"Joe Nichols: New Kid on the Scene"

by Devene Darovich

Nineteen year old Joe Nichols always knew he wanted a career in music, but little did he know his big break would stem from his job at an Arkansas car dealership.

Nichols was changing oil at the dealership. He had a habit of singing along with the radio while he worked. When Randy Edwards came in for an oil change, he was struck by the voice of the man working on his car. He was so intrigued, he invited Nichols out to lunch. From that meeting stemmed the further collaboration of Nichols and Edwards at Edwards' home in Oklahoma -- singing, writing, and playing music. The result was Nichols' debut CD, JOE NICHOLS.

His influence ranges from George Strait to the Eagles to Lynyrd Skynyrd. He had previously been in a rock band, but he knew he belonged in country . "It fits my family tradition, and it's me," he says. "It fits my heart."

His country debut hit stores in August, and his first video, the energetic yet soulful "Six of One, Half a Dozen (Of the Other)" was a "Hot Shot" video on Country Music Television. This past June, Nichols took part in the Country America Music Festival in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, along with performers like Vince Gill, Toby Keith, Brooks & Dunn, Willie Nelson, and Waylon Jennings.

What surprises Nichols most so far about his whirlwind career? "The lack of sleep," he laughs. "I thought I'd be able to sleep more!"

But his lack of sleep doesn't stop him from donating much of his time back to the communities where he performs. In addition to performing at many schools with the D.A.R.E. program, Nichols tries to visit a children's hospital in each city he performs.

"We want to go to the children's hospitals every chance we get," he says.

Recently, he released his second single and video, "WalMart Parking Lot." This September, WalMart had Nichols perform as part of its WalMart Country Across America Tour.

Nichols, who co-wrote one song, "Independent Girl," for his debut, says he is writing "every chance I get." He hopes to have more of his own material on future releases.

Being young and good looking would seem to make him a shoe-in for success, but he says that is not always the case. "We got criticism for me being young," he says. "People were saying I haven't paid my dues, and that's not true."

But with people like Edwards behind him and a voice that is rather Garth-like on some songs, Nichols has what it takes to live his dream and make a living with his music.

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