The powers that be are already making many country fans uncomfortable and change the station due to playing bro-country. To correct course they need to start playing more decent country/pop/rock again. Great lyrics, vocals, music and production.
April 7, 2015 @ 8:18 pm
This ongoing discussion about the state of country music today reminded me of hearing Marty Robbins on an AM station on my drive to work. I used to laugh at thinking about that great scene in the Blues Brothers, where the bar maid says “we play both kinds; country & western”. Leaving the AM station to find Brantley Gilbert on FM I thought, I miss the western….
April 7, 2015 @ 8:35 pm
Been a fan of Joe’s music, a few of his newer songs I haven’t been a fan of, but it nice to see he sees what we all have been seeing going on with mainstream realm of country music. Hopefully he can be one we can rally behind to get country radio back on track.
April 7, 2015 @ 8:42 pm
“The music has gotten a little bit redundant at times,”
Forget “Sunny and 75” Joe’s smash hit “Yeah” is the definition of redundant.
April 7, 2015 @ 8:48 pm
Can’t comment on much of his new stuff because I haven’t really listened to it, but I like what he says here. Was a fan of his “Brokenheartsville” and that duet he sang with Randy Travis about George Jones.
April 7, 2015 @ 9:47 pm
” Tonight I’m Playin Possum”.
Couldn’t have picked two better COUNTRY singers to honour George with that amazing song . Sad that a younger audience would really have no frame of reference for something so special , so heartfelt , honest , clever and COUNTRY .
April 7, 2015 @ 8:58 pm
Brokenheartsville is still one of my favorite songs of all time but he also has some other great ones like The Shape I’m In, The Impossible, and even Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off. I wish he would get back to stuff like that.
April 7, 2015 @ 9:00 pm
I knew you’d have a piece on this Trigger.
Maybe now that he’s had success again he’ll get back to making music that’s true to his heart and not “fake it to make it” as Brent Cobb says.
I love Joe’s early stuff. Songs like “Brokenheartsville” are what I’m looking for in my country music.
April 7, 2015 @ 10:45 pm
Thanks for the tip Joshua.
April 8, 2015 @ 8:48 am
Yup, not a problem bud. Knowing you, you were probably already on top of it before I even said anything.
April 7, 2015 @ 9:48 pm
I think Nichols is a fair weather friend of the country music genre. He waves the banner of traditional country when it is convenient. And come to think of it, here in California it’s been sunny and 75 most of this winter :sarcasm:
April 7, 2015 @ 10:09 pm
Joe Nichols has good songs except “yeah” which I don’t care for.
April 7, 2015 @ 10:57 pm
I’m divided in light of Nichols’ remarks.
Portions of his contentions can’t help but smack as hypocritical to me when you take into account the fact his current album, “Crickets”, is roughly 40% made up of bro-country lite songs (“Yeah”, “Hard To Be Cool”, “Y’ant To”, “Hee Haw”, “Open Up A Can”, “Smile On Mine”) and another 45% is made up of fluffy, disposable love songs.
I’m glad he has acknowledged that “Sunny & 75” was a song outside of his comfort zone, but as far as singles is concerned, I honestly didn’t mind it as it has been the least of his single releases sins this era and was quite effective for what it was: an infectious, feel-good sing-along that is actually more about perceiving paradise wherever you are with a loved one than another island country song. No, what has actually pissed me off is what he has followed that lead single with: the admittedly catchy but nonetheless shamelessly juvenile “Yeah”, and a song (“Hard To Be Cool”) that’s about nothing more than bragging about how hot a “girl” is. -__-
So, while it’s encouraging on paper to read Joe Nichols’ grievances about country music moving away thematically about singing about experiences concerning the common man and woman and what you do on the weekdays and weekends………..his remarks are basically shamrocks calling the evergreens green (because, let’s face it, kettles and pots are all sorts of different colors these days! 😉 )
However, where I can’t help but feel he hasn’t fully come clean on his lyrical and thematic transgressions………………he still has credibility as far as instrumentation and production is concerned and how he senses a growing number of “country” songs sounding 100% like other genres.
