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Keith's ACM Absence Prompts Backstage Chatter
CMT News, Calvin Gilbert, 05/22/2003


Keith Wins ACM's Top Award
CMT News, Craig Shelburne, 05/21/2003


Country Goes Vegas With ACM Awards
CMT News, Calvin Gilbert, 05/20/2003


Acuff-Rose Song Catalog a Bright New Star for Sony/ATV
CMT News, Edward Morris, 05/15/2003


Nichols Earns First Award
CMT News, 04/08/2003


Country Artists React to ACM Nominations
CMT News, 03/04/2003


20 Questions With Joe Nichols, 03/03/2003


Joe Nichols Is Brightest of Country’s “New Faces”
from CMT's News Feature, Edward Morris, 02/24/2003

In an evening of good music, the laurels went to Joe Nichols and his record label, Universal South. Nichols earned the loudest applause and his label the biggest laughs at Country Radio Seminar’s New Faces Show Friday (Feb. 21), held at the Nashville Convention Center. Tammy Cochran, Steve Azar, Emerson Drive and Kellie Coffey also delivered fine performances to the large audience of radio programmers and music industry people.

“New faces” was a misnomer, of course. Nichols and Azar have been making records and music videos since at least 1996 (on the Intersound and River North labels, respectively), Cochran since 2000 and Emerson Drive since 2001. But, by country music standards, they are newer faces. Besides, when it’s your show, you can call it what you want.

As is customary, the hilarious and razor-tongued Charlie Monk hosted the event. “In honor of ZZ Top going country this year,” he said, alluding to the all-star country tribute album to the rock band, “repeat after me, ‘Haw, haw, haw!’ They’re not the only ones trying to go country. There’s also Kid Rock, Chubby Checker, Sheryl Crow and Faith Hill.” A music publisher as well as a CRS standby, Monk observed that “Nashville is the only city in the world where Wal-Mart has a writers’ night.” Turning to more specific torments, he targeted Mike Dungan, president of Capitol Records’ Nashville division: “Mike Dungan hired bomb-sniffing dogs for his building. Unfortunately, they were about six albums too late.”

Each of the five acts that performed was introduced by a specially prepared video clip, most of which took a humorous approach. Azar’s was basically about the making of his “Waitin’ on Joe” video. Emerson Drive parodied the process by which performers are costumed and choreographed to appear to be something they aren’t. Coffey’s clip played on her last name, with customers in a diner ordering their coffee/Coffey cold, hot, strong, creamy, etc., and she complied accordingly. Cochran’s took the form of a news report in which she was cloned into an array of servants useful to her record label.

But it was Nichols’ intro that brought the house down. The scene is a desert with a ribbon of blacktop stretching empty to the horizon. On one side stands a pretty girl in a pink cowboy hat and tight black pants and, on the other, a slick-looking, fancily coifed record executive telling her that her music should be “a little bit country and a little bit rock ‘n’ roll.” He beckons her to come over to him, and just as she steps into the road, she is hit solidly by an enormous speeding semi with “Universal South” painted on the side. Inside the cab of the truck, dressed like goobers and laughing maniacally are Universal South’s co-chairman Tony Brown and Tim DuBois. In the wake of this carnage comes the slogan, “Stay out of the middle of the road.”

Backed by a band in which the steel guitar dominated, Nichols opened with the mournful and peevish “Brokenheartsville.” His voice was a marvel of power and intimacy, riding each lyrical nuance like a wave. (With his magnificent nose and high cheekbones, Nichols also has the best profile in country music since Dolly Parton.) He brought so much thought and tenderness to “The Impossible,” his breakthrough hit, that it was like hearing it for the first time. The audience interrupted the opening notes of this remarkable tribute to the human spirit with cheers and whistles.

Still short on self-identifying tunes, Nichols closed his set with “Farewell Party,” the song made scripture by the great Gene Watson. While Nichols’ version lacked the numb-with-despair quality that Watson imparted, it was still so sensitively done that he’s earned the right to keep it in his repertoire and to move a new generation of listeners who may never hear the original. While all the acts got a standing ovation from segments of the audience, Nichols’ finale brought almost everyone to their feet.

Repeatedly telling the crowd that he felt “new,” Azar did bring a lot of youthful energy and good humor to the stage. He rocked out with “Underdog” and showed his way with a ballad on the ominous “Waitin’ on Joe.” Demonstrating that it could be country-to-the-core when it wanted to be, Emerson Drive closed its set with a frenzied, Dionysian romp through “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” that would have had Charlie Daniels grinning and stomping his feet. Coffey’s voice soared so limitlessly that it dwarfed her generally lightweight lyrics. The exception was her lovely “When You Lie Next to Me,” an eloquent pairing of sound and sentiment. Cochran, an impressive stylist who always puts on a good show, ranged emotionally in her set from the agony of “I Cry” to the calm resolve of “Life Happened.”

All in all, it was an evening country could be proud of.

Set List

Steve Azar
“One Good Reason Why”
“Waitin’ on Joe”
“I Don’t Have to Be Me (‘Til Monday)”

Kellie Coffey
“The Simple Truth”
“Whatever It Takes”
“At the End of the Day”
“When You Lie Next To Me”

Emerson Drive
“Fall Into Me”
“I Should Be Sleeping”
“Only God (Could Stop Me Loving You)”
“The Devil Went Down to Georgia”

Joe Nichols
She Only Smokes When She Drinks
The Impossible
“Farewell Party”

Tammy Cochran
“I Cry”
“Life Happened”
“Love Won’t Let Me”
“Angels in Waiting”


Hey wasn't he the cable guy?
from, 2/23/2003, by Peter Cooper, Staff Writer

''All my life, I never really had a Plan B,'' says Joe Nichols, pictured here in a publicity photo.

It's a good thing Joe Nichols is getting famous, because he and his pal Brian weren't ever going to make it hustling meat.

''We were lousy at selling steak,'' says Brian Spradlin, who has worked all sorts of gigs with Joe, his best friend. The two installed cable television, moved furniture and played country songs together, the latter at a Lower Broadway joint called Rippy's, performing while people talked, drank and ate ribs.

These days, they tour the nation on a big, black bus, opening shows at auditoriums for megastar Alan Jackson, with Spradlin playing guitar and singing harmony vocals to Nichols' lead.

These days, Nichols' 26-year-old mug is on a huge billboard at the downtown Ramada Inn, looking down on Broadway travelers, some of whom have likely mused, ''Isn't that the fellow who hooked up our TV?''

These days — and this is the oddest and happiest of the ''these days'' entries — Joe Nichols is the most surprising nominee among the country music artists who are up for the industry's most prestigious award — the Grammy.

He's not only up for a country male vocalist prize, but also his Man With a Memory album was nominated for best country album, ahead of notable efforts by Kenny Chesney, Toby Keith and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. All this comes despite having only one hit (debut single The Impossible, which has garnered a best country song Grammy nomination for writers Kelley Lovelace and Lee Thomas Miller) during the eligibility period of Oct. 1, 2001, through Sept. 30, 2002.

''I thought, 'Maybe there's a possibility that the song will be nominated,' but never in a million years did I think he'd be up for best album,' '' says Tony Brown, co-chief of Nichols' Universal South record label.

