Joe Nichols is eyeing a strong 2013, now that he's signed to a newly-formed label, Red Bow Records. After signing the contract at a private party in Nashville, Nichols chatted with reporters about what fans can expect from the upcoming project.
"The risks are 'How country can you go?' rather than 'How rock can you take it?'" he says, when asked about the new music. "So the risk on our part was to go as country as possible while still keeping people engaged in the modern, fresh feel of what country sounds like today."
The new label is a joint venture between Broken Bow Records (an independent label that's home to Jason Aldean) and RED Distribution (a corporation that helps get albums on store shelves.) In addition, he is working with producer Tony Brown, known for a lengthy string of hits with George Strait and many others. Nichols says they've probably found the first single (unless they find one that can beat it) and will launch the project early next year.
"We're looking for smashes," Nichols noted, saying the tracks he's already recorded are the best vocals he's done since 2002's Man With a Memory and that many of the songs that he's already chosen would have fit well with that breakthrough project.
In the basement of the Hard Rock Café, Nichols answered a few questions about what lies ahead.
You've already started recording some songs. Can you tell us what's coming for the fans?
Nichols: With me, it's a tricky thing. I'm a traditional country singer, so we're always trying to find a way to make that a fresh and modern thing. That's the challenge, and it's always going to be the challenge for me. But I rekindled my relationship with Tony Brown and called him and said, "Man, let's make a record together. I want to go in and cut some things without any outside influence yet. Let's you and me find some songs and go cut some things and see if we can come together on this thing." ...
We came out with some great stuff. I think we got a potential first single and what I like to call the "meat" of the record, which is the hard-core country stuff that people will come across unexpectedly. (laughs) The start we have is phenomenal. I couldn't be happier with that. I hope that radio gives us a great shot at it.
What made you decide to go on this new venture?
I wrapped up a relationship with a previous label [Show Dog Universal] earlier this year. I think it was great for both sides to go different ways and pursue other things. Sometimes you have to not take that personally and think, "What's best for me is probably not what's going to feel good right away." But in the long run, it's what needed to happen for my growth. That's why we left the previous deal in search of a new home and a family that we can be close with. ...
Setting out and trying to find a new label, I had a few key things on my list. No. 1 was I wanted to feel like I could trust everybody. And I wanted motivation to be at an all-time high. For me, I wanted somebody that got me musically, that understood that I'm an artist and this is who I am. I'm not going to be like another artist on your label, probably -- hopefully. I found all those things with the Broken Bow group.
When did you sign your first record deal?
My first record deal was an independent record deal back in 1995 or early 1996. We had a single and a video out called "Six of One, Half Dozen of the Other," then a song called "Wal-Mart Parking Lot." I was 18 at the time and didn't know crap. I didn't even know about the crap I didn't know about. So it was a fun experience for me to get into the music business. Of course, it was a painful one because I didn't do jack. (laughs) For quite a while -- and it humbled me quite a bit.
Then I signed with Giant Records, aka the "artist protection program." I was kind of hidden for a while. Warner Bros. gave me a very good opportunity to go and find another home. Much like the deal I wrapped up with Show Dog, they gave me an opportunity to leave and be someplace I was more comfortable and more successful. Then I signed with Tim DuBois and Tony Brown at Universal South, and things shot off. We were No. 1 within the first few months of being released on the record label.
That was a good moment of validation for me, and I think we have the same kind of expectations for the new music. I want to see success right away. And I want to never give up, never stop. Always be in the studio, always writing, always playing live, always trying to figure out what's going to be the best thing for me over the next 16-18 months, just trying to reinvent myself.
Did you read the contract more closely this time around?
I thought the contract before was fine. The contract to me has always been a matter of who's worth their word. The contract is just a piece of paper. If you want to get in the middle of a fight with somebody, you could probably do that with any contract. I think the contract is a formality that puts numbers into place, but I think more importantly it's about the people you shake hands with. And I think the people I just signed with don't necessarily need contracts because their word is their bond. They're good people, and I trust them.