Joe Nichols Says Country Music Has Become A “Little Fickle”

Joe Nichols (public domain)

Mainstream country music artist Joe Nichols hasn’t exactly impressed traditional country music fans as he did early in his career. His last two singles, “Sunny and 75” and “Yeah”, were both number one hits. The problem that ruffled many fans’ feathers were the fact that these songs were decidedly bro country. It was certainly a far cry from the songs he put out earlier in this career. So when I saw a the interview he gave to Phoenix News Times today, the things he said caught me off-guard. His thoughts on the current state of country music:

“As a genre, we’ve forgotten who loves our music, and for the most part that’s middle America, just regular people,” he says, less a lamentation and more of a call to arms. “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.”

He doesn’t just stop here either.

“To me, [country music] gotten a little fickle,” he says. “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 really don’t buy his line about trying not to do what everyone else is doing because that’s exactly what he did with his last two singles. However the rest of his points are completely spot-on. Country music has forgotten it’s identity and who their audience is. The last line about the genre bringing this problem on itself is something I’ve been waiting to hear. Trend-chasing is terrible and I’m glad Nichols had the guts to basically say it. It’s nothing but a short-term gain and it hurts you in the long run. Nichols seems to understand this.

He then went on to praise George Strait and said that what makes Strait such a great artist is his ability to tell stories. Now as great as those two top quotes are, this last quote is the money quote to me (emphasis mine):

“I think country was built on that kind of thing — storytelling and what your average day is like, weekend is like — and for me I think the lyric has to be meaningful to be a country song,” he explains. “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.”

I couldn’t say it any better myself. Country music is about the average person and their everyday life. It’s not about partying, excessive drinking or going to the club. And as Nichols points out, it needs to sound country too. The last line is the real kicker. It’s why many like myself refute Sam Hunt’s music. You can’t call pop music country music and like Nichols says you should really take a look at what is actually is.

This was a great interview by the Phoenix News Times and I highly recommend you check out the rest of the interview. What do you think of Nichols’ thoughts?

18 thoughts on “Joe Nichols Says Country Music Has Become A “Little Fickle”

  1. Raymond April 7, 2015 / 4:48 pm

    You know what’s funny is that his current song Hard To Be Cool is about to leave the charts so a kinda win for us. I feel like Joe is right and I think seeing this interview maybe he will turn things around on his next album. With Hard To Be Cool looking to leave the charts any day maybe Joe will go back I’m willing to give chances artist can eventually redeem themselves. Look at Tim McGraw he returned to the good side. I’m doubtful but hopeful that maybe Luke Bryan finally matured who knows maybe deep down he will release a mediocre album let’s hope.

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    • Josh Schott April 7, 2015 / 4:52 pm

      Yeah “Hard To Be Cool” isn’t doing well on the charts and it actually did regress this week. I’m not sure if it will leave the chart soon, as I figure his label won’t give up on it too easily. It’ll be interesting to watch. If Joe would pull a McGraw and come back to the good side, I’d take him back with open arms.

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      • Raymond April 7, 2015 / 5:09 pm

        Oh no Hard To Be Cool is done I think too be honest Joe would probably pull in the middle too be honest I feel like now with Bro-Country dying I feel like many artists like Blake Shelton Kenny Chesney Lady Antebellum Darius Rucker are gonna play middle ground. I think actually Joe Chris Young Easton Corbin Billy Currington all those artists are gonna play middle ground and stay and see where exactly country music goes. If Carrie Underwood Tim McGraw Eric Paslay Jake Owen Kacey Musgraves Zac Brown Band Josh Turner Ashley Monroe Gloriana Kip Moore David Nail Jana Kramer The Band Perry Maddie & Taewin things will turn out for the better but if Raelynn FGL Thomas Rhett Cole Swindell Luke Bryan Justin Moore Dustin Lynch Sam Hunt Eli Young Band Rascal Flatts Brantley Gilbert.

        Sorry for saying that I think Gloriana is one of the good guys but they always manage to do pop-country in a way that’s so unique that makes me lie it and Trouble showing Country-Rock these guys in my opinion manage to push boundaries without abandoning the genre and for that I’m a fan of there’s.

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  2. Zack April 7, 2015 / 4:57 pm

    Good words most definently. You know even his bro songs I could at least tolerate due to his very good, rich country voice. They weren’t great but I could at least handle them. If he pulls a Tim McGraw I would definently accept him back

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  3. Scotty J April 7, 2015 / 5:05 pm

    This sadly has almost become a cliché with some of these guys. We’ve seen it with Jake Owen, the Osborne guy and a few others and now Joe Nichols. It’s sort of like a little wink they are giving to long time country fans all the while they continue to release singles that don’t back up their words.