As much as “Yeah” and “Hard To Be Cool” irritate me greatly, at the very least when you come across them on the radio, you can tell you are listening to the country station. Granted both are primarily driven by electric guitar and notable drumming, but Nichols’ retains an unmistakably distinctive country vocal and “Yeah” also has whiffs of pedal steel. The production is still much in his late 90s wheelhouse.
At any rate, his talk is cheap unless he genuinely walks the walk with the forthcoming follow-up to “Crickets” and cuts a much greater share of songs that are more in the vein of “Old School Country Song”, “Billy Graham’s Bible” and his cover of “Footlights” from his current album, or “The Impossible”, “Man With A Memory” and “If I Could Only Fly” from previous albums. In fact, he hasn’t released a solid single since “The Shape I’m In”.
Tim McGraw has proven over the course of these past nine months that releasing more legitimate country radio singles with whiffs of traditional influence can still pay off in this day in age. If he can get away with releasing “Diamond Rings & Old Barstools”, and even a newcomer like Eric Paslay can get away with releasing “She Don’t Love You”…………..there’s NO excuse the likes of Joe Nichols and Easton Corbin can’t do the same.
April 7, 2015 @ 11:14 pm
I think Tim McGraw and Eric Paslay waited for the right time to release those songs, when Bro-Country was well on the wane and programmers were looking for something different. If they released them a year ago, they may have not had a chance. Hopefully artists like Nichols pick up on this and show some leadership with their music, not just their words.
April 8, 2015 @ 12:04 am
Joe and Easton don’t have a large fanbase. you can’t really compare them to Tim McGraw, whose fanbase is incredibly bigger. and Eric Paslay has introduced himself to country radio with an idiotic bro country song (Friday Night) and another vapid song before releasing She Don’t Love You, so it really came out as a surprise. Easton Corbin’s All Over the Road was a great country song and it didn’t even reached #1, it would’ve been very difficult for him to chart with a true country song. and Joe tried for years and years to release good music but radio constantly screwed him and his label dropped him. The only way for him to keep making music is to change his sound and adapt it to country radio standards.
April 8, 2015 @ 1:57 am
you forgot to mention Easton Corbin’s song “Clockwork” which failed miserably on the charts. if anyone reading my comment hasn’t heard this song go listen to it RIGHT NOW. it’s a true country song with a modern sound. Real shame that radio refused to play this song, yet that terrible new song he has out is at #13. Makes me sick.
April 8, 2015 @ 12:12 pm
I didn’t forget about that song, if you search for its video the first comment you’re going to see is mine: I was complaining about how much country radio sucks because they play jason aldean and lady antebellum and screw great songs like Clockwork. I didn’t mention it here because I think he tried to do something different with that song, it’s not 100% country but that exactly what contemporary country should sound like. I don’t care for his new song but I think he really had to release it. never before an Easton Corbin single had missed the top 20, and clockwork (a lead single!!) peaked at #32. I’m sure his label found that song and told him what to do.
April 8, 2015 @ 11:16 pm
And “Baby Be My Love Song” is a flat-out atrocious song that has no business being on the chart considering how pathetic its sales are anyway.
“Clockwork” may have sounded boring and forgettable to my ears, but at least its sales were slightly stronger than its airplay. “Baby Be My Love Song” has hardly outsold “Clockwork” and has vastly more airplay.
April 8, 2015 @ 11:08 pm
With all due respect, I consider Tim McGraw’s recent winning streak noteworthy in that, prior to “Meanwhile Back At Mama’s”, you’d have to go as far back as a full decade to find an era where Tim McGraw released two solid singles in a row: which in my opinion would be the title track and the enjoyably comical “Back When” from “Live Like You Were Dying”.
Yes………..McGraw HAS released solid singles between 2004 and 2014: including “My Old Friend”, “If You’re Reading This” and “Better Than I Used To Be”. But “Sundown Heaven Town” marks the first album of his in a decade that he has had a winning streak with solid singles, I have to say. It’s at three and counting, and it can progress to four assuming he releases “Overrated” as the follow-up.
