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?