SHERIDAN — Joe Nichols may not be singing about Sheridan in his song “Wal-Mart Parking Lot” in which he tells of the “Wal-Mart social club” of small towns saying “all summer long the nights are hot, hanging out here in the parking lot” but he could have been.
An Arkansas-born singer, Nichols describes himself as a traditional county music singer with a mix of modern.
“I grew up listening to traditional country music so that’s my brand. Today I think the challenge is to integrate the traditional with what is happening with country radio today, so I’m a little bit different but with more of what has already been,” Nichols said. “Some country purists might not appreciate that but I like to throw it back to the old days and at the same time stay fresh.”
Nichols will share his brand of country with Sheridan on Friday at 8 p.m. as he takes to the stage during Big Horn Country USA, the local three-day music, art and camping festival featuring Lady Antebellum, Big and Rich, Brantley Gilbert and more.
Nichols said he is looking forward to returning to Wyoming and hopes to get out and explore Sheridan if his schedule will allow.
“Wyoming’s a beautiful state, beautiful part of the country,” he said. “I’m a little outdoorsy. I’m not much of a hunter because I wasn’t raised around that, but I do love to fish and target shoot.”
He is also looking forward to seeing the other artists slated to play at the Trail End Concert Park next weekend.
“It’s good to see friends, all those great people I don’t see on a day-to-day basis. I’m sure I’ve played with some or all of them at some point,” he said. “Plus, I just love watching a good show, so hopefully everyone brings it.”
Currently on tour with Lady A, Nichols is thrilled on a regular basis with the talent he is surrounded by.
“Well we got an offer to do the tour with Lady A and considering the lineup, I mean, look who we’re playing with,” he said. “Billy Currington is a great artist. Lady A are great people, great performers, great singers.”
Nichols is no stranger on the country scene. He has been topping charts and packing audiences for more than a decade now since his first no. 1 single “Brokenheartsville” rose to the top of the Billboards in 2003.
Over the 11 years that followed, other chart toppers solidified his place among country music fans including “Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off,” “Gimmie That Girl,” and his latest No. 1, “Sunny and 75.”
To him, the individual successes are not his greatest achievements but rather his permanency in the field.
“My biggest accomplishment is my longevity,” he said. “A lot of people take-off and become headliners immediately but then they fade over the years. We’ve had some really bright moments without hitting that headliners spot yet, but I’m still here.”
Not one to live life with regrets, Nichols said he would have chosen his relationships in the business world more carefully if he could do it again, but is happy with his place in life.
“I am who I am and I’ve done what I’ve done and I’m livin’ this life because of it,” he said.
The years have afforded Nichols a series of good memories and interesting experiences.
“I have lots of crazy stories from the road but none that you could print,” he chuckled. “Each day feels like a crazy story in its own.”
One story he did recall was being asked to sign a can of turkey spam while in Wisconsin, with little to say about the odd request beyond, “yeah, I just don’t know.”
Ever the performer, Nichols said the best venue he can play is the one filled with the best audience, and some songs get them going a bit more than others.
“’Tequila’ always gets a good response, but for crazy reasons as you can imagine,” he said. “Right now ‘Sunny and 75’ gets the crowd into it, it’s such a feel good and have a good time song.”
He added that if he could design a perfect show, with the best crowd at the best venue, it would offer variety and time.
“A sea of people and a perfect performance, that would be the best show,” he said. “I would pull out obscure songs and the people would listen. I would get to rock out for a long time; if we were given three hours we’d love that. I could do everything from my favorite covers to my current singles if I had the time, it would be a great time.”
In the end, the country superstar’s passion and humbleness are probably best reflected in his song “Singer in a Band:”
“A soldier in a field of mines, with each step he lays it on the line… I’m humbled when you take the time, to hear my life in verse and rhyme. But when it comes to heroes I know, I’m just a singer in a band.”