From the outside, country star Joe Nichols appears to have it all: multi-platinum-selling career, loving wife and newborn baby daughter. But Joe’s journey from childhood to fatherhood was anything but idyllic and for the first time, the Grammy-nominated artist shares the full story of an abuse-filled childhood, his ongoing struggles with alcoholism and how he is finally enjoying life one day at a time. Backstory: Joe Nichols premieres Saturday, May 12 at 11 p.m. Eastern on GAC. Nichols’ brother, wife, manager, producer, therapist and friend are some of those interviewed for the special.
Joe recalls his parents’ nasty divorce, physical abuse from his father and a love affair with whiskey that he says started at around age 13. When he could, he’d shut himself in his bedroom, listening over and over again to a Merle Haggard record, mimicking the country music icon until he was hoarse. Time spent with the Hag paid off and at 19, Joe released a single on a small independent label in Arkansas and played some club dates. He moved to Nashville and after a nearly two-year period of dues-paying, was the first artist signed to Universal South Records.
He found it very difficult to deal with early career successes that included chart-topping hits like “The Impossible,” and “Brokenheartsville,” four Grammy nominations and newcomer awards from the likes of Billboard magazine, the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music, explaining that historically, high points in his life sent him into destruction mode and ultimately, in and out of rehab. “Those are the most dangerous times for me,” Joe says. “That’s when I want to destroy everything.” Just as his career took off, Joe’s father passed. “I was ill-equipped to handle the loss of my dad,” he says.
Joe married Heather Singleton in 2007 following a friendship that began when they were 19. Just 30 days into their marriage, Joe was back in rehab and what followed was a one step forward, two steps back pattern of behavior until 2008 when an intervention orchestrated by his family and friends sent the singer to an intensive, in-patient rehab treatment program.
He is quick to acknowledge his wife’s unwavering commitment to their marriage, adding, “There’s no way that Heather should still be married to me, there’s no way. It’s only by grace.” The couple also faced major fertility issues and suffered five consecutive miscarriages until last month, when they finally became parents of Dylan River, a healthy baby girl.
“I hope through my story that other people find a sliver of hope because I have lost five children to get to this one,” Heather says.
Today Joe admits to enjoying life one day at a time. “I live free now,” he says. “I don’t live perfectly, I don’t claim that. That’s a mistake because I can’t promise anything past today.”
Here’s a sneak peek of the show: