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Success in music and family converge for country star Joe Nichols

Joe Nichols in a scene from his new video for ‘Yeah.’  Courtesy photo
Joe Nichols in a scene from his new video for ‘Yeah.’ Courtesy photo

By Rob LeDonne

It’s a quiet Friday afternoon in Cincinnati, Ohio, and Joe Nichols is eagerly anticipating his upcoming gig supporting Lady Antebellum on their nationwide tour.

“I love this tour,” Nichols said via telephone while walking around Cincinnati’s Riverbend Music Center. “Lady A are good people, for sure.”

Nichols is fortunate that he enjoys touring because he’s been doing quite a bit of it lately (both solo and with Antebellum), and, on June 11, Nichols brings his bevy of hits (which includes 14 top 40 country singles so far) to the Heineken Grandstand Stage at the San Diego County Fair in Del Mar.

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His hectic schedule is in support of his latest album, “Crickets,” which has received rave reviews by critics and audiences, largely thanks to the gold-selling hit “Sunny and 75” (a recent number one country smash in both the U.S. and Canada), and follow-up single “Yeah” (the music video for which just premiered on Country Music Television).

“The critics can be right and can be wrong and that can be both good and bad,” Nichols said. “I’m glad they’ve given me the benefit of the doubt for so long, but what the fans think is always most important to me.”

Nichols’ successful discography is chock full of feel-good country tunes, which have won over the fickle country music scene since his 1996 debut, a self-titled album (he was first signed to a record deal at just 19 years old).

“In picking songs for an album, you wanna make sure they’re fun,” he said of his creative process.  “Anything that’s pitched, you need to make sure it fits in. I’m at a good place in my life, and I think this latest album reflects that.”

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Besides the success of his latest singles, Nichols’ good life also includes being a devoted father and husband. Late last month, his wife, Heather, gave birth to a new daughter named Georgia Blue. Nichols also has a 2-year-old daughter, and a 15-year-old daughter from a previous relationship, and the busy house can make it hard for him to leave sometimes.

“It’s always difficult,” he said. “The way I look at is that I have to make the most of my time when I get home. I try to show up rested, so when I’m home I can be alert and with them.”

However, leaving the house to play for throngs of screaming fans has its upsides as well. “All of the venues we play are unique and cool in their own way,” Nichols said, noting he’s particularly looking forward to the gig at the County Fair. “It reminds me of my own childhood; I get nostalgic with all of the fair food and rides. Fair crowds are usually very excited as well. Plus, tickets are cheap so everybody gets to go.”

Despite releasing seven studio albums, Nichols still gets excited when he hears his hits on the radio.

“I was driving around Nashville yesterday and they were playing one of my songs on the radio,” he said. “It felt great... it tickles me to death, I can never hear it enough.”

Nichols is especially tickled over “Crickets,” which hit gold-selling status in January. “The title of the album came about because we were picking songs that sounded like they could be played on a riverbank,” he said of the distinctive sound the insects make during humid nights in the American south.  “The latest single, ‘Yeah,’ is about being in the country and getting your hook-up on. It’s not that complicated.”

Joe Nichols will perform at the San Diego County Fair (Heineken Grandstand Stage) on Wednesday, June 11, at 7:30 p.m. Admission is free with fair admission. For more information, visit

www.sdfair.com/grandstand

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