Brown doesn't question Nichols' artistry; he loves the artist's resonant, hard-country baritone. But, commercially speaking, he realizes Man With a Memory vs. Chesney's No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problem is like the Vanderbilt Commodores vs. the Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Plenty of people who heard Nichols' album would think it a melding of good country songs and good country singing, but who had heard it? Months after the Grammy nomination, Man With a Memory has sold just over 200,000. Keith's and Chesney's albums sold 10 times as many.

Speaking to The Tennessean's Brad Schmitt, Keith recently slammed the Grammy-nomination process:

''You didn't hear about it on the radio, you didn't see it on SoundScan (which monitors albums sales), all of a sudden someone's nominated,'' Keith said. ''The hell with it. It doesn't matter.''

Nichols is more bemused than bruised by such talk, though.

''Nobody's fired bullets, but people say things in anger,'' Nichols says, talking above the low-level engine hum while sitting on his tour bus outside Milwaukee's U.S. Cellular Arena.

''Let me correct that,'' he continues. ''It may not be in anger, but I think sometimes people say things without thinking about it. I'm certainly no exception. . . . I'm probably worse than anybody about that. But who would blame Toby Keith for feeling a little rejected by the Grammys? If I'd sold that many albums and done all the things he's done, I'd probably feel a little bit of my pride hurt. I'd feel some frustration.''

Right now Joe Nichols is feeling plenty of emotions. Frustration is not one of them. This is a guy who was starved for success, who, in fact, had starved for success.

''I believe he had something that everybody needed to hear,'' says his producer, Brent Rowan, who spent years trying to bring Nichols' voice to the masses. ''It's been tough for him, emotionally. Very draining. There were times when he literally didn't have money to eat. And, remember, we're not talking about very long ago. The other night Joe played the Grand Ole Opry, and I told him, 'A year ago tonight, you were playing at Rippy's. Think about that.' ''

Make no mistake, Joe Nichols and his buddy Brian Spradlin have thought plenty about that.

''There's a place on the second floor of Ryman Auditorium (the historic building that houses the Grand Ole Opry's wintertime performances) where you can look down on Broadway and see Rippy's, see Tootsie's, see the bars we played at,'' Spradlin says. ''I've looked out there, and it's . . .''

Spradlin pauses, then tries and fails to finish his sentence. Prayers can be answered, and dreams can be real and hard work can pay off, and the winter can seem really warm. That doesn't happen for everyone, but it's happening for Brian and Joe, and the whole thing is really beyond words.

• • •

Joe Nichols made it out of Rogers, Ark., when he was still a teenager, using a preternaturally sincere singing voice to impress some music-business folks. The son of a bass-playing father who loved him and a practical-minded mother who raised him, Nichols' childhood was steeped in country music. His parents had differing notions on what he should do with that education in fiddles and steels.

''I was 18 years old when I told them I was moving to Nashville,'' Nichols says. ''I told my dad, and he was supportive, and very happy. My mother was very skeptical, though. She said, 'Please do not do this. This is the last thing you need to do.' She'd been jaded by my father being a musician and what it had done to our family: The drinking and the nightlife can be pretty heavy, and she didn't want that for me.''

Undaunted by his mother's doubts, Nichols left for Nashville, confident that he was going to be a singing star. He signed a deal with an independent record label called Intersound, releasing an album in 1996. The album was recorded quickly, and Nichols had never before been in a recording studio. The album wasn't terrible, but it was nothing special, either. The album cover shows a long-haired Nichols holding a cheesy-looking guitar.

''I had no hand in picking the material for the album,'' he says. ''The effort was good, but the overall product wasn't what it could have been. Did I know that at the time? No, not a clue. It took me five years to look back and say, 'If I could have done it different, or waited . . .' But an 18-year-old kid, you can't tell him to wait. It's not going to happen. I think the record company saw potential. It wasn't that I had anything special, but maybe I had potential. My voice wasn't anywhere near developed or mature.

''Looking back, I didn't have a clue,'' he continues. ''I didn't have my own direction, and so I was easily molded. They could do whatever they wanted, and I was like, 'This is great.' Now, I know that album's going to follow me around. People are going to judge me by it.''

Spradlin first caught a glimpse of Nichols on one of several music videos that Intersound released.

''I saw him on CMT, and he had that long, long hair and I thought, 'Oh, here's another guy in country music that I probably won't like,' '' he says. ''Then I heard the album, and I thought, 'Well, that's pretty good for somebody who's so young.' ''

Nichols was on a musical tour of various Wal-Mart stores (don't ask) when his guitar player quit. That's when someone hooked up Spradlin with the gig. Spradlin hopped on a bus outside the Shoney's Inn near Music Row. At the time, the guitar man thought he was embarking on a small tour, not a new life.

At that point, Nichols' voice bore little resemblance to the authoritative instrument he now possesses. He sang, quite intentionally, a lot like Garth Brooks, and most listeners figured him for another Brooks wanna-be. On tour, he worked the stage with Garthian fervor.

''Joe would come out for the shows and jump around,'' Spradlin says. ''But there was a place in the show where he would do some things on acoustic, and that was really good. And then one time we were at a motel in Oregon, and I was in my room with an acoustic, playing old Keith Whitley and Lefty Frizzell songs: The songs that make me feel good. He came to the room and started singing, and I thought, 'Wow, they didn't capture that on his first album.'''

• • •

Before too long, the Intersound deal was gone, and Nichols was left with little in the way of career momentum, musical direction or immediate prospects. He had a manager, though that relationship ultimately dissolved before any brass rings could be snatched.

Most importantly, he had a true friend in Brian Spradlin. Rejection, after all, is easier to take when you're not alone.

''There were scary days,'' Nichols says. ''In general, I appreciated being able to play music for people, but there were periods I would go through and think, 'Man, is this ever going to happen?' ''

Looking back, Nichols can see patterns and pathways toward his current state, but at the time, his life in Nashville seemed a tiresome maze. Music didn't always look like the best way out, either.

''There were times where even he was going, 'Man, Brian, why don't we just do something else,' '' Spradlin says. '' 'We could become plumbers or go into business together.' ''

The friends roomed together, played music together, took day jobs together (for Nichols, the door-to-door steak purveyor thing ended after one day) and counted rejections together. Nichols gave up smoking and discovered vocal range and power that he hadn't known was there. ''Smoking was like having a cast on your arm and not even knowing it,'' he says. ''Quitting smoking was like taking the cast off. I surprised myself.''

Singing better didn't mean eating better, sleeping better or feeling better, though. Finally, Nichols caved under the pressure.

''Brian and I had lunch, and I told him, 'I don't know what else I can do,' '' Nichols says. '' 'We don't have anything going on, and I think I've met all the people I can meet and gone as far as I can take us.' I was going to go back to Arkansas and regroup. I was only 22 at the time, and I guess I could have gone back to school, played music on the weekends and do what the old man did.''

Before they finished eating, at J.J.'s Cafe in Millersville, Spradlin started writing down on a napkin every one of Nichols' rejections. Since the Intersound deal ended, the two came up with 31 official no's. For some reason, for Spradlin this seemed to be more inspirational than depressing.

