LRH presents Joe Nichols live on Saturday, December 3rd!
Joe Nichols has been a mainstay of country music for two decades, bridging the gap between the genre’s old-school roots and contemporary era. He’s a 21st century traditionalist — an artist who’s both timely and timeless, racking up a half-dozen Number 1 singles and ten Top 10 hits with a sound that honors his heroes. From his first radio smash, 2002’s “The Impossible,” to 2021’s Home Run,” Nichols has proudly done things his own way, blurring the boundaries between country music’s past and present along the way.
It’s an approach that has earned Nichols multi-platinum success, three Grammy nominations, a CMA award, an ACM trophy, and — perhaps most importantly — the support of his idols. He still remembers the day he received a letter from Buck Owens, who passed away the same week his message arrived in Nichols’ mailbox. The two had previously crossed paths in Bakersfield, California, where Owens complimented Nichols on his classic sound… and gave him some good-natured teasing about the length of his hair.
“He wrote me the day before he died,” remembers Nichols, who was still riding high on the success of his gold-selling fourth album, III, and its chart-topping single “Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off.” “It was so nice of him to do that. He said, ‘I’m really proud of you. I love the way you’re keeping it country. And thank you for cutting that daggum hair!’ An honor like that is irreplaceable. It’s got nothing to do with winning awards or having your songs on the radio. It’s much more than that. It’s the kind of thing you pass down to your grandkids.”
Something’s happening in country music. Newer artists and younger audiences are embracing instrumentation, vocal stylings and song structures long thought drowned in the ocean of slick, snap-track productions. Not easily dismissed as merely regional or a novelty throwback, the trend could be on its way to full-blown movement. If so, Kimberly Kelly’s Show Dog Nashville debut album may prove to be the clarion call. Either way … she’s not asking.
I’ll Tell You What’s Gonna Happen is more than her (abbreviated) album title, more than a reference to her connection with a Country Music Hall of Famer, and much more than a historical footnote. Rather, it’s a statement of musical confidence earned the only way that happens: talent, work ethic, experience, vulnerability, and courage. For Kelly, it’s all of a piece. “I like to think of it as a sub-genre of country music called ‘country music,'” she says with a wink.
A native of Lorena, Texas, Kelly has multiple connections to the Nashville industry. She has also been unafraid to defy convention. “This is not my first rodeo,” she says of her label debut. “I worked really hard in Texas before I came to Nashville. I wrote songs, put out records, did a radio tour, and played every weekend while earning a Master’s degree. They say don’t have a ‘plan B,’ but I watched my mom struggle to get that next level of pay. My mom earned her bachelor’s degree when she was 60, so school was important to me to know I could take care of myself.”
Her sister Kristen signed to a Nashville label and charted a single in 2012, which gave Kimberly an early education. “I got to sing harmony with her on tours with Brad Paisley, Rascal Flatts and Alan Jackson. I learned so much watching her and the crowd. A lot of my confidence onstage comes from that.”
Developing as an artist and making her own music meant circling back to her youth. “Growing up, I focused more on the artist when I was listening to records, then learned that not every artist wrote their songs. I went through a phase thinking I needed to write everything I sing. Maturity helped me realize sometimes the truest artist is one who can take what someone else wrote and elevate that story.”
Meeting with publishers, Kelly dove into a process favored by many of the genre’s most successful artists. “I went back to some of my favorite albums to look up writer names so I could ask for songs from their back catalogs,” she says. “When something hit me, I’d put it in a group and eventually play what I’d found for Brett.”
That’s Brett Tyler – No. 1 songwriter (“Cold Beer Calling My Name”), producer and Kelly’s husband. Together, they crafted the independently released Don’t Blame It On Me EP, released in 2018. “I can write a song, but I tried to make a record like the ones I grew up on – may the best songs win,” she says. “That’s how I approached my EP, which ultimately led to me signing a record deal.”
Signed to Show Dog Nashville in partnership with Thirty Tigers in 2021, Kelly doubled down on finding songs. “A longtime Music Row executive told me that knowing how to A&R an album is just as important as being able to write,” she explains. “He said he knew I could write, but having the ability to choose songs that fit together and represent what I want to say is just as important for an artist.” Indeed.
Michigan native, and lover of America’s favorite pastime, Brenden Monroe is fitting into country music like a well worn baseball glove. Powerful, yet effortless, smooth but full of character, his voice is like the perfect pitch; and one you rarely see coming. With the sparkle and soul of Motown combined with the strength and storytelling of a modern-day troubadour, Brenden Monroe will have you on the edge of your seat and cheering for more!