"It worked out for everybody really," says Nichols. "I've never been upset or sad or anything."
Universal South soon was on the horizon. The label was formed by Tim DuBois, former head of Arista Nashville and Brown, both stalwarts of the Nashville country scene.
"Those guys were rumored to be starting a record label together, and I thought to myself, if that's the case, that's where I want to be because those are two of the smartest people who ever walked into town," says Nichols. "I think that Brent Rowan felt the same way. They, in turn, let us do the music we wanted to do."
Brown says, "Every time I've ever signed an artist, it's always that I've seen an artist at a showcase or taken them in the studio myself or sending them in with someone and see what they sound like on disc. On occasion, I've heard on a disc that the voice is so incredible or the sound is so incredible I go 'what do they look like?'"
Rowan visited Brown and told him he had a song to play, which tuned out to be "That Would Be Her," which ended up on Nichols' first album. The song was a hit for Gene Watson in 1979.
"When I heard that voice, I said, 'my God. That voice is amazing,'" recalls Brown, a self-described Watson fanatic. "This is stuff Joe had cut for Giant which wasn't coming out. (Rowan) said they're not going to put it out. He said...we could recut it. I said, 'why would you recut that? That's perfect.'"
Brown quickly called DuBois and told him to listen to Nichols.
"I said, 'Brent, what does this guy look like?' He said, 'he's a cool looking dude. He kind of looks like Antonio Banderas'. I said, 'bring him in here'."
Turns out DuBois liked what he heard also.
"Man With a Memory" came out in 2002 with hits with "The Impossible," "Brokenheartsville" and "She Only Smokes When She Drinks."
"Brokenheartsville" underscored Nichols' honky tonk style. "Everyone laughed and thought it was kind of funny and everything, but we weren't afraid of it," says Nichols of the lyrics "here's to the past they can kiss my glass."
"We were thought we had nothing to lose. It's country (and) funny. It's a song anybody could identify with. It became a great song for us."
"There were a couple of times where I actually was tickled at the response of the public," says Nichols, who comes off at the very low end of the ego meter. "I think we all hoped to do well...I think I was surprised. I think everybody was. At the same time, I was very flattered, very happy."
Nichols indicates "The Impossible" going to number one was a turning point. "It woke me up," he says. "It was kind of like we were out there working on a radio tour and working hard, and I thought it'd be great if it goes number one. We said let's be realistic. We looked around and said if we ever did anything else, we did a number one song. It woke us up to (think) we can be successful in this business."
Tours followed with the likes of Alan Jackson and Brooks & Dunn and eventually a new album.
Nichols is keeping real busy with more new music out this year. In late September, "A Traditional Christmas" drops with 10 songs for the holiday season.
But "Revelation" remains the current focus. Since hardly one ever knew about the Intersound album, "Revelation" is really the album facing the dreaded sophomore slump, but that's of no concern to Nichol.
"Not at all. I think we have the basic elements of the last album. Anytime you have what ain't broke, don't fix (it)...We always hope for the best. You can't expect anything outrageous. We hoped it as much or more than the last one. The indication is we're doing it."