''I told Joe, 'If you give it two more months, you'll be closer to where you want to be. Don't go back.' ''

He didn't go back, and Spradlin began working some angles. Spradlin had recently quit a job hauling music gear to and from Nashville studios, and on that job, he'd heard that studio musician Brent Rowan was thinking of becoming a producer.

''Joe was my best friend, and I had so much faith that he could do this, so I kept pestering Brent about him,'' Spradlin says. ''I gave him some demos, and that first record.''

After much haranguing, Rowan listened to the music. What he heard was rather indistinct, yet somehow promising.

''I didn't care for the songs or the production,'' Rowan says. ''But I loved what I thought his voice could sound like. It wasn't on the tape, but I heard what I thought was a possibility of him relating to the emotional side of people through music. His voice, I thought, if it was enveloped with the right songs and with simplicity, could really be something.

''You know,'' Rowan continues, ''We've been through a couple of decades of excess in lifestyle and in music. I don't want to be hollered at anymore, whether it's music or preaching or anything. I want to be appealed to in a very deep way, and I thought Joe Nichols could do that.''

And so, not long after he'd planned to go back to Arkansas, Joe Nichols found himself sitting with Spradlin and Rowan at The Cooker on West End Avenue. The would-be producer liked the would-be artist. The rejection napkin's tally stopped at 31.

• • •

Soon after the Cooker epiphany, Rowan took Nichols to some heavy hitters at Giant Records. Suddenly, Joe Nichols had a record deal. Unfortunately, a record deal with a record label doesn't always result in an actual record. Nichols and Rowan recorded five songs, but Giant's roster was jammed with other artists and the final product was never completed.

''We never got a release date, and they never put out a single,'' Rowan says. ''That ultimately ended up in our favor because we weren't bruised merchandise.''

Then Giant folded into Warner Bros., and Warner Bros. wasn't in any rush to release a Joe Nichols album.

''Jim Ed (Norman, who heads Warner Bros.' Nashville division) called me into his office and said, 'I believe Joe's a superstar, but you guys have been waiting so long,' '' Rowan says. ''We're going to let you go and see if someone else has room and loves this.''

By this time, Nichols and Spradlin had ended an extended musical stay at Alabama Grill and had begun the Rippy's gig. Nichols had a publishing deal that provided him a small salary, but his existence was still hand-to-mouth. The news from Warner Bros. didn't seem particularly positive to him.

''Anytime anybody is so able to communicate emotion as an artist or a musician, you know they're sensitive on the inside themselves,'' Rowan says.

''It was exciting to be at Giant, and then when we got released, there was some devastation. We had lots of heart-to-hearts, lots of 'What do I do now?' conversations. He was starving, absolutely. I said, 'Joe, I can't tell you how this is going to work out, but I'm not going away. Until you tell me that you're done, I believe in you. And right now, Brian and I are the only people who believe in you.' ''

• • •

Rowan went to EMI Publishing's Gary Overton, asked for a small advance to record a demo session with Nichols and set about to make what can now be seen as a last-ditch effort. They cut three songs — She Only Smokes When She Drinks, Can't Hold a Halo to You and The Impossible, all of which appear on the Grammy-nominated Man With a Memory album.

According to Nichols and Rowan, those tracks were recorded with a newfound sense of freedom. While on Giant, the sound they were working on was somewhat compromised by a palpable need to fit in with ''better safe than sorry'' corporate expectations. The new recordings utilized modern sonics but sounded squarely traditional at the same time. Arrangements were relatively spare, which allowed Nichols' voice a greater prominence in the mixes. In other words, the new stuff worked better than any of the old stuff, and several record labels took notice.

When Nichols and Rowan received word that a new label called Universal South was interested, the waiting game continued a little longer.

''When I heard him sing, it hit me right between the eyes,'' Tony Brown says. ''I loved this voice.''

Trouble was, Universal South was still not legally in existence. Label heads Brown and Tim DuBois were still in the process of leaving their old jobs and starting up the new company.

''Brent and I had a couple of other things on the table from a couple of other labels, and then there was this Tim DuBois and Tony Brown thing,'' Nichols says. ''Brent said, 'We can go with somebody else, 'cause they're ready to sign you, or we can wait on this thing and see if it pans out.' Back when I was 18, I would have gone with whatever was right there at the moment, but I thought Universal South would be the best opportunity and I'd matured enough to be able to wait a little longer.''

While driving to see his mother in Arkansas, Nichols got a voice-mail message from DuBois.

''He said, 'I want to be the first to tell you, we are officially a record label and we are officially offering you a record deal.' I called my mom, and then my dad. My mom was like, 'Sounds nice; when are you coming home?' ''

• • •

Not only did Universal South sign him, the label pushed the album ahead of all others on its docket as soon as the promotions department heard the demo of The Impossible. Rowan said the version of The Impossible that's on the finished album is actually the demo recording, with new drum tracks augmenting the original take.

''That's not some high-tech, re-done vocal, but it's a No. 1 song,'' Rowan says.

Universal South's first artist out of the gate was Joe Nichols, and its first single was The Impossible, and The Impossible topped the charts. As Nashville songsmith Tim Carroll sings, ''It may take years to be an overnight success.''

Nichols formed a band with his well-rehearsed buddy Brian as guitar player and harmony vocalist, and they began touring (no Wal-Marts this time). As his star rose, though, he was faced with his father's slow demise from something called idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a disease of inflammation that hinders the lungs' ability to provide oxygen to the rest of the body.

Though confined to a wheelchair, Nichols' 46-year-old father was well enough to come to Nashville and see his son perform on the Grand Ole Opry.

''I've never been that close to breaking down and crying in front of everybody, and not even caring,'' Nichols says. ''The Opry folks were standing there, and one of his favorites was John Conlee. I mean, he loved John Conlee. The whole time I was singing, John Conlee stood right next to him. I had my chest all bowed out. I thought that was pretty cool.

''When his health got bad, I thought about taking some time off,'' Nichols remembers. ''The last time I saw him was two weeks before he died, over the Fourth of July holiday. He told me, 'You're doing good. You're doing what I would do if I were in your spot. You're making me proud.' One of his favorite things to say was, 'Go take care of business,' and that's what he said then.''

In November, when Nichols opened for Alan Jackson at Gaylord Entertainment Center, Nichols was still inseparable from The Impossible, playing the song twice during his short set and allowing audiences to define him more by a song than by a persona. But by January, he had another hit — Brokenheartsville — climbing country charts, with a video appearing on country music cable stations.

At the Milwaukee show in early February, the audience responded to Brokenheartsville as enthusiastically as it greeted The Impossible. Now Nichols was more than a one-trick pony.

Backstage, the meet-and-greet lines were filled with autograph-seeking fans.

''You've kind of got that Joe Millionaire thing going on, don't you?'' asked one woman.

''Um, I don't know,'' Nichols said, suddenly shy.

Friday night, Nichols performed at the Country Radio Seminar's New Faces show. Tonight, he'll be in New York for the Grammys.

Spradlin will be watching from home, pulling for him. Rowan says no matter what happens, Joe Nichols has already won. And Joe pauses once in a while to breathe a sigh of relief that only failed meat-sellers can truly appreciate.

