Joe Nichols knew as soon as he heard “Brokenhearted,” while choosing songs for his Good Day for Living album, that it was a hit. The Arkansas native rightfully believed from the first time he listened to the song, written by Rhett Akins, Marv Green and John Thomas Harding, that it was special, and one he wanted to make his own.
It was Nichols’ Quartz Hill label head, Benny Brown, who first sent Nichols “Brokenhearted,” at a time when Nichols was on the hunt for songs for the record, his first new studio project in almost five years.
“We were in the middle of the process of making the Good Day for Living album, when he sent it to me,” Nichols tells Everything Nash. “I remember I was getting off a plane when I downloaded it. He just sent a real simple email, ‘What do you think of this?’ I listened to it and I heard Rhett Akins kicking into that cold intro, ‘Ain’t no crying …’ I was like, ‘Uh-oh, this is gonna be good.’ And my first impression was that this is a hit for many reasons. Number one, it’s a country song and it’s a party song. And it’s kind of tailor-made for me, I think.”
Nichols also knew that “Brokenhearted” was a rare find, especially in today’s style of country music, which is why he was so eager to make it his own.
“Sometimes when you find those songs that just kind of fit with what you do, you can kind of deliver those a little bit. I remember just thinking, ‘Man, those don’t come around very often,'” Nichols reflects, recalling his first No. 1 hit, released in 2002. “‘Brokenheartsviile,’ those fun, really, country party songs are just kind of rare, for me anyway. That was why it was special to me. It just felt right.”
Nichols’ career has spanned more than two decades, a testament to his ability to stay true to himself, even as trends and fads within the country music genre ebbed and flowed. The song follows “Good Day for Living,” which marked Nichols’ first Top 20 since “Yeah” landed at No. 1 in 2014. While Nichols has continued to perform through the years, the father of three chose to stay true to the music he loved, and what fans expected of him.
“That’s all you can ask for these days, is to either write something or find something that can be believable,” Nichols maintains. “And for me, I think people know by now what feels like me and what doesn’t. If I tried to pull off some of the more progressive stuff that people are doing now in country music, it would definitely come across as trying too hard. So that kind of works in the opposite way of what you want to do. I want to at least try to be as pure as possible with what we’re doing.”
Nichols didn’t expect “Good Day for Living” to make such a run up the charts, but now that it has — and with “Brokenhearted” already becoming a hit at radio — the 46-year-old is more excited than ever about his next musical chapter. But whether or not “Brokenhearted” does as well, or even better, than “Good Day for Living,” Nichols is choosing to be thankful, for all of it.
“With every song you want it to be successful, whether it’s radio or in other avenues, like streaming or whatever — everything you do you to kind of have a mass appeal,” Nichols says. “I would say there’s a caveat to that too. The whole point of this process for me is staying grateful. That’s the number one thing. So whether or not it’s successful, whether or not ‘Brokenhearted’ is as good or better than ‘Good Day for Living,’ I will remain grateful for everything that’s happened, and that won’t change, no matter what. So I hope it does well. But I’m grateful if it doesn’t.”
Find all of Nichols’ music and upcoming shows at JoeNichols.com.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Monarch Publicity / Ford Fairchild