In the finest country tradition, Joe Nichols can credibly deliver songs that either break your heart or make you break into a wide smile. That criss-crossing style runs throughout Nichols’ 15-year history on the charts, from serious ballads “The Impossible” and “Brokenheartsville” to lighthearted tunes with a little wink to them, like his No. 1 single “Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off” and “Size Matters.”
Nichols is covering all the emotional bases once more on his latest album, “Never Gets Old.” He’s truly “mixing” it up on the new record, as it features his cover of rapper Sir Mix-a-Lot’s 1992 smash, “Baby Got Back.” Though the blatant ode to the female backside caused some controversy in its day, Nichols gives the current rendering a playful air with his straight country interpretation. He even filmed a video for the tune with Sir Mix-a-Lot, which has turned into the biggest viral sensation of Nichols’ career.
The premise behind the clip is an audition for a cover of the popular song by various oddball acts, right in front of Sir Mix-a-Lot, with hilarious results. But Joe’s honky tonk-inspired rendition is greeted with Sir’s approval. The video had pulled in more than one million views on Nichols’ Facebook page and now, it’s all over YouTube and other outlets. He figured the clip would have its moments in the sun, but could hardly have expected this kind of worldwide reaction.
“I didn’t think it would do this,” Nichols concedes with an engaging laugh. “It’s been amazing to create a viral video and watch it grow.” For fans, especially those who were kids when “Baby Got Back” was first released, Nichols’ cover apparently takes them back to their carefree days of youth. That’s at least a partial explanation behind the buzz.
“It was supposed to be a little retro,” Nichols, who’s 40 himself, agrees. “I think it is a throwback to an earlier time for a lot of people. The video in particular is kind of a cool little combination of something funny with music that people know.” Nichols has often included “Baby Got Back” in his concert sets, and it never failed to connect with his audiences. When he decided to actually record it, he asked “Mix,” as Nichols refers to him, for the OK. “He was really great about it,” Nichols says. “He’s been incredible to work with.”
Nichols finds a nice balance to that zany outing with the title track, which conjures up a touching, romantic air. “That was one of the first songs I had for the album,” Nichols says. “There is like an old Don Williams feel to it. It’s the kind of song I’ve always liked, you know, fun and sweet and not too complicated. It’s very easy to listen to.”
The track list also includes a song co-written by the red-hot Chris Stapleton, “Diamonds Make Babies,” plus others from some of Music Row’s top writers. Nichols did not pen any tracks for the album, relying on the A-list outside material. “I cut a lot of songs early on, which was a little different for me,” Nichols explains. “But ‘Diamonds’ was actually one of the last songs that came to us. I love Stapleton’s writing and that one worked out really well.”
Naturally, the logical next step is taking the new material and road testing it for live audiences. It’s been a busy summer for the youthful-looking singer, the very embodiment of the album title (at least, he certainly never seems to age). He’s played a variety of fairs and festivals along with his regular Never Gets Old tour dates, which will continue well into the fall. “We have tested out some of the new songs,” Nichols says. “I’m really encouraged by the response they’re getting. I spent a lot of time getting this album right.”
When he’s not on the road or in the studio, Nichols lives the relatively quiet life at his home in Tyler, Texas, with wife Heather and their two young daughters. “The kids get me laughing every day,” Nichols shares brightly. “You never know what they’re going to do next. Everything is just great all the way around.”
“Never Gets Old” is available now.