As for Eric Paslay, well, it’s noteworthy to point out with him that the follow-up to “Friday Night”, “Song About A Girl”, failed to go Top Ten and also sold poorly (“Friday Night” also had below-average sales for a #2 hit and only made it to #1 on Mediabase because of a ridiculous, artificial last-minute push by his label EMI Nashville).
So yeah, it is absolutely telling to me a debut artist like him managed to get away with releasing one of the most traditional country ballads in all recent memory as a single. And it has already outsold “Song About A Girl”.
We’ll have to agree to disagree about Easton Corbin.
He has yet to release a solid radio single, in my opinion. The thing is, just like Joe Nichols as of late, he usually gets the production and instrumentation side of the equation down solid, and he is also one of the strongest male vocalists on country radio presently.
But when it comes to lyrics and themes, Corbin has been an absolute waste of space and potential to date. “A Little More Country Than That” had the right idea with production and vocals, but the writing was horrid I have to say in that it amounted to nothing more than another dime-a-dozen laundry list song. “Roll With It” was just another dime-a-dozen beach fun song. “Lovin’ You Is Fun” is just another dime-a-dozen fluffy love song. All of those are decent enough, but they just aren’t solid singles. They’re specimens of the Nashville songwriting machine.
And don’t get me started on “All Over The Road”. That song has been and remains horrid to my ears; trivializing the issue of distracted, reckless driving and coming across as painfully immature and dangerous. It’s no better than Michael Ray “singing” in his current song “Kiss You In The Morning” that he wants to kiss her running red lights! (eye roll)
“Clockwork”, for once, actually had a clever idea presented lyrically, and what weakened that single to forgettable status to my ears was how boring and toothless the production was. And now………..Easton Corbin is back to his old ways as far as radio singles is concerned by making a small step back in the direction of more traditional production but, surprise surprise, releasing a dime-a-dozen bro-country lite song in “Baby Be My Love Song”: complete with the T-shirt catchphrase: “Be the buzz in my Dixie cup!” -__-
Of all the male artists to have emerged since the beginning of this decade, Easton Corbin rates as the single most disappointing and under-reaching one. I know that sounds harsh, but that’s my honest thought.
Joe Nichols would be wise to follow Tim McGraw, Eric Paslay and Jake Owen’s lead and at least test the waters with the lead single from his eventual next studio album.
He produced hits off of “The Impossible” and “Brokenheartsville” before. He should at least try to do it again.
April 9, 2015 @ 3:08 am
Joe Nichols would have no choice on today’s radio if he released something similar to Brokenheartsville or the impossible. If his label decided to release, for example, Footlights as Joe’s follow up single to Hard to be cool, I don’t think it would even crack the top 40. as for Easton, I liked his singles except for the bland and vapid lovin you is fun and I think he’s a great artist, his albums are amazing. and I don’t really understand how Baby be my love song has entered the top 15 while clockwork failed. I don’t know, maybe the production…
April 9, 2015 @ 1:01 pm
Man, “Lovin’ You is Fun” is a great easy going song with great country production. When it was receiving regular airplay I thought it was one of the more redeemable tracks on mainstream radio. It’s what turned me on to Easton and made me recognize just how underrated he is.
I still haven’t gave his new album a spin so no comment on that but I did hear “Clockwork.” It sounded pretty ho hum blandish to me. But man, songs like “Someday When I’m Old”, “Leavin’ a Lonely Town”, and “A Thing for You” are top notch Grade A Country. Especially “Someday When I’m Old.” That’s a powerful song. Gets me everytime.
I don’t know, different strokes for different folks I reckon.
April 9, 2015 @ 9:03 am
When it comes to Tim Mcgraw’s version of “Better than I used to be” it’s not even close to the original version by Sammy Kershaw.
I still can’t understand how Tim’s version received a ton of airplay and Sammy’s received nothing.