''All my life, I never really had a Plan B,'' he said. ''But sometimes I look back and think, 'Oh my God, that was close. That was really, really close.' ''

Listen up

Hear a sample of Joe Nichols’ Brokenheartsville

A little bit of Joe

Born: Nov. 26, 1976

Birthplace: Rogers, Ark.

Parents: Father, Mike, passed away in 2002. Mother, Robin, lives in Arkansas.

Siblings: Mike and Kelli

Children: Ashelyn

Marital status: Single

Musical influences: His father, Merle Haggard, George Strait, Hank Williams Jr.

Record label: Universal South

Current single: Brokenheartsville (It's No. 7 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart)

Comment: ''That Would Be Her is one of my favorite songs that he does,'' says Universal South senior partner Tony Brown. ''The first time I heard him sing that, I got cold chills.''

Sources include staff reports and


More Stars Named for Fan Fair
from CMT's News In Brief, 02/19/03

Alabama, Patty Loveless and Joe Nichols will be participating in Fan Fair this year. Other newly-announced stars planning to take part include Tammy Cochran, Billy Gilman, Sammy Kershaw, Joe Nichols, Sawyer Brown, Blake Shelton, Pam Tillis and Phil Vassar. As previously reported, Brooks & Dunn, Kenny Chesney and Martina McBride will also attend the event set for June 5-8 in downtown Nashville.


Joe Nichols Takes the Country Music World by Storm
By Alisha Davis, CNN Headline News
Thursday, February 6, 2003 Posted: 10:14 AM EST (1514 GMT)


Grammy Awards Nominations
Announced January 7, 2003

Best Male Country Vocal Performance - The Impossible
Best Country Song - The Impossible
Best Country Album - Man With A Memory



Nashville, TN - January 7, 2003 - Country’s hottest newcomer, Joe Nichols, walked away from this morning’s Grammy Nominee press conference with nominations in three of country’s biggest categories. Nichols, who released his Universal South Records debut album Man With A Memory in July of last year, picked up nominations for Best Country Album (for Man With a Memory), and Best Country Male Vocal Performance (for his #1 debut single “The Impossible”) in his first year of eligibility. “The Impossible” also received a nomination for Best Country Song.

Nichols is this year’s third most-nominated country artist, behind only Alan Jackson and the Dixie Chicks. Nichols was a featured opening act on Jackson’s “Drive” tour last year, and resumes touring with Jackson this month.

“To say I am overwhelmed just doesn’t seem to cover it. Getting this level of recognition from your peers is something every artist dreams of, and this is such an incredible honor,” Nichols said of the nominations. “It takes a lot of people to make this kind of thing possible and I really have to give credit to everybody I’ve worked with this year. “

Leading up to the Grammys and his Spring tour with Jackson, Nichols will make several appearances on the Grand Ole Opry. Nichols hits the legendary stage of the historic Ryman Auditorium for ten Opry shows over six nights in the month of January, and will appear on CMT's "Grand Ole Opry Live" on Saturday, January 25th.

Additionally, Joe is taping a celebrity episode of "Wheel of Fortune" this Thursday night as part of the popular game show’s Country Music Stars Week. Nichols will be paired with an actual Wheel of Fortune contestant, and his winnings will benefit the Special Olympics. The show will air the week of February 3-7.

Nichols was recently named one of Billboard’s Top New Country Artists of the Year and was named a 2002 New Artist MVP by Radio and Records. His debut Universal South single “The Impossible” went to #1 and was the #10 Most Played Country Song of 2002 according to Billboard magazine.


Joe Nichols Wasn’t Expecting Grammy Nominations
from CMT's News Feature, Calvin Gilbert , 01/07/2003

For a country artist who was virtually unknown a year ago, Tuesday (Jan. 7) turned out to be an eventful day for Joe Nichols. When the nominations for the 45th annual Grammy Awards were announced, Nichols found himself listed in two categories while his first hit single resulted in a nomination for two Nashville songwriters.

Universal South executive Tony Brown notified Nichols of the nominations while the singer was doing a series of radio interviews at a studio near Nashville. Nichols tells, “After I talked to Tony, I was still in shock during the ensuing minutes. I looked down at my phone and it just rang off the hook. I must’ve had about 15 missed calls in about 10 minutes. All of my friends called at the same time to say congratulations. It was pretty exciting.”

It’s safe to say that Nichols wasn’t expecting to be nominated. “I didn’t even know the nominations came out today,” he admits. “It was pretty funny because I thought it was a joke at first. I thought Tony was just having fun or something when he said, ‘Congratulations. You’re a Grammy nominee.’ I just said, ‘Are you kidding?’ Nobody had a clue that we would even be considered anywhere in the stack.”

Nichols’ major label debut album, Man With a Memory, is nominated for best country album -- a category that includes the Dixie Chicks, Alan Jackson, Willie Nelson and Dolly Parton. His single, “The Impossible,” is nominated for best male country vocal performance -- a category that also encompasses Jackson, Johnny Cash, Pat Green and Brad Paisley.

“One of the biggest compliments is that we’re up against some of the most amazing people in the entire music industry,” he says. “I couldn’t be more honored to be considered for something like this.” Nichols recording of “The Impossible” led to a best country song nomination for songwriters Kelley Lovelace and Lee Thomas Miller.

“I credit the song for all the recognition initially,” Nichols notes. “Once people got the album and reached beyond ‘The Impossible,’ I have to credit [producer] Brent Rowan for the rest. He just did an amazing job of pulling the album together in terms of songs and production. A lot of love went into that album.”

Nichols was the first artist to release an album for Universal South, a new label headed by Brown and former Arista Nashville chief Tim DuBois. When DuBois created Arista’s country division in 1989, he did so with another then-unknown male artist -- Alan Jackson. While Nichols says he didn’t feel any undue pressure in being Universal South’s first signing, he says, “Of course, nobody knew what was going to happen. I guess there was a little bit of pressure to be the focus of so many hardworking people. The last thing I wanted to do was to let anybody down and not do my share, so it did cause us to work really, really hard.”

This year’s other first-time Grammy nominees include Trick Pony whose “Just What I Do” is nominated for best country performance by a duo or group with vocal. Charlie Daniels and the Oak Ridge Boys each received nominations for best southern, country or bluegrass album -- Daniels for How Sweet the Sound: 25 Favorite Hymns and Gospel Greats and the Oaks for An Inconvenient Christmas. Delbert McClinton -- who’s either a country singer or a blues singer, depending on who you talk to -- is nominated for best contemporary blues album for Room to Breathe. Riders in the Sky received a nomination for best musical album for children for Monsters Inc. -- Scream Factory Favorites.

Best recording package nominations went to Rick Patrick (art director for Willie Nelson’s The Great Divide) and Kevin Reagan (art director for the Dixie Chicks’ Home). Home also netted a best engineered non-classical album nomination for Gary Paczosa. Rick Rubin, who produced Cash’s American IV: The Man Comes Around, is nominated for best non-classical producer of the year for his work with Cash and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Set for Feb. 23 at Madison Square Garden in New York City, this year’s Grammy Awards presentation will be televised live on CBS.


