BY TRICIA DESPRES | FOR THE SUN-TIMES
A few weeks back, country music trailblazer Hunter Hayes announced plans to bypass for nowthe traditional way of releasing his new music in an album or EP format in favor of digitally releasing one song at a time.
And to that, country music mainstay Joe Nichols says “to each their own.”
WINDY CITY LAKESHAKE When: June 19-21 Where: FirstMerit Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island, 1300 S. Lynn White Drive Tickets: $199.50 – $599.50 Info: www.lakeshakefestival.com
“It’s not to say that I disagree with Hunter at all – that’s what he has decided to do and that’s probably going to work for him actually,”said Nichols during a recent interview. “But creating an album for me is like a journey.”
“That’s so cliché sounding,” he continues. “Let’s just say that [making an album] is a memorable process that I would hate to not be able to go through if people don’t do it anymore. I mean, if we go single by single, we will be in the studio all the time and it will be meaningless. We will just be churning out single after single for money. For me, music has got to mean something. There is something to be said for making an album and completing an album and then being able to step away and look at the entire project. It’s kind of like building a house — no one wants to build an apartment and then just move out the next week.”
Indeed, Nichols has never been one to leave any job unfinished. A countrymusic presencesince the early 2000s with hits such as “Brokenheartsville,” “Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off” and “Gimmie That Girl,” the four-time Grammy nominee came close to seeing his career screech to a halt as he battled some much publicized addictions. Yet, Nichols came back with a mix of vengeance and ease in 2013 withNo. 1hits such as “Sunny and 75” and “Yeah” off of his eighth studio album “Crickets.”
“My theory has always been that good records will always find their way to the people,” Nichols says. “All that has ever mattered was working our tails off to put out a good record that the fans would find and love.”
In fact, a new generation of country music fans is currently finding and loving his music, and will undoubtedly be loud and proud in their support of Nichols’ as he returns to Chicago June 20 to perform at the inaugural “Windy City LakeShake,” in which Nichols will play alongside the likes of country powerhouses such as Florida Georgia Line, Dierks Bentley and Brad Paisley.
“Anyone who says we don’t compete up there in that sort of festival environment are lying,” chuckles Nichols, who recently sang alongside country legend Clint Black during the “ACM Presents: Superstar Duets” on CBS. “I think that most of the time that competition is friendly. We are all just out there to play the best we can.”
Besides playing his own hits, Nichols has also long been known to pull out the cover songs, paying homage to everyone from Tom Petty to George Jones.
“I like to do the [covers[ we do because it’s music that moves me,” Nichols says. “I figure why not play it and see how much everyone else loves it.”
These days, Nichols is working on a new album of brand new music (“we want an album of hits… it’s as simple as that”) and thoroughly enjoying a life that the father of three describes simply as “beautiful chaos.”
“Our little one just turned one, so life at home is loud and fun and beautiful,” Nichols says. “It makes my heart jump, every single day.”
And that ain’t no cliché.
Tricia Despres is a local freelance writer.