If an artist is lucky, they’ll release three or four singles to country radio in an album release cycle. With albums typically holding ten or more tracks, the majority of the songs that comprise them never get their chance to make an impression at radio, which is certainly not for a lack of quality.
Since he released his first major label album in 2002, Joe Nichols has released 24 singles to country radio. A good handful have gone on to top the charts, adding to several other of his hits that country music fans have known by heart for the last two decades.
In fact, the nine albums Nichols has released since 2002 have been comprised of 109 total songs, with more than three-quarters of them never having their chance at country radio. We sat down with Joe to talk about his favorite songs in his catalog that were never sent to radio and what he remembers and loves about them.
“Man With a Memory”
I think there’s a couple on Man With a Memory that could’ve, should’ve, would’ve been singles. This one is probably my favorite song I’ve ever recorded. There’s so much quality writing, and the vocal I got on that is as good as anything I’ve ever done. That song feels like it could be a timeless hit. That song is a Brent Rowan masterpiece; he built that thing from the ground up. Vinnie Colaiuta played the drums on it, which was really cool, because he’s a very well-known drummer. It was my first album that we were putting together for Giant Records, and before all was said and done on that album, I think that song should’ve been a single.
“That Would Be Her”
This one was also on the Man with a Memory album. I wish we’d released this one as a single after “She Only Smokes When She Drinks.” It’s one of the better vocals I’ve ever recorded, and I think the whole track sounded really smart and simple, if that makes any sense. I remember the decision makers saying that country radio wasn’t ready for something like that; it might’ve been a little too advanced for that early in my career [laughs]. I was kind of blown away by that comment. I thought a good record was a good record, but it didn’t end up working out my way.
Another one from Man With a Memory; I thought this one would’ve been great as a single. It’s an old-school sounding song that has Vince Gill singing harmonies. I thought it was a really good country song with tempo, and you don’t find those very often.
“Who Are You When I’m Not Looking”
This one was on my fourth album, Real Things. Blake Shelton eventually cut it and had a number one hit with it. John Wiggins and Earl Bud Lee wrote that, and I remember when I heard the demo, I thought “that is a freakin’ hit.” We went in the studio, and I think we nailed it. Brent Rowan and Mark Wright co-produced it. At the end of the day, some of the folks at the label, especially the promotion department, didn’t feel like it was a hit. I couldn’t have disagreed more. They decided to go in a different direction, and I remember telling them we were really going to regret it. I knew the song was special, and about a year later, Blake cut it and made it a number one. I couldn’t wait to rub it in, too [laughs].
“Just Let Me Fall in Love With You”
More recently, on the Crickets record, I thought we had several singles. This one felt good; it was right in the vein of “Yeah” and “Sunny and 75,” it just fit. That whole album was cohesive, and I think that was clearly one of the better single choices on there, but we never had the chance to get to it.
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