Country Stars Will Spin the Wheel
from CMT's News In Brief, 1/3/2003

A variety of country stars will ask to solve the puzzle when the game show Wheel of Fortune tapes in Nashville on Jan. 9, 10 and 11. Celebrity contestants include Billy Ray Cyrus, Carolyn Dawn Johnson, George Jones, Alison Krauss, Brenda Lee, Barbara Mandrell, Lorrie Morgan, Joe Nichols, Brad Paisley, Charley Pride, Pam Tillis, Mark Wills, Darryl Worley and Wynonna. The taping takes place at the Grand Ole Opry House with Pat Sajak and Vanna White. The episodes will air in February. 1/3/03


Joe Makes An Appearance on CMT's MWL

Saturday, Jan. 4
Newcomer Joe Nichols will help kick off
a brand new season of MWL and perform "Brokenheartsville."


from, Neil Haislop's Nashville Update
December 31, 2002

January will be a busy month for Nichols. He's scheduled to perform several shows on the Grand Ole Opry prior to kicking off his tour with Alan Jackson on January 30. Nichols was recently named one of Billboard's Top New Country Artists of the Year and was named a 2002 New Artist MVP by Radio and Records. His debut Universal South single "The Impossible" went to #1 and was the #10 Most Played Country Song of 2002 according to Billboard magazine.


Country’s Class of 2002: Five Artists Most Likely to Succeed
from CMT's News Feature, by Craig Shelburne, 12/30/2002

Despite the celebrated return of its superstars, country music also welcomed a few new artists into the fold. Here are five members from the Class of 2002 whose future looks bright.

Steve Azar
“I Don’t Have to Be (‘Till Monday)” showed Steve Azar’s lighter side, and yeah, it got played waaaay too often. But this 38-year-old’s mature songwriting redeems his second album, Waitin’ On Joe. He’s visibly proud of his home turf in the Mississippi Delta and even filmed his latest music video there. But even someone who’s never been to the crossroads can appreciate the urgency in “How Long Is This Time Gonna Be” and “The Underdog.”

Kevin Denney
Something about Kevin Denney’s tender voice on “That’s Just Jessie” evoked the melancholy of Keith Whitley -- which is a high compliment. And like Whitley, the Kentucky native cut his chops on bluegrass before finding success in country music. His debut album serves as a polite introduction, but a little more mandolin and banjo in the mix might take Denney to the next level. In the meantime, hang in there, kid.

Rebecca Lynn Howard
Finally, after five years of biz turmoil, Rebecca Lynn Howard scored her first legit hit, “Forgive.” She’s twangy as all get-out in conversation, but the polished performance of “Forgive” connected with listeners far from her old Kentucky home. With an anguished delivery that belies her age, the 23-year-old Howard has already written for Trisha Yearwood, toured with Kenny Rogers and harmonized with Patty Loveless. It’s too soon for me to say “star,” but don’t count her out.

Joe Nichols
He’s gotten plenty of attention for his looks, but it’s Joe Nichols’ rich vocals that will sustain his career. “The Impossible,” the first single for new record label Universal South, showcased his smooth baritone with a message that wasn’t too gooey. Big points for his loyalty to the Grand Ole Opry too. The 26-year-old even kept his word to appear the weekend after his father died. If the Opry inducts anybody in this group, it’ll be Nichols. Catch him on tour with Alan Jackson in 2003.

Goofy name, seriously good music. It’s nearly impossible to capture the in-concert vibe on a major-label debut album, but somehow Pinmonkey accomplished just that. “Barbed Wire and Roses” pricked up the ears of country listeners earlier this year, and somehow they effortlessly conquered cuts from Sugar Ray and Dolly Parton. Like every worthy new band, the four guys in Pinmonkey will spent most of 2003 on a tour bus, which is appropriate, considering their forthcoming video is called “I Drove All Night.”

Honorable Mention
• Emerson Drive and Kellie Coffey, who both scored Top 10 hits right off the bat.

• Anthony Smith, who crossed over from hit songwriter (George Strait’s “Run”) to fledgling artist with the debut single, “If That Ain’t Country.”

• Tommy Shane Steiner, who scored one of the year’s most-played records, “What If She’s an Angel,” and still parted company with his record label.

• Brad Martin and Shannon Lawson, who popped up on As the World Turns.

• Little Big Town, who criss-crossed the country encouraging people to vote.


Nichols to Remain on Jackson Tour
from CMT's News In Brief, 12/16/2002

Joe Nichols (“The Impossible”) will continue to tour with Alan Jackson in 2003. “I am so grateful to Alan for giving me this opportunity,” Nichols said. “Playing in front of so many fans and getting to share a stage with one of my idols has been an unbelievably incredible experience.” The new leg of the tour begins January 30 in Peoria, Ill.


Country Radio Seminar Taps Five Acts
from CMT's News In Brief, 12/16/2002

Five country newcomers have received the call to perform during the New Faces Show at the upcoming Country Radio Seminar. Steve Azar, Tammy Cochran, Kellie Coffey, Emerson Drive and Joe Nichols will perform the private concert for a crowd of country radio programmers -- the folks who decide which songs are played on their stations. Country Radio Seminar takes place Feb. 19-21 in Nashville.


Check out the Country Music E-card then send it to a friend.

from, Neil Haislop's Nashville Update
November 25, 2002

Walmart announces that the purchase of any country music CD from will include an exclusive bonus CD at no charge. This special offer from and the Universal Music Group is only available for a limited time. ARTISTS APPEARING ON THE CD Anthony Smith Rebecca Lynn Howard, Kevin Denney, Patsy Cline, Lee Ann Womack, Steve Azar, Joe Nichols, Emerson Drive, Darryl Worle,, Hank Williams, and Gary Allan


from, Neil Haislop's Nashville Update
November 22, 2002

Joe Nichols will hit the field in Dallas' Texas Stadium this weekend to sing the National Anthem before the Dallas Cowboys take on the Jacksonville Jaguars. The game starts at noon (CT) on Sunday, November 24, and will be televised on CBS. A football aficionado, Nichols loves the thought of sharing the field with some of his heroes. "I am looking forward to rubbing shoulders with Emmitt Smith--I'm staying down on the sidelines until somebody runs me off!" Nichols says.


from, Neil Haislop's Nashville Update
November 21, 2002

Joe Nichols seems to be his own best PR person simply by performing around Music City. For instance, after opening for Alan Jackson and Lee Ann Womack at the Gaylord Entertaiment Center, he headed to lower Broadway and a club called Wolfy's where he began a midnight set of classic country tunes, according to the Tennessean. The paper was impressed with Joe's covers of Haggard, Lefty Frizzell, Gene Watson, Hank Jr. and George Strait. ALSO, a top publicity person from a competing label saw Nichols recently and told us, "He's not one of our artists, but I have to tell you Joe Nichols is the real deal, he's really got something going."


Not So Impossible
As Universal South's flagship artist, new country singer Joe Nichols combines alternative look with a traditional sound

By Martin Brady

In the parlance of Nashville's star-making machinery, country singer Joe Nichols is hot, young and new. All good things to be, of course. And when Nichols steps onstage at the Gaylord Entertainment Center on Friday night, he'll not only be the opening act for country's current leading statesman, Alan Jackson, he'll be putting the exclamation point on the first phase of his own budding career.

