Upon his arrival in 1996, Joe Nichols failed to make an impact on country music with his self-titled debut album but was met with quite a different reaction with his 2002 follow-up Man With a Memory. With hit singles “The Impossible” and “Brokenheartsville,” Nichols snagged three Grammy nominations, including country album of the year. Nichols recently put himself on the hot seat to answer questions from CMT.com readers, on topics ranging from his first time in front of an audience to whether or not he has any tattoos.
1. How old were you when you sang for an audience for the first time?
I was about 14 and we were at a family get-together at my aunt’s house, and my uncle broke out a karaoke machine. I believe that’s the first time I can remember being in front of a lot of people and singing.
2. After your first album, I didn’t see you for a long time. Where did you go?
Actually, I just took a lot of time to do a lot of maturing in Nashville. I still played and wrote as much as possible but mainly just got my life focused on maturing vocally and personally.
3. I’d like to be a country singer, too. Do you have any advice?
Hmm! Move to Nashville. Work hard. (laughs) Don’t forget that you have to pay bills so having a job outside of music is OK. You know, things are tough in the music industry at first, and people need to understand that. Also, I would say that whenever given a chance to sing or play, I would take every opportunity given.
4. What do you and your band do on the road to kill time between shows?
Watch movies, throw the football, play a little basketball, sometimes play video games or, once in a blue moon, we’ll get to play a little golf.
5. When you’re on the Grand Ole Opry, you seem so happy and at home. What inspires you about the Opry?
I think the tradition. The tradition of the Grand Ole Opry is so deep, you know? All the Opry stars are so kind and such legends that it’s a really incredible feeling to be accepted by them. You know, they’re the home of country music. I love traditional country, so it just seems right to play there as much as possible.
6. What was your reaction when someone threw her bra at you at the Grand Ole Opry? I mean, that has never been done. What did you do with it afterwards?
Uh … actually, I didn’t really know about it until I was off the stage, and my reaction was, of course, a little bit surprised, but we all had fun with it. It was just a funny little thing that happened. I think one of the crew guys gave the bra back to her, and we actually said “hi” to her on our way out when the show was over.
7. What is your favorite getaway place?
My favorite getaway place? You know, as far as vacation goes, I like to ski. Of course there are several places in Colorado like Steamboat Springs, Vail and Breckenridge that are very nice. Mom’s house is always a good place to go to get away. I think sometime this year I am gonna get away for a vacation to Europe.
8. What is your idea of a perfect date?
Oh, the perfect date! Wow, that’s a tough one! I didn’t see that one coming. I think my idea of a perfect date would be to go out with somebody who respects the same kind of music that I do and listen to a good band playing, just to have fun. Watching live music, that’s a good date for me. Oh, and a nice big steak!
9. Other than sitting on the couch playing the guitar, what do you like to do in your spare time?
Hmm, in my spare time? Like I said, I like to play golf. I like to relax as much as possible. Nowadays it seems to me that sleep grows more and more important every day.
10. If you were not a country singer, what would your dream job be?
President of the United States! Absolutely! That pressure is just something I feed off of, and it seems like he’s got plenty of it right now.
12. Growing up, were you a troublemaker or a perfect little angel?
(laughing) Little bit of both, depending on what kind of mood I was in, I guess.
13. Is there any other instrument you would like to learn how to play?
Piano. I’d love to learn how to play the piano. I’ve never been able to sit down and learn how to do it, but yeah, I’d like to do that one day.
14. Will you ever record Merle Haggard’s “Footlights”?
I’m sure I will. Right now the opportunity hasn’t presented itself, but we will later if we get the chance to on a future album. I would love to.
15. Do you know how to two-step or swing-dance?
Yeah! I don’t dance, but I do know how to do those from teenage years.
16. What are your hidden talents?
Baseball! I love baseball! I’ve been a pretty good baseball player my whole life, so it’s one of my vices and hidden things.
17. Country music was such a huge part of your life growing up, watching your dad perform. Do you think your career is having the same kind of impact on your 4- year-old daughter?
Right now, as young as she is, it’s tough to tell what kind of impact it’s having on her. But I hope that whatever way it does impact her, it’s in a good positive way. Because the last thing any parent wants his child to see is the bad side of things. You know, especially something that they like.
18. Who is your dream duet partner?
Dolly Parton would be pretty cool. (laughing) You know that would be the coolest as far as females go. Of course, any of my influences like Merle or Willie or somebody like that would be pretty cool.
19. If you could go anywhere in the world to shoot your next video, where would you most love to go and why?
Rome! Rome! I always liked the Vatican. I like the look of everything there. It’s so old! You know, historic! It’s just a cool vibe. I’d love to shoot something there.
20. Do you have any tattoos?
No, no tattoos. I do not do tattoos. (laughing) I just don’t like them. I don’t like anything that scars permanently.
Jason Dutton contributed to this article.