Six String Richie
April 9, 2015 @ 12:02 pm
In response to Noah saying Easton is the most disappointing artist since 2010, I think you need to give him credit for having several really good album tracks. “Leavin’ A Lonely Town” and “Let Alone You” from his debut album were two of my favorite country tracks from that year.
Also, did anybody know that “Are You With Me” by Easton was remixed into an EDM song and is a Top 10 hit in several different countries? I was shocked that nobody in the country community knows about this.
April 8, 2015 @ 3:29 pm
Was not familiar with this guy. Honesty is good. I opened with Footlights and I like it. But who can’t make a Haggard song sound good? He has a good voice for Footlights. But clicking through You tube with this guy is nauseating. “Tequila makes her clothes fall off””¦seriously? This guy is as vapid as the Bro counts”¦I can list insults with injury as I checked out some of what Noah criticizes but it is so much easier to tune this dude out.
I think of writers like Ben Nichols, Corb Lund, Slaid, Nathan Hamilton, Bruce Robison, Hayes Carll or even better, Mike Cooley of the Drive-by Truckers”¦there is a country guy with something to say. He doesn’t make all of the mid-america panties wet with his model good looks and professional hair but his voice is as deep, he sings about drinking and women, but he has a fucking narrative with his writing. Cooley is brilliant and has something to say. Joe Nichols got a record deal at 19. What could this guy possibly have had to offer at 19 years old? He should call himself Joe Haggard and just cover Merle tunes forever, that would be a contribution.
Cool Lester Smooth
April 8, 2015 @ 5:29 pm
Wait…how do you not like “Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off”? Not only is it one of my favorite goofy feel-good songs of all time, but it’s not “Bro-Country” by any definition of the word. It was released ten years ago.
Check out “Brokenheartsville,” “The Shape I’m In” or “She Only Smokes When She Drinks.”
There was a conversation about him on Country Universe a couple weeks ago, and a few of us realized that he had released more good stuff than Josh Turner.
April 8, 2015 @ 6:06 pm
I still disagree with that verdict, but I was done debating it. The argument was played out.
Honestly, I prefer this site over CU. Less uptight people and less sticking together just to stick together. I don’t think I have ever seen another CU reviewer completely disagree with another CU analyst review.
April 8, 2015 @ 6:31 pm
CLS, Not saying he is bro country”¦.I said he was as vapid as the bro counts and I was referring to his writing (with my limited exposure). It may be 10 years old but most of the stuff I listened to was on the new album (I think). In any case, I like his voice fine but I just don’t like the sound of the music and his writing. Again, any one of the artists I named I would put head to head against him for songwriting ability and finished product. I could name more too. Chalk it up to different tastes perhaps? But I listen for more than he has to offer in my country music.
April 8, 2015 @ 3:39 pm
And I bet every one of those writers I listed would say that he writes for himself and about what he knows or has experienced. I am not sure one of them would say, “I really just try to remember who I am writing for.” Or, “it is important for me to focus on who I represent”. If you don’t know who you are and that you represent yourself, you are probably garbage. You can try to fake it but you cannot manufacture soul, no matter how good your voice is. Now that I reflect on it, Joe’s comment was really fucking stupid.
April 7, 2015 @ 10:57 pm
“I think it needs to sound like a country song from a country singer, believable as a country song. If it can fit in other genres 100 percent of the time, then you should probably look at what that really is.”
This is my favourite part because any song on country radio can fit into so many genres which is really sad.
April 8, 2015 @ 1:59 am
I LOVE ME SOME JOE NICHOLS!!!!!!!!!!!!
This guy is a GREAT true country artist. Joe, Easton Corbin, Josh Thompson, Jon Pardi, and Josh Turner are all excellent true modern country artists….no pop country just real modern country music…..and alas, that’s why you never hear any of them on radio!
April 8, 2015 @ 4:35 am
Very interesting read. “Brokenheartsville” is one of those go-to songs I listen to when I immediately get frustrated with the pop country that is played on the radio. There’s something about a steel guitar that always does the trick. Hopefully Joe can stay true to his viewpoints.