Currently riding high with his recent No. 1 single, "The Impossible," Nichols, who turns 26 this month, is a likable guy with a look that's slightly different from your garden-variety country singer. Without buckskin, fringe or cowboy hat, Nichols looks more like the lead singer from an alternative rock band than the latest savior of tradition-leaning commercial country. On the other hand, when Nichols starts to sing, his voice harks back to early George Strait or Randy Travis.

Nichols' new CD, Man With a Memory, reinforces this connection to Music Row's best, history-conscious product. It's also the signature album released by the new Universal South label, a joint venture with New York-based Universal Records run by former MCA Nashville president Tony Brown and former Arista Nashville exec Tim Dubois.

"Joe is definitely the flagship artist for Universal South," says Dubois. "He came to us just as we were starting the label. He's the first brand-new artist on a brand-new [Nashville] label to have a No. 1 song. He's at the start of what should be a great career."

Nichols hails from Rogers, Ark. His upbringing appears to have been typical and otherwise unremarkably small-townish. His father was a truck driver and honky-tonk bass player; Nichols got his first taste of singing as a teenager accompanying an uncle's karaoke machine. While still in Arkansas, he signed a record deal with Intersound, a small independent label based in Nashville. An album followed, but to little avail, other than to give the then-19-year-old a taste of the business. "It's daylight and dark," Nichols says somewhat dismissively, comparing Man With a Memory to that early effort. He moved to Music City in 1997.

"I came here with a girlfriend," says Nichols, echoing a common refrain of country wannabes. The relationship didn't work out, though Nichols is now the father of a 3-year-old daughter named Ashelyn. "I held several different odd jobs," he continues in his mellow drawl. "I was a cable guy, I sold steaks for a day and I worked for UPS for a little while. Honestly, I really didn't get focused until later. At first, I just came to Nashville and survived. But I did get serious about getting some songwriting done."

Things picked up in 1999 when Nichols' best friend, guitarist Brian Spradlin, who was then working at a local music equipment company, met studio guitarist Brent Rowan. "Brian talked to Brent on several occasions about producing and then gave him an acoustic demo we had done with both original and cover material," says Nichols. "It was pretty raw stuff." Spradlin's persistence paid off. A get-acquainted lunch at the Cooker resulted in Rowan's agreement to take Nichols on; Rowan soon pitched the singer to Giant Records.

"We got a record deal in late '99, but the label was so tied up financially, it was very hard to get actual face time with decision makers," Nichols says. "Giant ended up closing its doors in early 2001, at which point Warner Bros. called and expressed an interest in our contract. We were there for a few months, and in the meantime kept looking for songs, building relationships with publishers. To their credit, Warner gave us an open-ended release, and that started our meetings with other labels. I was most excited about the potential of Universal South."

And why not? Between the two of them, senior partners Brown and Dubois have been responsible for the careers of Alan Jackson, Trisha Yearwood, Brooks & Dunn, Vince Gill, Brad Paisley and many others. "Joe appears to be a typical 25-year-old," says Dubois. "We didn't try to change his look or style. He doesn't have a traditional look, but we're aware that record buyers are a much younger audience. And we have found that Joe's image is very acceptable to country radio listeners. His appeal is similar to the early Merle Haggard, Gene Watson or Keith Whitley."

Nichols concurs. "I'm very conscious that my look is different," he says. "That's actually something that I shoot for. Sometimes it catches people off guard, 'cause it's not the same old thing. People need change and a little bit of freshness." But if audiences in the hinterlands--in Tampa or Little Rock or other recent stops along Jackson's Drive tour--puzzle with some curiosity about the image of this new artist, they seem to agree that his sound is immediately acceptable.

Nichols' warm, flexible baritone makes for good music, to be sure, but Man With a Memory functions as much as a showcase for its producer. Rowan is maybe Nashville's most reliable and versatile studio guitarist, and his imprint is all over the record. His many recording sessions represent well over 100 million records sold, with credits on CDs by leading country and pop artists of the last two decades, including Strait, Travis, Shania Twain and Sting. "Brent is one of the premier session players," says Dubois. "We wanted him to have a shot at producing someone, and he delivered an absolutely wonderful album--in the vein of Jackson or Strait."

Not surprisingly, the CD's overall production is accessible, Nashville cool and commercial in every way, featuring top-flight studio talent and guest appearances by Gill and Dobro virtuoso Jerry Douglas. Song selection, according to Nichols, was "very collaborative," with input from Brown, Dubois, Rowan and Nichols himself.

The current big hit, "The Impossible," a solid piece of Music Row tunesmithing by Kelley Lovelace and Lee Thomas Miller, leads off the set. It's sentimental, yet it conveys its hopeful, "dreams can come true" message with sincerity, Top 40 assuredness and sophisticated arrangements. "Joe's Place" is a lively up-tempo paean to bar life, featuring Gill's high tenor harmonies. "She Only Smokes When She Drinks" is an effective if unspectacular snapshot of a honky-tonk angel in pensive repose, reminiscent musically of Whitley's "When You Say Nothing at All."

The Nichols co-writes on the album include "Everything's a Thing," a bluesy bit of nonsense wordplay; "Can't Hold a Halo to You," a pleasant ballad featuring Dan Dugmore's winding and whining steel guitar licks; and "Cool to Be a Fool," which, in its fun-loving, Western-swing way, recalls George Strait's first records laced with some of the sassiness and swagger of a good Clint Black song. "Man With a Memory" concludes the album; it's a classic country-pop tune by Charlie Black and Rory Michael Bourke, expressive of Music Row writing at its very best.

Right now, promotional efforts in support of Nichols and his music are in high gear. He's made his debut appearance on CMT's popular video countdown show, Most Wanted Live; his video for "The Impossible" is in the cable broadcast's rotation; and he made a brief, nationally televised appearance on last week's CMA Awards show. Nichols has also become a semi-regular on the Grand Ole Opry, where older audiences, if they close their eyes, can connect immediately with his music. The Nichols story is tinged with bittersweet sadness, though. His dad, Mike, passed away from a respiratory ailment this past summer, but not before he saw his son make his Opry debut.

In the midst of all this recent attention and activity, Nichols appears unfazed, rather calmly businesslike. If he's overwhelmed by, or in awe of, the momentum his career is generating, it certainly doesn't show; he's thinking about the future too.

"I hope to keep the same creative mind and keep on in that same traditional path," he says. "And I think we're going to take chances sometimes. I think Universal South is about risk...but a very confident risk. I think we'll see some unique sounds that are different from what people might normally consider 'radio releases.' When the Dixie Chicks came out, nobody considered bluegrass radio stuff, either. But they had strong songs and made a huge impact. Hopefully, we can do that same thing."


By Brian Mansfield (11/12/2002)
Special for USA TODAY

Who's hot: Joe Nichols

Why now: His Man With a Memory album and his opening slot on the current Alan Jackson tour have made him one of the brightest new stars in country music.

The buzz: Like a young Randy Travis, Nichols has an old-school voice that suggests wisdom beyond his years. Recent Nashville performances, particularly on The Grand Ole Opry, have made a jaded industry sit up and take notice.

