Nichols: The man with the music

Joe Nichols is thrilled about performing at Bayou Country Superfest again. Following his 2011 Superfest appearance, he’s making his second visit to the massive Memorial Day weekend country music event at Tiger Stadium.

“I played there before and it was fantastic,” Nichols said from Las Vegas, where he was performing.

“It was so hot that day, blazing hot, but you couldn’t tell because everybody was having such a good time,” Nichols recalled. “The stadium in itself is an amazing, huge, imposing place. And the country fans out there are so passionate. The crowd is crazy in the middle of the day and all day long. I loved it.”

Nichols, the Arkansas native whose five No. 1 songs include “Sunny and 75,” “Gimmie That Girl” and “Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off,” would love Superfest more if he were performing on the same night as one of his inspirations, superstar George Strait. But the scheduling for that didn’t line up for Nichols. He sings Sunday while Strait, who’s playing the last few shows of his “Cowboy Rides Away Tour,” is Friday’s Superfest headliner.

“I’ve always wanted to open for George Strait,” Nichols said. “But over my 12 years of performing, I’ve never had that opportunity. So that’s a bummer, that he’s not going to tour anymore. I might not have many more opportunities to open for him. But Sunday will be fun time, too, with a big lineup.”

Sunday’s Superfest stars include Jason Aldean and Louisiana’s own newly risen Hunter Hayes.

Even though Nichols has never shared a stage with Strait, he does know him. They’ve seen each other at awards shows and various events. Nichols and Strait also have producer and record company executive Tony Brown in common.

“We talked a while at Tony’s house about things, not necessarily music,” Nichols said. “George has always been a pleasant guy to me. But I am such a fan that every time I talk to him I stutter and probably don’t make much sense.”

Nichols and Brown go way back to the singer’s major-label debut, “Man with a Memory.” Universal South Records, the label co-founded by Brown, released “Memory” in 2002. It features three Nichols hits, “The Impossible,” “Brokenheartsville” and “She Only Smokes When She Drinks.”

“Like a lot of music people who are successful and influential, Tony’s mind is always working,” Nichols said. “Tony is great at putting things together and letting things happen naturally, rather than force them like some producers can do. He lets music breathe. Along with that, he knows when it’s wrong, he knows when it’s right. A simple method that a lot of us could learn from.”

Despite all of the great success Nichols has had, including four Grammy nominations, he’s had his ups and downs, too.

“I’ve had several rounds with frustration,” he admitted. “Even when the going is good, you’ve got challenges. When the going is bad, it can be frightening. But what matters is to always push forward. Create an opportunity and take advantage of it once you get it.”

That said, the singer believes that his latest album, “Crickets,” rivals the million-selling “Man with a Memory.”

“Those albums are my two biggest and my two favorite albums that I’ve done.”