April 8, 2015 @ 5:04 am
His last real country effort: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0XSdwdziLqg
April 8, 2015 @ 6:27 am
I am so tired of artists (and I say artists as a very loose term here) coming out and saying how country music is going in the wrong direction and has lost its way. I don’t disagree that people like Joe Nichols speaking out helps turn the genre around, but I do not buy his bullshit or any of the other guys that have spoken out. All of these artists, Nichols, Jake Owen, Ronnie Dunn, etc. were perfectly fine with the genre when they were making money in it. Now that it has changed and their sound doesn’t fit anymore, they want to say Country has lost its way. No shit! Country lost its way a long time ago.
The fact of the matter is, that Joe Nichols has always been on the fringe of pop country and contributed to the sound we have today. “Sunny and 75” and “Yeah” are examples of this. They are not examples of him expressing himself as a true artist. He even admits he was uncomfortable with “Sunny and 75.” If you’re uncomfortable with it, don’t do it. Obviously, you won’t get as much airplay and you won’t make as much money, but you’ll be more respected because of it. And therein lies the question: What do you value? Art or money? I have no problem with an artist trying to sell as many records as they can and making money, even if it means not being true to who they are. But do not then come out and talk shit about the current state of country music. Country radio sucked with Joe had his biggest hits, and it sucked long before.
Is the music on the radio worse than what Joe Nichols has put out in the past? Yes. But as it has been said time and time again, just because something isn’t as bad as something else, does not make it good.
This is a marketing and publicity move, just like it is for all the other artists speaking out. Prove to me that you’re willing to make a record that is true to you and tour your ass off, and I’ll rescind that comment. Until then, they’re all full of shit.
April 8, 2015 @ 7:35 am
Excellent comment Nick.
While Joe had a lot of good Country music on his albums, most of his singles have been of the “go along to get along” variety.
“Country” music has been mostly horrible for about 2 decades now, and checklist music existed long before Trigger pointed it out, and long before the term “bro-country” was invented.
Joe’s got a good voice though, and I enjoy hearing him sing a real Country song, when he takes a notion to do so.
April 10, 2015 @ 5:30 pm
When, where and who did it go bad with two decades ago in your opinion, Clint? I’m sure I could guess but I’m curious as to what exactly you think of that era.
April 10, 2015 @ 6:50 pm
Most people blame Garth for the downfall, but if you really look at it, Garth didn’t completely sell out to pop, until the industry sold out to pop. His first four albums were pretty good actually.
I loved the early nineties, ’90-’94 was one of the best five year periods in Country music history. Guys like Mark Chesnutt, Joe Diffie, and Tracy Lawrence are still some of my all-time favorites.
The shift towards pop was relatively sudden though, and I feel like it was spearheaded by Shania Twain beginning in ’95 -’96; with the help of Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, Martina McBride, and Toby Keith, along with lots of lesser known performers. One of the most significant nails in Country music’s coffin was McGraw’s 1997 album, “A Place In The Sun”. Country music’s graveside service, was the rise of Kenny Chesney in ’98 -’99. By 2000, Rascal Flatts and Keith Urban, along with everybody else I named, were filling up the grave with dirt.
April 10, 2015 @ 8:56 pm
I agree about Garth: Ropin’ the Wind (his third) is a great album, in my opinion. However, his fourth (The Chase) is where he lost me a bit. At that point he had bought into his own superstar ego and turned into Save The World Garth with all of his sweeping messages, etc.
Shania was really the first performer I can think of that started trying to appeal to both country and pop markets by cutting two different versions of the same song (and sometimes two different versions of whole ALBUMS). Having rock producer Mutt Lange as a husband probably didn’t help matters (much as I like Back in Black and some of Def Leppard’s material). What I find odd is that if you go back and listen to some of her earlier hits like “Any Man of Mine” are mostly instrumentally based, with a decent dependency on acoustic guitar with a bit of fiddle and steel. Sure, there’s a synthesized beat, but I think that song would be “too country” for today’s radio. Then you get to “Man, I Feel Like a Woman” and “That Don’t Impress Me Much,” which didn’t even PRETEND to be country (something one has to note about a lot of what’s on the radio today, save for Sam Hunt).