With his wavy shoulder-length hair, Joe Nichols, 25, looks more like a rock star than a country singer. But when he opens his mouth, out comes a honky-tonk voice influenced by the likes of Marty Robbins, Gene Watson and Nichols' late father, Mike, who sang at bars and VFW halls while raising a family in Arkansas and Missouri.
''I think that he could've done very well in this business,'' Nichols says of his dad. ''He always, not really regretted it, but always wondered, 'What if?' '' Nichols' recent success gives him a sense of accomplishing what his father gave up for him, his older brother and younger sister.
The Impossible, a song about long shots and lost causes, gave the country singer his first chart-topping hit earlier this year. Second single Brokenheartsville has just started to get airplay and hit the charts.
The Impossible was the first single on Universal South, a label recently launched by Music Row powerhouses Tony Brown and Tim DuBois. Man With a Memory features three of Nichols' own songs, plus a cover of Tom T. Hall's Life Don't Have to Mean Nothin' at All. And unlike much of today's sanitized, family-friendly country music, many of the songs on Memory take place in a bar.
Man With a Memory actually marks Nichols' second go-round in the country biz. He recorded an album for an independent label at age 18, after being ''discovered'' while changing oil at a car dealership. Nichols' early videos got some play on CMT, but he never made a dent in radio and soon drifted into the relative obscurity of day jobs, including selling steaks door-to-door and a stint as a cable guy.
''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 recalls. ''I said, 'Ahhhh, yeah . . . that'll be $49.95, thank you very much.' Things like that can really humble a person.''
Nichols kept a hand in music all the while, writing songs and cutting demos. Eventually, an association with producer Brent Rowan led to his deal with Universal South. Rowan had Nichols play live for Brown, then DuBois. When they started Universal South, they signed him as their first artist.
Though he lives in Nashville, Nichols is dating a pharmaceutical rep from Longview, Texas. A 4-year-old daughter from a previous relationship lives in the Seattle area.
Nichols has played the Grand Ole Opry nearly two dozen times in the past year, including the weekend after his father's death in July. That night, he sang The Impossible, as well as his father's favorite song, Merle Haggard's Footlights.
''I think the old man would have appreciated that,'' Nichols says, ''getting to say goodbye at one of his favorite places, in one of his proudest moments, with one of his favorite songs.''

Parton, Womack and Others Added as CMA Performers
from CMT's News In Brief, 10/24/2002

Dolly Parton, reigning CMA female vocalist of the year Lee Ann Womack and Montgomery Gentry will perform during the CMA Awards broadcast on Nov. 6.  Parton, who will sing “Hello God,” will also pay tribute to Porter Wagoner and “Jumpin’” Bill Carlisle when the two Grand Ole Opry stars are officially inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.  Newcomers Rebecca Lynn Howard (“Forgive”) and Joe Nichols (“The Impossible”) will sing abbreviated versions of their hits to lead into commercial breaks during the CBS broadcast.  Other stars scheduled to appear include Brooks & Dunn, Kenny Chesney, host Vince Gill, Faith Hill, Alan Jackson, Toby Keith, Alison Krauss, Carolyn Dawn Johnson, Martina McBride, Nickel Creek, Brad Paisley, Rascal Flatts, George Strait, Travis Tritt, Shania Twain, Keith Urban, Phil Vassar and Darryl Worley.

from, Neil Haislop's Nashville Update
October 24, 2002

Joe Nichols was signed to Universal South records by Tony Brown and Tim DuBois. But at the time they first told him they wanted him, they didn't have a record company. Brown was just moments away from leaving his post as President of MCA Records-Nashville and DuBois, who had launched Arista Nashville as its head man, had not yet become partners in Universal South.
"I played for Tony Brown," says Joe. "Tony says, you know what, 'I'm still with this company right now but I don't know what's going to be happening in the next month, wink, wink.' And he said, 'I want you to go play for my friend, wink, wink, Tim DuBois, see what he thinks about it. I'll call him, you guys go over and see him' and everything. And we went over and played for Tim as well, acoustically. He dug it, loved it, called back that day and was very excited about it and Tim said, 'I've never had to say this but if I had a record label I'd give you a record deal!'"

Music Row Crowd Cheers "The Impossible"
from CMT's News Feature, by Edward Morris, 10/21/2002

Almost everyone connected with the record's success turned out Friday (Oct. 18) to toast singer Joe Nichols and the writers of his recent No. 1 single, "The Impossible." ASCAP, the performance rights society, hosted the celebration at its Nashville office.

Among those raising their glasses to songwriters Kelley Lovelace and Lee Miller were Tim DuBois and Tony Brown, the senior partners of Universal South, Nichols' record label; Connie Bradley, ASCAP's senior vice president; Pete Fisher, general manager of the Grand Ole Opry; and Nichols' producer, Brent Rowan.

"This is Kelley's second No. 1," Bradley explained as she handed him his trophy, "so we don't give you a jacket this time." (Lovelace's first chart-topper was "He Didn't Have To Be." ASCAP traditionally awards a fancy jacket for such a breakthrough.) Bradley also acknowledged DuBois and Brown, whom she called "the smartest people in town."

Besides being Nichol's first No. 1, "The Impossible" was also the first single Universal South released. Referring to this fact, Lovelace observed, "It's kind of historical. Me and Lee were talking that our plaques should be very big." Miller is signed to BMI, a competing performance rights organization.

"From every point I've heard," said Gary Overton, executive vice president and general manager of EMI Music, Lovelace's publisher, "everyone loves Joe Nichols." He joked that Rowan had "wasted 20-odd years being Nashville's greatest guitarist" before finally finding an artist he wanted to produce.

Still looking incredulous at all the attention he was getting, Nichols told his well-wishers, "It's been an extremely long road, but a lot of people have held on with me." He said the good news hadn't really sunk in until he arrived for the celebration. "I thought 'It's a No. 1 party -- and I'm invited.'"

Following the awards presentations, Nichols told that he had connected emotionally with "The Impossible" the first time he heard it. "Sometimes there are songs that just feel like they belong to you," he explained, noting that a lot of the lyrics applied to him directly. "It hit me 20 seconds into the song. My grandpa died when I was 13. My dad was strong man."

Following the party, Nichols made a return appearance at the Grand Ole Opry, where, Fisher said, he has become a fan favorite. Earlier in the day, the singer learned he had won a coveted "bumper" spot during the Nov. 6 CMA Awards show. (A bumper is one of those "We'll be right back" segments that signal a break for commercials while giving an up-and-coming artist the opportunity to sing a line or two from his or her best-known single.)

Nichols has just shot the video for his next single, the honky-tonking "Brokenheartsville."

