Caution: Joe Nichols has promised a big party in Neligh on Friday night.
It's the 100th anniversary of the Antelope County Fair and Nichols' third week at No. 1 with the biggest hit of his career.
So, "Yeah," it's kind of a big deal to have Nichols in town as he celebrates week number three atop the charts.
"I can't imagine it getting any better than this," Nichols told the Antelope County News last week. "Back to back number ones, two beautiful babies, a beautiful wife. Yeah, it's great."
If Nichols, 37, chuckled at his play on the word "Yeah," it couldn't be heard over his cooing 2-month-old daughter, Georgia.
Because even Nichols needs family time.
His wife, Heather, went through "travel hell," as he called it, to join him in Nashville during his latest media push, also bringing their 2-year-old daughter Dylan. Despite two babies, a flood of media requests, dirty diapers and no sleep, Nichols said, "Life is good."
Of course, it doesn't hurt that "Yeah" is still riding the biggest airplay of his career, which followed up his fourth No. 1, "Sunny & 75." He now has 17 top-40 singles, including nine top 10s.
"It's a great thing to be 12 years into this career and to be having our biggest success now. It's a big deal," he said.
And Nichols is a big deal to the Antelope County Fair. In January when the ACN made the official concert announcement, fair board president Tim Good said the fair wanted to step up the entertainment and spent more on a bigger name.
But even they didn't know a veteran artist with more than a dozen hit singles would be riding a monster comeback like this. As of last weekend, Good said not many tickets were left for the Aug. 1 concert and encouraged people not to wait any longer to buy them. Tickets are still available at the ACN (110 E. 4th Street In Neligh).
The Antelope County Fair will be a smaller venue than Nichols is used to playing, but Nichols said he'll "play anywhere they'll take me. We can have fun any place, whether it's a phone booth or elevator shaft, we don't care," he said with a laugh. "As long as they feel like they got their money's worth and we didn't let them down and having a good time. Hopefully, they invite us back."
Nichols said he's lived in a small town and actually loves playing gigs like Neligh.
"I can't wait to see what the local identity is. It's always fun to see what they claim as their famous deal is in town, whether it be a restaurant, somewhere they shot a movie scene or the world's biggest hot dog or whatever. I love seeing what the local thing is, so I look forward to seeing what the local thing is there in Neligh," he said.
Nichols said he credits the songs for his resurgence on the radio, bringing a more contemporary sound than he's ever had before. At least, as contemporary as the Arkansas native can get.
"With a more progressive track like 'Sunny & 75' we're able to get away with it because my voice is more country," he said. "No matter how progressive the song is, it'll always be a little twangy because that's how my voice is."
His delivery has always set him apart from the rest of country music. With songs like "The Impossible," "Tequilla Makes Her Clothes Fall Off," "Brokenheartsville," "What's A Guy Gotta Do" and "Gimmie That Girl," Nichols doesn't sound like anyone else on radio. He's country through and through.
Nichols isn't necessarily surprised by the success of his latest songs. After all, he compares his newest album "Crickets" to his first release, "Man With A Memory." That album vaulted Nichols into stardom thanks to quality songwriting and perfect delivery.
"That was my best album and this one is up there with it because of the depth of the songs," he said. "With the first album, it didn't matter which song was released as a single, I would have been fine with it. This is as close as I've come to that. There are 16 songs, and I think nine of them could be singles."
He added, "It makes me feel like I'm still living that first album, but with the balance of the new stuff, it makes for a new pathway."
Nichols said while the album is more contemporary, it's also just as traditional. That's why it has 16 tracks - enough to keep his music balanced.
And Nichols knows a lot about balance. He's been through it all - incredible success and awards to incredible humiliation with addiction. Through it all, Nichols has depended on his wife, Heather, for support, guidance and honesty. And now, that all makes this comeback a little sweeter.
"I've been a big deal before and didn't know it. I've also been humiliated to the point of humility," Nichols said. "I think of anything that keeps me grounded, it's my wife. She's a good voice of reason, somebody I trust dearly and does a good job and lets me know the truth when somebody else won't. It really does help in life to have someone to trust that their judgement is better than yours at the time. If there's one thing she won't let me get away with, it's having too big of a head."
Locations listed under ticket locations on the fair's website are listed below.
Neligh - Pinnacle Bank, Heritage Bank, Hilltop Drug, Casey's, Cubby's, Thriftway Market, Wanek Pharmacy.
Norfolk - US92, 106 Kix.
Tilden - Tilden Bank, PDQ, Thriftway Market.
O'Neill - KBRX.
Creighton - Pronto.
Brunswick - Brunswick State Bank.
Elgin - Dean's Market.
Plainview - Casey's.
Clearwater - Citizen's State Bank, Jo's Market, Hi-Way Mart.