Fork in road proved beneficial for Nichols

Brian Dugger.
Brian Dugger.

Don’t feel bad for Joe Nichols. He’s recovering quite nicely from his breakup.

“I’ve got a great life, a beautiful 17-month-old daughter, a great wife. I feel like this is a fresh start for me,“ Nichols said while driving from his home in Tyler, Texas, to the Dallas-Ft. Worth Airport. “Overall, I believe that God has a plan for me and that I’m firmly in his grasp. What more could I ask?”

His breakup had nothing to do with the romantic kind, but it was still painful when he walked away from Universal South in 2012 after a decade-long relationship.

Universal joined forces with Toby Keith’s Show Dog in 2009, and, under the direction of Mark Wright, became Show Dog-Universal. It was just a matter of time before Nichols parted ways with some of the people who launched his career with the hit single “The Impossible” in 2002.

“When Mark Wright took over, things just felt different. He had passed on me a couple of times in the past. I just don’t think he got me. It felt like a forced marriage,” Nichols said. “It felt like I didn’t want to be there, and it kind of felt like they felt the same way.”

So, in May, 2012, Nichols was suddenly a man with a 3-month-old little girl named Dylan at home and no job.

“It was a very scary time, yet it was very freeing too. I had a lot of confidence. Over the history of my career, we’ve been able to connect with the fans, which is the name of the game. I knew I could do it given the right climate.”

After getting his release from his former employer, he immediately went into the studio, using his own money, and cut a couple of songs to show around to other labels.

It wasn’t long before he had offers coming in, but he was looking for a company that had a sense of urgency about his career and understood his desire to stretch himself vocally. That match came in October, 2012, when he became one of the flagship artists for Benny Brown and his new imprint Red Bow, which is partnered with Broken Bow Records.

In May, his fans got a taste of what his new direction is going to be when he released “Sunny and 75,” the first cut off of his upcoming album “Crickets,” which will be in stores on Oct. 8.

The song has the traditional Nichols feel, showing off his recognizable baritone. But the chorus also challenges him in a higher range than he is used to singing.

His fans are going to be impressed by the depth of the project and the bang for their buck. There are 16 cuts on the album, which is a good five to six more than a typical album. A possible second single is “Yeah,” one of the songs he cut with his own money after breaking away from Show Dog-Universal.

“I wanted this album to be positive, and I wanted people to feel that I haven’t lost touch with who I am,” Nichols said. “I feel nervous about the album release, but I am cautiously excited.”

Brian Dugger’s column on country music appears in The Blade the last Saturday of every month. Contact him at or on Twitter @DuggerCountry.