Joe Nichols + The Drew Baldridge Band$32.50 - $62.50 Buy Tickets
As Joe Nichols began work on a brand new batch of old-school country music, he found himself looking back for inspiration. Back to his early career, back to true friends and the simple perfection of pure country music . . . back to things that never get old.
“Full circle is the term I would use,” the Arkansas native says about his new project, fittingly titled Never Gets Old. “The whole theme of the record is ‘Let’s get back to where it all began for me. Let’s get back to where my passion for music began.’” The new recording is due July 28, 2017.
From 2002’s Man With a Memory on, Nichols harnessed that passion as a steady hit maker, racking up six Number Ones and eight Top 10s, including chart-topping modern classics like “Brokenheartsville” and “Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off.” He’s a four-time Grammy® nominee, an ACM, Billboard, CMA, and CMT Award winner and his last album offering, Crickets, kept the success going, sending both “Yeah” and “Sunny and 75” to Platinum-certified Number One status.
But then four years went by – the longest span between releases of his career – as Nichols dug in to reconnect with his calling. In Never Gets Old, he’s done just that.
“Instead of us making something that’s built for instant success, the idea was ‘Let’s make something we’re gonna be proud of 30 years from now,’” Nichols explains. “I’m thinking less about what will work, and more about what I love.”
What Nichols loves has always been obvious. Growing up around friends who were into anything but country, he was different. Nichols was pulled in by the realness of singers like Merle Haggard and Marty Robbins, Don Williams, Keith Whitley and George Strait and that connection would inform his whole career. Even now with Never Gets Old, he’s happy to go against the grain.
“Hopefully the stuff we’re doing lasts a lot longer than today’s typical country record,” he says. “But I think the irony is that retro sounds are actually what’s fresh and new right now. All we had to do was what felt natural.”
Doing what felt natural has never been easier, as Nichols returned to the approach of his early albums. Working with Crickets producer Mickey Jack Cones and longtime collaborator and friend Brent Rowan–fiddles and steel guitar tempered tasteful modern sounds on nearly every mix, while that understated (but unmistakeable) baritone felt “better than it’s been in 10 years.”
Saying his goal was to sing with the most feeling possible and let whatever came out of his soul land on the record, Nichols ended up with 12 tracks that bound between spirit and sentiment, courage and cleverness, romance and rowdy fun, all wrapped in the throwback style he’s spent a lifetime pursuing.
Lead single and title track “Never Gets Old” points the way. Written by Connie Harrington and Steve Moakler, Nichols says it reminds him of the mid-’80s country era, a song that “wasn’t necessarily deep, but it was meaningful.”
With a swaying front-porch groove, it features laid-back acoustic guitars and accordions that waft in with the breeze, as Nichols ponders the moments that keep love fresh – like watching his wife laugh, holding her hand, and ending each day in a tender embrace. Nichols says he knew it was special when all three of his kids started singing along the first time they heard it.
Tracks like “This Side of the River,” “Billy Graham’s Bible,” and “We All Carry Something” are charged with soul-stirring power, while “Diamonds Make Babies” and “So You’re Saying” inject the project with heartwarming fun.
But it’s a bit of carefree craziness adapted from his live show which is sure to leave listeners with the biggest smile – an honest-to-goodness country cover of Sir Mix-a-Lot’s hip-hop favorite, “Baby Got Back.”
What began as a joke between Nichols and his band years ago went on to become a beloved moment onstage, and now it caps off Never Gets Old, proving that whatever this veteran song stylist sings, it’s gonna sound country. Nichols and his team invited comedian Darren Knight and his “Southern Momma” character to revamp the iconic spoken-word parts, and what came out in the studio was so much fun it had to be included on the album.
“Everybody was laughing that day,” he says. “It was out-of-the-blue and we never thought we’d put it on a record. But when it was done I was like ‘This is nuts, but this actually kind of feels like it should have been a country record … a goofy one, but still.’”
When Joe Nichols released his debut album, he was barely 20 years old and trying to put his youth behind him. Looking back now, he laughs at that thought, but some things never change. Back then he was scrappy and defiant about his quest to revive traditional country, and that drive remains. In fact, he says it’s one of those things that never gets old.
