Joe Nichols

Joe Nichols is headlining the 2019 Backyard Country BBQ Saturday outside at The Spur in Fairbanks.

Country singer Joe Nichols is working on his tenth studio album, and he has no intention of following any “bro-country” music trends. 

“I want to record songs that I’m passionate about and at least have an honest record,” the platinum-selling, singer-songwriter said earlier this month in a telephone conversation.

Nichols released his first album in 1996 but didn’t break through until 2002 with “Man with a Memory,” which included “The Impossible,” for which he received a Grammy nomination, as well as No. 1 single “Brokenheartsville.”

Over his career, he’s released nine studio album and 25 singles, including “Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off”; “Gimmie That Girl”; “Sunny and 75” and “Yeah.” He’s a three-time Grammy nominee and has picked up awards from the Academy of Country Music, Billboard, the Country Music Association and many others. 

Nichols is headlining the Backyard Country BBQ on Saturday at The Spur, along with Elvis Monroe.

Even though he played in a rock band in high school in his hometown of Rogers, Arkansas, Nichols has always gravitated toward old-school country and singers such as Merle Haggard, Marty Robbins, Don Williams, Keith Whitley and George Strait. He also is a big fan of two other Arkansas musicians: Glen Campbell and Johnny Cash.

(Campbell) “is unappreciated in the country genre,” he said. “He was an amazing guitar player and singer-songwriter, and the stuff he did with the Wrecking Crew was really kind of unbelievable.”

And when Nichols is looking for inspiration, he heads back to classic country. 

Of his most recent album, “Never Gets Old,” Nichols said, “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.’”

“I’m thinking less about what will work, and more about what I love.”

He’s following that idea for his latest project. Nichols said he has a few songs for the new album “75 to 90 percent done” and he’s excited about them.

“I hope it’s special to a lot of people,” he said. He has his own signature style and is not at all interested in sounding like some of today’s country artists, although “I think sometimes it can be a kiss of death to be different just to be different. I’m blessed to know my limitations. Sometimes you can’t try to please everybody.”

Over the past couple of decades, he’s amassed enough hits to fills his sets — and even better, he likes them all.

“The worst thing an artist can do is have a hit on a song they hate,” Nichols said. Five, 10, 15 years down the road, audiences are still expecting to hear that song, and if the artist hates it, it can be torture, he said.

He also questions the definition of a hit, whether it’s denoted by chart success or by the strength of the song. “Some of my songs didn’t commercially hit, but I still like singing them,” he said. 

Nichols’ last trip to Fairbanks was in 2004 and he’s also visiting Soldotna and Anchorage this time around. “I’m excited,” he said. “My wife has been trash-talking that she’s going to catch the most and biggest fish. I want to know who’s going to bait her hook.”

It’s the fourth year for the Backyard BBQ, which was created by promoter Brad Erickson. 

“I’m looking forward to the atmosphere,” Nichols said. “I love the backyard barbecue. It’s going to be fun, relaxed. The Elvis Monroe guys are all very talented. I hope everybody has as much fun as I plan to.”

Contact staff writer Julie Stricker at 459-7532.

If You Go

What: Fairbanks Backyard Country BBQ, featuring Joe Nichols and Elvis Monroe

When: Saturday, June 29. Doors open at 6 p.m., music starts at 7 p.m. (rain or shine)

Where: Outside at The Spur, 537 Gaffney Road 

Tickets: $38 plus service fee, brownpapertickets.com

Info: All ages show. Kids 10 and younger admitted free with a paid adult. Standing room only; blankets and chairs allowed. No coolers or big bags.