As for Tim McGraw and especially Toby Keith, you feel that their earlier material was pop? Tim’s first couple of albums were decent country, and Toby has sort of done his own thing since he started (albeit he’s been in a bit of a rut since Shock N Y’all, since every song of his has to be about beer or ‘Murica nowadays). But his earlier stuff? “Should’ve Been a Cowboy”? Or even later like “Beer For My Horses”? “As Good As I Once Was”? Those songs strike me as decently country, if not necessarily traditional. As for A Place in the Sun, what’s so special about that one in your timeline? I’m not personally familiar with it’s place in country music’s history, only its singles.
April 11, 2015 @ 10:27 am
Keep in mind, I gave a relatively specific time in which things started to go bad, ’95-’96.
Yes, before that, Tim and Toby’s music wasn’t horrible, and overall, Tim has been more offensive than Toby; but have you forgotten about “Getcha Some” and, “Big Ol Truck”? Or what about, “I Wanna Talk About Me”?
“A Place In The Sun” established McGraw as a superstar, and it was the most pop album of his career up to that point. It was also his first album as Faith’s husband. His appearance also changed. He adopted a more metrosexual appearance, for lack of a better word. That album just coincided with a lot of major changes in his personal and professional lives. It also coincided with lots of major changes in Country music. 1997 is when I quit listening to Country radio on a regular basis.
April 11, 2015 @ 7:52 pm
Honestly, yes I did forget about those songs from Toby. However, while I wouldn’t cause myself a big fan, I do consider myself a fan of his. Most of it is nostalgic; I used to listen to his music with my father and other friends, so many of his songs remind me of old times. Even then, I still think he has made some decent music. Sure, he comes across as an ignorant jingoist most of the time, but that has less to do with his music than it does his politics. I’d say his decent to great songs very much outweigh his duds. What about “Wish I Didn’t Know Now”? “You Ain’t Much Fun” (maybe not one you like)? “Dream Walkin'”? “You Shouldn’t Kiss Me Like This”? “My List”? “I Love This Bar” (personal favorite)? “She Ain’t Hooked On Me No More” (with Merle Haggard)? “Love Me If You Can”? “Cryin’ For Me”? “Bullets In the Gun”? Sure, it’s nigh impossible to deny that Toby approaches most of his music from a trashy point of view, but you could make that case for Hank Jr. as well (who comes across as something of a pervert with about 50% of his songs involving sex talk of some sort).
As for McGraw, I also can’t deny that he has his fair share of sins against country music’s integrity, but ultimately I’d say he has a fair number of good songs as well. Pop or not, songs like “Don’t Take the Girl” and “Live Like You Were Dying” are great, even if they aren’t exactly traditional. Ultimately, if the whole environment were better with 90% traditional acts and only a few crossover artists we wouldn’t even be talking about these guys.
April 8, 2015 @ 4:08 pm
Thanks Nick. You nailed it. Art or money? When you wax philosophically about who you represent and what direction you should be going you are chasing money. When you write something because you have to, it is your art.
Cool Lester Smooth
April 8, 2015 @ 5:32 pm
On the other hand, recording singles he doesn’t like gets his music exposure, and gives him a platform that will allow songs he does like, and records on his album, to reach a wider audience.
It’s really not a black and white thing (unless, of course, you are completely uninvolved in the matter, and are therefore free to moralize without having to walk the walk yourself).
April 9, 2015 @ 5:31 am
I agree with you comment about getting his music out to a broader audience. That really wasn”™t my argument, but I agree. The problem I have is how you ended your post: “unless, of course, you are completely uninvolved in the matter, and are therefore free to moralize without having to walk the walk yourself.”
I”™m not sure why you felt the need to personally attack me and the folks who agreed with me. As fans of music, we are allowed and expected to critique the music that is released. In defense of your critique of me, how come we don”™t see Merle Haggard, Steve Earle, Sturgill Simpson, etc. releasing pop songs to get on the radio and get to a broader audience?