“I feel like I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be,” he says. “With my first album, there was this apprehension of ‘Is country music ready for a traditional country record?’ It was a little bit scary, but we went for it, and with Never Gets Old I still feel the exact same passion – it’s like ‘Let’s give it to them anyway.’ Now, I think country music is ready.”
Music is best when it’s authentic, when it comes straight from an artist’s heart and bursts from the speakers. It makes a connection with the listener that forms an immediate bond. Drew Baldridge creates music with that kind of impact. The happy-go-lucky guy looking to get his groove on in his debut single “Dance With Ya” is the same Drew that enjoys visiting with fans after a show, and it’s that kind of down home charm combined with a powerful voice and constantly-honed songwriting skills that make Baldridge one of country music’s most promising new talents.
“It’s really who I am. I love to dance,” Baldridge says of his debut single. “Sirius XM jumped on it. CMT loved the video and they put it on. I was kind of scared at first about how people were going to take to it because it is really different, but it has taught me to not to shy away from my influences and to just do what I love. I think that’s what people like about it is they can see when I’m singing it on stage that I love it.”
“Dance with Ya” isn’t a song that just happened by accident. Baldridge was very intentional when he went to collaborate with co-writers Chris Yarber and Jake Mitchell. “I had a plan for what I wanted to write. I saw the outcome before we even wrote it and it’s been really cool to watch it take off,” Baldridge says with an infectious smile.
“Guys like Michael Jackson created moments within their song structure that allowed them to interact with the audience and dance. It was kind of signature to them and I always looked forward to those musical breakdowns. I knew I wanted to write a song where I could create moments like that. I even wanted my band to get into it. They hated me at first, but now it’s one of the biggest parts of our show. People just freak out and love it. It’s been exciting to see that this is the song that’s been the one to open doors for us.”
Baldridge’s plan is paying off. The horn-infused party anthem works because it captures a facet of the Illinois native’s talent that has been part of his life since he was a child in the tiny town of Patoka. “I love to perform. I always did talent shows growing up,” he recalls. “I have so many home videos that are really embarrassing. We watched them back-to-back a couple months ago and just died laughing. It starts out when I was in second or third grade and I did a ‘Thriller’ dance. I had a couple of buddies dress up as monsters and I was Michael Jackson and then we did ‘Men in Black,’ ‘The Blues Brothers’ and ‘Grease.’ When I was older, I started singing in church. My dad sang too and we performed in a quartet together.”
He grew up soaking up a variety of musical influences — Southern gospel greats The Cathedrals, country superstars Alabama and even Earth, Wind & Fire. Though he loved performing, the 6’1” Baldridge was also a natural athlete and earned a college scholarship to play baseball, but a birthday gift from his mother changed his plans.
“I went to a Josh Turner concert when I was 18. Mom bought me tickets for my birthday and surprised me with a trip to Nashville,” Baldridge says. “I’ll never forget sitting there watching his concert and thinking, ‘You know what? I REALLY want to do this. If he can do it, I can do it.’ It was the night I decided I was going to move to Nashville. At 19, I moved here and just started in diving in. Even though I was going to go to college and play baseball, I just told my mom, ‘Hey I think God is calling me to do something different,’ and that’s when I turned down my scholarship and moved to Nashville.”
After arriving in Music City, he threw himself into the local scene — writing songs and performing at local nightspots. “I met some of my best friends through playing those writer’s nights,” says Baldridge. “I went to the Bluebird Café, which ended up being great for me. Its where I first met my publisher, Rusty Gaston, who turned out to also be a champion and a mentor.”
Baldridge has grown as a songwriter and performer since those first nights at the Bluebird Café. His buoyant personality and gift of penning slice-of-life songs that connect with his audience has led him to tour extensively, opening shows for Cole Swindell, Jerrod Niemann, Eric Paslay. Dustin Lynch and others. Yet, it’s his versatile and powerful vocals that take center stage on his debut EP.
Raised working on his grandfather’s farm, singing in church on Sunday and playing sports have provided a strong foundation for Baldridge and have given him a deep well to draw from as a songwriter. “My music comes from a real place,” says Baldridge, “and when people hear my songs, I think they’ll realize this is who I am.”