Joe Nichols thinks his new single, “Freaks Like Me,” has the potential to be one of the biggest hits of his career. But it could have easily been the one that got away.
“I heard it during one of the last pitch meetings we were listening to while recording the new album,” he told PEOPLE. “We had a pile of songs and this one came along. I immediately thought it was the best song we heard since we started listening. I felt like it was a really big hit and it has a message I wanted to convey.”
There was a problem though. Another artist already had the song on hold.
“It turned out to be Justin Moore,” said Nichols. “But when he heard how passionate I was about the song, he said, ‘Have it, cut it, tear it up Joe!'” says Nichols, 38. “I played a show with him and said, ‘Thank you for being so cool about that!’
“He told me that a while ago there was a song he wanted that Blake Shelton had on hold and Blake told him that if he wanted it, go ahead and cut it. So Justin kind of paid it forward. I’ll definitely keep that in mind if I’m ever in a position to do that for another artist. He was really generous because it feels like a Justin song, but it’s a Joe song now!”
The Arkansas native and Texas resident says it’s the message in the music – honoring traditional values and being proud of who you are – that resonated with him.
“It’s ironic that the ‘freak’ in this case is someone who honors tradition and old-fashioned things. I like the old things, I like the classics, old songs, old boots,” he said, pointing to the scuffed-up pair he’s wearing. “Old folks have a lot to teach us. I like being around them and hearing their stories. I’ve always been proud of where I’m from, proud to be an American and proud to believe in Jesus. I believe Jesus saves freaks! I’m one of them. So, yeah, I’m proud to be outside the ‘in’ crowd. But I think there’s a spot in country music, country radio, for a guy like me who is more of a traditional singer and I’ll take that spot if they give it to me.”
One spot he definitely has a firm hold on is being only male in a house full of women.
“When I come home, it’s all about Heather and the girls,” says Nichols. “I try to let Heather sleep in a little and get the girls up, fed and dressed. I’ve also had to learn a lot about Disney princesses,” he says with a laugh. “Anna (the younger sister in Frozen) is really big in our house. Anna and Cinderella.”
Daughters Dylan, 3, and Georgia, 16 months, had the chance to meet them in person this summer when Nichols took the whole family, including his older daughter Ashelyn, 17, on the road with him.
“It really turned out to be a great experience,” said Nichols. “We started in California, did Disney, went up the coast, picnicked in the redwood forest and we went to the beach in Oregon. We made lots of memories and have the pictures to show for it. Lots and lots of pictures.”
As a result, he has the selfie down pat and doesn’t need accessories like a selfie stick. “I’m a pro! My arms are so long I can get the best angle and get more in the shot,” he says. “When fans ask to take a selfie with me I always offer to do it.”
Fans can post their selfies – with or without Joe – to a special page set up with a digital photo booth, go to www.freakslikeme.com.
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