I”™ll say it again, because you seem to have misinterpreted my statements. I do not have a problem with guys like Joe Nichols recording music to try and get radio play and get his music out to a larger audience. My problem is when he puts down the genre saying it has lost its way. He had no problem with country music when he was getting airplay and making money. Now he wants to blame the “bro-country” music, which he arguable helped create with songs like “Tequila Makes her Clothes Fall Off” and “Yeah.”
Cool Lester Smooth
April 13, 2015 @ 11:44 am
A) Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off is a very good song that is not in any way, shape or form “bro-country.”
B) “Yeah” was released at the end of the bro-country fad, and he has publicly said that his label made him cut it as a radio-friendly single.
C) Sturgill, Steve and Merle all make much better music than Nichols. However, Nichols exposes a lot more people to actual good country than any of those three, because he sells way more records, because he cuts three songs he doesn’t like as singles along with the rest of his album.
D) He is getting airtime and making money. He’s released back to back singles that reached #1 on the Airplay chart. This isn’t about him not being successful. It’s about the fact that he used to be able to have success by releasing good music, and now his label makes him hide his good songs on his album and only release the stuff he doesn’t really like to radio.
In fact, as someone who was successful 10 years ago and is successful now, he is eminently qualified to discuss why he feels like the country mainstream has lost its way, without having to worry about being labeled “sour grapes” by anyone who actually knows who he is.
I’m not attacking you. I’m just saying that things are a lot more complicated than you’re implying.
April 9, 2015 @ 6:20 am
CLS, I’ll bite. First, it is not morals as much as it is ethics. And second, almost all of us that work do have to walk the walk. We try to make money and in my case, I have a daily opportunity to turn my back on doing my job right and honestly to try to turn a quicker and thus bigger buck. My ethical code keeps me from doing that and I make less (at least in the short term). I know there are guys out there that offer a sub-standard product for less money and I cannot compete with those guys if the client wants to settle for a lesser product. Joe Nichols is one of those guys. The hollow, insipid tastes of the “mainstream” have a place for Joe. Is he is better than that and he simply has to compromise his ethics and interests in order to deliver the real meat? Perhaps. But the paltry offerings I hear him delivering are disappointing. And “chicken or the egg” doesn’t really matter to me.
April 8, 2015 @ 7:26 am
On a side note: Joe Nichols is from the same county as one of my all time favorites, the great Vernon Oxford.
April 8, 2015 @ 2:40 pm
I really like Vern Oxford. Set ’email up Joe, if you’re gonna do me write, chiseled in school are some of my favorites. Dan auto correct! I hare technology!
April 8, 2015 @ 2:49 pm
Vern Gosdin….you’re thinking of Vern Gosdin Nathan.
April 8, 2015 @ 2:50 pm
You’re talking about Vern Gosdin.
Here is Vernon Oxford. https://youtu.be/oc0k7cN3PSk
April 8, 2015 @ 2:55 pm
cool! I gave it a listen thanks
April 8, 2015 @ 2:53 pm
I’ll Wait For You is my favorite of Joe’s. He’s had several great songs and I don’t think he got the recognition he deserved.
April 8, 2015 @ 4:10 pm
I come to this site regularly to find out about new music and generally to hear some of the things you can’t readily find. I also love country music. All kinds of country. That being said, this time period in country music reminds me of 1986. Just coming out of that period where country did it’s best to be pop music and then everything went south for a while. Bro country to me signifies a period in time that creativity was low. Really low.
This EDM really doesn’t bother me terribly…yet. Urban used it on his last album wasn’t a disgrace and I didn’t find one reference to a tailgate. On the other hand he is one of the few mainstream guys who could pull it off effectively (take note Jason Aldean). I agree 100% with the comments of Joe Nichols. I am very excited for the hope that country music, real country music, will make a comeback. Also interested to see what Sturgill Simpson turns out with a major label and how he is marketed. Keep up the good work in a positive direction of introducing the world to music not heard on radio and who knows it may turn into the new rage.
