CMT Insider Interview: Joe Nichols Discusses His Rehab

New Album and a New Marriage Came Before Decision to Seek Treatment

Editor’s note: The first portion of Katie Cook’s exclusive two-part interview with Joe Nichols premieres on the new episode of CMT Insider airing Saturday (Jan. 26) at 1 p.m. ET/PT.

Joe Nichols released his new album in August, got married in September and checked himself into a substance abuse rehab center in October. While not the ideal circumstances to promote a new album or nurture a new marriage, Nichols expressed his optimism about the future during an exclusive interview with CMT Insider host Katie Cook.

The album, Real Things, has gained significant critical acclaim, and his marriage to Heather Singleton, whom he has known since they were both 18, remains strong. Acknowledging that he didn’t know he would be entering rehab a month after their wedding, Nichols said, “Obviously we might’ve done things a little differently, but we just took the necessary course of action to give ourselves the best opportunity.”

The following is a portion of the two-part interview airing on CMT Insider.

CMT Insider: You got married on Sept. 9.

Nichols: I married a woman who’s not going to take anything. No slips. She’s very accountable, and she holds me very accountable. And things needed to be corrected. This seemed like the surefire way to do that. Just go into rehab and kick it, you know, and come out a new man.

On your Web site, it just said “substance abuse.” Can you elaborate on exactly what your weakness was?

It was just that: weakness. That’s what it was more than anything. A lot of people with any kind of substance abuse problem, I don’t think they find themselves addicted to one thing. I think they find themselves addicted … addictive. And, you know, that was me. Whether it be cigarettes or alcohol, whatever, I was an addictive person. And I had to go get that stuff corrected.

Did you feel like you had been that way most of your life? Does this go back a long time?

It goes back — way, way back. You know, I’d like to sit here and blame everybody else for my trouble. I just can’t do that. I can’t find it in myself to do it. I think that weakness is a good way to describe it. A person has to learn that everybody is accountable, and those that aren’t will usually fall into this kind of trap.

It seemed like with the success of the single, “The Impossible,” you suddenly had a lot of success on your plate. Did that make things better or worse?

I think the timing of everything was a good recipe for disaster. On one hand, I had tremendous success in music — which I didn’t know was tremendous. I thought, “This must happen to everybody, and I am not worthy. I’m not worthy of any of this. This is not for me. This is supposed to happen to some golden child over here with no background, no baggage.”

So there was some guilt with the success.

Yeah, absolutely. My father died in July of 2002 at the time “The Impossible” was really taking off. And it was just like when he died, it was the trigger. It didn’t really set anything into motion, it just let everything go. The straw that broke the camel’s back is a kind of cliché way to say it. … It set everything into motion, and it gave me an excuse. It gave me an excuse to feel sorry for myself. So, you know, “Dad died … and poor me. All this stuff’s too big for me to handle. I can’t take it, so I’ll just be a loose cannon over here.”

A lot of people say they have to hit rock bottom.

When I found myself in [rehab], I didn’t know what to think of myself. I didn’t know what everybody else would think of me. I just assumed the worst of everything. … I just assumed that this was the end of my career. It’s the end of my marriage a month later. My daughter, what is she going to think of me? Is she ever going to think of me again? I embarrassed the people I worked with, my friends, my family, my mother. And, if my father were alive, my father. And that was pretty much the bottom. I think I lost 10 pounds the first week of rehab, I cried so much. But it was good to release. It was good to let go of a lot of that — a lot of that pain — and just realize that may be the situation, but there’s nothing I can do about that. All I can do is get better.

So you’re feeling pretty optimistic about this year?

Yeah, I feel great. … You know, I can be the happiest man in the world with minimal record success. But I can sell 10 million records, sell out 100 shows — 10,000 [tickets] a pop — and be miserable in life. Which just isn’t what you’re supposed to be. So I’m looking forward to a healthy year. First one in a while.