Joe Nichols returns to La. for Texas Club show _lowres

Photo by FORD FAIRCHILD -- Joe Nichols

Country singer Joe Nichols, whose No. 1 hits include “Yeah,” “Brokenheartsville” and “Sunny and 75,” doesn’t get to Louisiana as often as he’d like. When he does reach the state, he makes it count.

Nichols’ previous Baton Rouge engagements include two Bayou Country Superfest performances in LSU’s Tiger Stadium and a somewhat smaller gig at the Texas Club.

“We love the Texas Club,” he said last month during a tour stop near Tampa, Florida, where the weather was sunny and 75. “And there are a couple places down by New Orleans I have nice memories.”

Whether he’s playing for thousands of people in a stadium or hundreds in a club, Nichols gives it his all.

“We keep the energy high no matter what kind of venue we’re playing,” he promised. “And the Texas Club has been great to us in the past. We’ll make sure the energy feels like Tiger Stadium.”

As ego-boosting as a stadium gig is, Nichols sees big advantages in playing smaller venues. In a huge venue, he said, “it can feel great because there are a lot of people watching your show. But there’s also a disconnect. You can’t see people in the back and look them in the eyes.

“When you see people’s reactions, you can see whether they’re into the show or not into the show. So I love making a real connection in places like the Texas Club. It’s an honest kind of environment.”

Having released two No. 1 songs from his 2013 album, “Crickets,” Nichols is on the upswing following some discouraging years.

“You’re not always selling albums or singles,” he said. “That’s a big gift. A lot of that plays into your ego, so you have to be careful how you take that. You can say, ‘Wow, look at me. I’m a big deal.’ Or you can say, ‘Thank you. I’m grateful for the gifts I’ve been given.’

“And that’s where I am today. I have a lot of gratitude for the people who worked really hard for the No. 1 singles we’ve had, for the gold and platinum records we’ve had. I’m honored that people worked that hard to make my dream come true.”

Nichols’ “Crickets” album began as a self-financed project, intended to get him noticed again by record companies. Working with producer Mickey Jack Cones (Jason Aldean, George Strait, Trace Adkins) for the first time, they recorded four songs.

“It was a leap of faith, because we went in the studio with no record label,” Nichols said. “I didn’t want to get into bed with a label and then have us going in different directions six months later.”

Fortunately, the chemistry with Cones was great. The four songs they recorded included two future “Crickets” songs, “Billy Graham’s Bible” and “Yeah.”

“That’s what we pitched to labels and it worked,” Nichols said.

The hits from “Crickets” broke the dry spell that followed the singer’s departure from his previous record company.

“We got the country fan base paying attention to us again after a lull,” Nichols said. “And here we are again with a couple of No. 1 songs. It sets us up nicely for the future.”

And there’s nothing like a No. 1 song party.

“There’s something special about it,” Nichols said. “And we feel like, with the music we’ve got on ‘Crickets’ and the music we’re making for the next album, we’re in a really good musical place.”