April 8, 2015 @ 6:11 pm
I love “Sunny and 75” and “Hard To Be Cool.” Are they fluffy singles? Sure, they are and Nichols doesn’t pretend they are anything different. Both songs are clever and well-written. There is room in country music for those kinds of songs. Unfortunately, bro-country has ruined escapism music for most of us. Not every song should be “Brokenheartsville.” Which I adore by the way.
Joe has never really been an A-list singer. Which is a pity. Both he and Josh Turner would have been big stars in the early 1990’s.
April 9, 2015 @ 5:11 am
I agree with you comment about getting his music out to a broader audience. That really wasn’t my argument, but I agree. The problem I have is how you ended your post: “unless, of course, you are completely uninvolved in the matter, and are therefore free to moralize without having to walk the walk yourself.”
I’m not sure why you felt the need to personally attack me and the folks who agreed with me. As fans of music, we are allowed and expected to critique the music that is released. In defense of your critique of me, how come we don’t see Merle Haggard, Steve Earle, Sturgill Simpson, etc. releasing pop songs to get on the radio and get to a broader audience?
I’ll say it again, because you seem to have misinterpreted my statements. I do not have a problem with guys like Joe Nichols recording music to try and get radio play and get his music out to a larger audience. My problem is when he puts down the genre saying it has lost its way. He had no problem with country music when he was getting airplay and making money. Now he wants to blame the “bro-country” music, which he arguable helped create with songs like “Tequila Makes her Clothes Fall Off” and “Yeah.”
April 9, 2015 @ 11:15 am
I was a huge fan of Joe Nichols, the past 2 records have been a letdown. He had to change to stay on the radio, I get it. Just in an effort to stay relevant, you probably alienated more fans than you gained Joe… Also Joe had many great songs, everyone keeps saying Brokenheartsville, but he had “All I Need Is A Heart” “Talk me out of Tampa” “Real Things” “The Difference is Night and Day” “The Shade” “No Time To Cry”…….. and the dude can actually sing, which is pretty rare these days.
April 10, 2015 @ 6:41 am
Not a lot of sympathy for Joe Nichols on my part as to accepting that since music is a business, he has to play the game and that excuses his musical direction.
I don’t think you have to have absolutely boring, cliche songs to get mainstream attention. Florida-Georgia Line showed us with “Dirt” that you can have a modern mainstream song actually have meaning behind it and be likable. Easton Corbin seems to have a pretty good balance on a normal basis as well.
Songs like “She’s so hot, it’s hard to be cool” just suck in general. They don’t even sound like classic bro country in my head. They are just dial tones for songs and are completely forgettable, regardless of genre.
April 11, 2015 @ 12:00 pm
brushing up on a few comments I think the major portion being missed is ownership of the music. Why thirty tigers, independents, and folks like Garth brooks hold the keys to it. Until more artists take that chance it won’t change on a full scale level, unless it’s someone of financial stature from perhaps outside the genre, or enough skin to play the game. Getting into the politics of it costing 2-3 million just to break a new artist on country radio, with no guarantee its successful from a label standpoint. At least half a million to produce and master the album, 3/4 of a million to even get a top 30 song on the radio (double for a number 5 and above). They will almost all be forever indebted to the label. Only $9.22 out of every thousand you spend towards a major label artist will go in their pocket. In the end they don’t own the music he label does. They may say they get to choose the music but when someone else is footing the bill they’re not totally free.
I will post about Garth since I know most about him. It can be fact checked in the Garth factor by patsy cox bale. He was truly the last major independent label artist by choosing his own music, and owning it in country music. He paid for the entire cost of his album himself and delivered it as a full product back to the label. He retained ownership of it. In return he got a 16% royalty from album sales back into his pocket. If it sold five copies then he lost the cost to produce it. It obviously didn’t but get my point. The music was forever his and why he is able to package it how he wants to later down the road.
April 11, 2015 @ 12:08 pm
Joe is one of the best traditional voices still around. Its a damn shame these artists feel they have to record crap they don’t believe in. I think once you have a fan base, don’t forget who brought you to the dance. The hell with these trends. Do what you do best.