    I imagine the disconnect is rooted in many of these acts not having the juice to release singles that reflect their comments but sometimes I think their words are just a cynical ploy to keep their options open in case the trend whipsaws back in the other direction.

    I want to believe these guys but I need to see some evidence that it is more than just words.

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    • Josh Schott April 7, 2015 / 5:09 pm

      Good point about this becoming a pretty cliché response. And like you said this would be easier to get behind if they actually backed up their talk with great country songs. Owen did it with his latest single. He’s about the only one.

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      • Scotty J April 7, 2015 / 5:19 pm

        Yeah Jake Owen did but then I saw somewhere a recent quote of his that stated that he was happy with being the guy that puts out the good time beach summer songs which seems to play into my theory that his comments were just words.

        And the relative failure of ‘What We Ain’t Got’ and the idiotic comments by radio guys about ‘mood’ and ‘tempo’ makes it understandable why he and others flock to the beach and beer stuff.

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    • Raymond April 7, 2015 / 5:17 pm

      Um Brothers Osbornes music is really solid they’re backing their stuff up. Now we will see with Joe

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      • Scotty J April 7, 2015 / 5:25 pm

        Maybe. Haven’t heard that many of their songs but ‘Rum’ and the new one aren’t exactly great in my opinion. Better than FGL or Sam Hunt, sure, but I’m tired of trying to be enthused about music that is praised because it’s better than most. I want to hear good stuff.

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      • Raymond April 7, 2015 / 5:39 pm

        Different strokes then I find Brothers Osborne to have a fun care-free with Rum that for me works with it’s solid instrumentation.

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  4. Lorenzo April 7, 2015 / 5:40 pm

    Josh, I don’t really think Joe is doing what everyone else is doing. i don’t like Sunny and 75 but I don’t think it’s a bro country song. I do not have problems with yeah, I don’t really see it offensive. Hard to be cool is really catchy but it’s one of those summer songs with generic lyrics just released to get the middle-listener approval. but out of that his album Crickets was quite good. I can definitely say there are one or two well-done bro country songs as well as a lot of great country songs. sometimes Joe reminds me of Randy Travis and Merle Haggard. that’s very good stuff. This is why I don’t think he’s doing what everyone else is doing. hard to be cool is definitely Joe’s stupidest single but it isn’t near as bad as anything jason aldean, chase rice or thomas rhett released. by the way have you already heard that fu***ng new thomas rhett single? damn it sucks. way worse than sam hunt if you ask me

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  5. NoahHibiscusEaton April 7, 2015 / 5:47 pm

    Well, firstly, to state the obvious………….aspects of Nichols’ comments smack as quite hypocritical to me.

    Particularly those concerning what country music truly is from a thematic standpoint. I was hoping he would own up to the fact he catered to trends with “Crickets” without shame admitting it, and instead it just came across as shamrocks calling the grass green (because, let’s face it: pots and kettles are all kinds of different colors these days! 😉 )

    *

    However, I will add this: at least Joe Nichols still has the license to call out the “country music is sounding 100% like other genres” assertion.

    As bad as “Yeah” and “Hard To Be Cool” are, at least when you come across them on your radio dial, there’s enough to convince you you’re listening to the country station. Granted the electric guitars lead the way, but Nichols’ vocals are still distinctively country and there are whiffs of pedal steel in the former.

    *

    So where Nichols lacks credibility as far as songwriting and lyrics are concerned, he still has it enough with regards to instrumentation and production. Now I’m just hoping Nichols actually walks the walk and makes a concerted effort to cut a follow-up album that consists of more songs in the vein of “Old School Country Song”, “Billy Graham’s Bible” and “The Impossible”. It shouldn’t be a stretch to accomplish, since two of the aforementioned songs appeared on a most recent album that is otherwise more than 50% chock full of bro-country lite and another 30% of disposable fluffy love/”love” songs.

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    • Scotty J April 7, 2015 / 8:08 pm

      The problem is Noah, as has been talked about plenty, an act in so many ways is defined by the singles that are released. The vast majority of people only here what gets played on the radio and so the fact that Nichols and many other acts often have a hand full of good country songs on their albums really doesn’t accomplish much because they are not reaching as many ears.

      It could be argued that maybe Tim McGraw is the only act that has actually released the country sounding songs to radio. Of course that only started happening after ‘Lookin’ For That Girl’ but still it actually feels like he is doing some good.

      And I don’t mind an occasional popish sounding song if it true to country themes but too many acts are making what amounts to two EPs, one country for true fans and another of radio singles for the masses.

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  6. bob April 8, 2015 / 7:53 am

    I also don’t buy Joe’s ” 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.” The old adage about actions speaking louder than words doesn’t support Joe’s claims in view of his recent single releases. It doesn’t bother me if Joe’s songs are not what some would call traditional country. If he released what to me sounds like a good pop country song that would be fine. His recent songs are not good music of any kind.

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