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Joe Nichols On Tackling the National Anthem & ‘Sunny and 75′

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Joe Nichols in New Orleans

Joe Nichols at the Superdome in New Orleans (photo by Kurt Wolff/Radio.com)

By Kurt Wolff

“The Star-Spangled Banner,” Joe Nichols admits, is a “scary song.” Which is exactly why, when he’s invited to sing it at a game or event, he doesn’t spend hours and hours practicing and preparing.

In fact, he admits, “I try not to prep at all. I try not to think about it, because if I do I start to get nervous. I kind of breathe deeply, take real deep breaths as many times as I can right before. And try to relax.”

Radio.com caught up with Nichols at the Superdome in New Orleans, where he’d been invited to sing the National Anthem during a New Orleans Saints vs. Buffalo Bills game this past Sunday (Oct. 27).

Joe Nichols in New Orleans

Joe Nichols and friends at the Superdome in New Orleans. (photo by Kurt Wolff/Radio.com)

Just before halftime, we found an uncrowded corner in a hallway, where Nichols filled us in on how he’s feeling now that his album Crickets is finally in stores and his single “Sunny and 75″ is in the Top 10.

Related: Joe Nichols Takes a Positive, Upbeat Approach on His New Album Crickets

“Sunny and 75,” Nichols says, “has really trucked along on the chart, and with radio and fans, to the point where it’s built a momentum on its own. There’s only so much promotion you can do on a song, and eventually people just have to want it. So what’s special about ‘Sunny’ for me is that people want the song.”

And that kind of reception is, of course, “a great way to launch the record,” he says (Crickets, his eighth studio album, hit stores earlier this month). “It’s a high energy kind of song, it’s a new direction for me. And to have everybody be supportive of that, that’s another big deal. A lot of people could have said, ‘This is nothing like you’re old stuff so I’m not going to play it.’ But it’s been the exact opposite. People have said, ‘I love this new direction, it’s so fresh.'”

And, he says, “it’s a good setup for what we got coming up. We got a song called ‘Yeah’ that will be our next single. I think it’s going to be a special song for us.”

So now that “Sunny” has spent a couple weeks already in the Top 10 on the country singles charts (both Billboard and Mediabase), Nichols says that the reaction to the song when he plays it live is “electric.”

“It’s a great moment of the show. You can feel the crowd just…to me it feels like the energy goes someplace else. Lots of my hits range back to 2002, and you can feel that people are excited, and they love ‘Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off’ and ‘Brokenheartsville.’ But when we start playing ‘Sunny,’ it becomes something electric.”

“Obviously we’ve done something right,” he continues, because fans are “showing up to the shows and singing along. Even the new stuff [from Crickets] that hasn’t been released to radio, the album cuts — they’re singing along with those. Which means they’ve bought the record, they’ve listened to their favorites, and they’ve learned their favorites. Not just ‘Sunny’ but ‘Let Me Fall in Love with You,’ and ‘Yeah,’ and ‘Hard to Be Cool.’ It’s really cool to see that stuff.”

Joe Nichols in New Orleans Joe Nichols at the Superdome in New Orleans. (photo by Kurt Wolff/Radio.com)

As for singing the National Anthem, when Nichols took the field on Sunday afternoon, he belted it out strong and didn’t forget a word or miss a verse. In fact, he seemed completely at ease.

“Trust me, my knees were shaking and my heart was beating pretty fast,” he admits. “It always does for every Anthem I do. It doesn’t matter if it’s at a high school football game, it’s still a nerve-wracking song, because it’s easy to screw up. And damn you if you do!”

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