Stars See Green in California
from CMT's News In Brief, 10/11/2002

Several country acts will spend Monday (Oct.14) on a California golf course during the Academy of Country Music’s annual Bill Boyd Celebrity Golf Classic. Among those traveling to Burbank for the charity event include Montgomery Gentry, Chris Cagle, Joe Nichols, Trick Pony, Mark Wills, Steve Holy and Darryl Worley, along with Diamond Rio’s Marty Roe, Lonestar’s Dean Sams and Asleep at the Wheel’s Ray Benson. Other participants include newcomers Brad Martin, Aaron Lines, Josh Turner, Kevin Denney, Rodney Redman and Jennifer Hanson. This year’s tournament and concert benefit several charities, including the T. J. Martell Foundation, the Shriner’s Children’s Hospital and the Montgomery Gentry National Future Farmers Association Foundation Scholarship Fund.

by Larry Holden, October 15, 2002

Joe Nichols, whose single "The Impossible" is a mega-hit, is beaming over a igh-profile supporter of his Man With A Memory CD.  "I haven't met Alan Jackson," admits Joe, "but Alan said in a magazine that mine is one of his favorite new albums and that he loves the fact that it's traditional country.  Knowing he said that is a big boost to me.  If I were a football player and Joe Montana said he appreciates the way I play the sport, that would be on the same level as Alan paying me a compliment."

from, Neil Haislop's Nashville Update
September 27, 2002

Joe Nichols has hit a homerun with his first chart record, The Impossible. But, even before that happened he let us know that whatever the first single or album did, his goal is to be around for the long haul.
"We've played on the Opry a few times and I think to be a member of the Grand Ole Opry would be a pretty big deal for me," says Joe of one of his long term goals. "I don't know if I could just to do this for 20 years, to look back 20 years from now and say I've done what I love for 20 years and I've been blessed. That would be, I guess, the highlight, to look back after 20 years and say I'm still doing it. I love this!"

Nashville, TN - September 23, 2002

Universal South recording artist Joe Nichols brought fans to their feet in Florida this weekend with his first performances on Alan Jackson’s “Drive” tour. Nichols opened Jackson’s shows in Tampa, West Palm Beach, and Jacksonville with a six song set that featured cuts from his debut Universal South cd Man With a Memory and some country favorites, including the Merle Haggard classic “Footlights”. Nichols concluded each set with his #1 single “The Impossible”, receiving rave responses for each performance.

“Meeting the fans, sharing a stage with Alan, playing with my new band, seeing the country from a tour bus, this tour is better than I ever imagined,” says Nichols. "This was by far the best week of my career, maybe even my life. To have my first #1 single and to start touring with Alan Jackson, all in one week, it’s just almost surreal. To say it’s a dream come true feels like an understatement.”

While in Florida, Nichols found time for a visit to McDill Air Force Base in Tampa, the home of the US Central Command’s Joint Operations Center, the US headquarters for defense intelligence. Nichols was given a very rare tour of the facility and gave a private performance for the center’s elite command force.

Nichols is just getting started. He has been tapped to continue on the “Drive” tour into the Fall, joining Jackson for the following dates:

September 26 Birmingham
September 27 Little Rock
November 9 Charleston, WV
November 15 Nashville
November 16 Memphis
November 17 New Orleans

Nichols has been riding a phenomenal wave of success since his debut Universal South Records album Man With A Memory topped Billboard’s Heatseekers chart in its first week of release. The album has been one of country’s top-20 selling albums ever since, and Nichols’s debut single, “The Impossible” just last week reached #1 on R&R’s Country Singles Chart, the first time since the inception of R&R’s Mediabase monitored airplay chart system that the first single released by a brand-new label has reached the #1 chart position.


from, Neil Haislop's Nashville Update
September 23, 2002

Somebody should write a song called "The Corporate Shuffle," a country-blues kind of thing...because so many fans and country music people have been displaced, down-sized or done away with due to collapsing companies, corporate mergers, expansions, etc. Maybe Joe Nichols will do that for his next album, because it was the dissolution of Atlantic Records that could've ended his career before it started. According to Joe he got through it all by realizing what was happening to him wasn't his fault.
"Oh yeah. I heard a phrase I like called "The corporate shuffle," whatever that means. I got swallowed in the corporate shuffle," he told us. "But we kept our heads out of the mud and we stayed positive, stayed focused and I believe that as long as you do that everything is going to be OK."
He says it was his producer that ultimately made it okay by getting Nichols in front of the folks that founded the new Universal South label where his career is now flourishing.

Joe Nichols "Impossible" Success
from Clear Channel Country Music News
Country singer Joe Nichols' new single "The Impossible" has jumped to the top of the Radio and Records country chart, according to the trade publication's web site.   The song is the first single for the Rogers, Arkansas native.  It's from his album Man With a Memory. Nichols jumps ahead of Darryl Worley, Diamond Rio and Tracy Byrd to lead this weeks' radio airplay charts.  Nichols' label is also celebrating; it's the first ever release for the UMB-Owned Universal South label.

from, Neil Haislop's Nashville Update
September 19, 2002

With his debut song THE IMPOSSIBLE at #1 in R&R, Joe Nichols' legion of fans is growing exponentially.  But, his number one fan is a little 4-year old girl that doesn't know or care much about his career.
She's Ashelyn, his daughter from a former relationship.
"She's very special, she lives in Seattle, Washington.  Just outside of Seattle, Washington.  She lives there with her mother," Joe explains.  The only downside to his busy career now is that she lives so far away and he can only see her once a month.  But, he calls her often and is rewarded when he does.
"I crumble sometimes when she calls me with the simplest little things.  She called me the other day and had her first dentist appointment.  She said, 'Daddy, I went to the dentist and that dentist said I have no cavenies.' Cavenies!  Can't laugh because I don't want her to feel bad about what she said, but at the same time you kind of go, 'That's great! My God, that's great!'  She's so beautiful.  She's very intelligent so...she's going to do well."


The release of Man With A Memory marks the first release on the newly formed Universal South. The album was produced by noted Nashville session guitarist Brent Rowan. “Brent and I wanted to make a record that we would buy,” says Nichols. “We wanted to feel that we would turn in a record where there would be no compromises, no saying, ‘Well, I’m not sure about this song or that song.’ We wanted 12 hits, really, that would all be contenders. I love hit records; I just want to be singing them.”

Current Single:The Impossible
Current Album: Man With A Memory
Current Video:The Impossible
Producer(s): Brent Rowan
Home Town: Rogers, Ark.

Interesting Facts: Brent Rowan’s first production. Three songs on the album were co-written by Nichols. First public appearance was at age 14, during family get-together. Nichols says, “My uncle had a new thing called a karaoke machine. Everyone was shocked I could actually carry a tune.”
Interests: Golf
Favorite Record: Merle Haggard’s Rainbow Stew, Don Williams’ Live at the Palladium

Hits:The Impossible” (currently in the top-15)


Photo from

Joe Nichols Stakes His Claim With ‘The Impossible’
from CMT's News Feature, by Craig Shelburne, 8/2/2002


‘The Impossible’ Topples Rimes’ Single
from CMT's News In Brief, 7/12/2002

Joe Nichols first hit, “The Impossible,” has knocked LeAnn Rimes from the top slot on Billboard’s Country Singles Sales chart. Rimes’ “Can’t Fight the Moonlight” drops to No. 2 in the July 20 issue, after logging 23 consecutive weeks at No. 1. Nichols’ album, Man With a Memory, arrives July 23.


Country Stars Club - Nashville One-On-One
Feature article and some photos by Neil Haislop


Brave New World
A Bumper Crop Of Talented First-Timers Takes Over The Charts
from, by Chris Neal, 611/2002


Image from

Who's New... Joe Nichols
The Impossible Dream
from, by Chris Neal, 5/7/2002


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