Joe Nichols Just Snagged His First Top 20 Hit in Nearly a Decade, and Even He Can't Believe It

"Somebody pointed out to me on Twitter that I've had more comebacks than the [McDonald's] McRib," the country star jokes to PEOPLE

David Abbott Joe Nichols
David Abbott Joe Nichols

Joe Nichols has never been one to get too worked up about the country music charts, but even he was impressed when he found out his current single "Good Day for Living" had reached the coveted Top 20.

"I thought [Morgan] Wallen would have half of the Top 20 right now," Nichols says with a laugh during an interview with PEOPLE about the country powerhouse who happens to be 17 years younger than him. "Somebody told me the other day that had been nine years since my last Top 20. That was kind of shocking."

Indeed Nichols, 46, currently finds himself in the top 20 of Billboard's country airplay and the Mediabase Country charts with young guns such as Bailey Zimmerman, Parker McCollum and Megan Moroney. But that doesn't faze Nichols too much.

"Somebody pointed out to me on Twitter that I've had more comebacks than the [McDonald's] McRib," he jokes from a tour stop in Chattanooga. "You know, I think they're right."

Related:McDonald's Brings the McRib Back for What They're Calling Yet Another 'Farewell Tour'

This latest comeback comes courtesy of Nichols' impressive 2022 album Good Day for Living, whose title track seemed destined to be a hit from the very beginning.

"It sure felt like it when we were wrapping up in the studio," says the hitmaker of songs such as "Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off" and "Sunny and 75." "When we listened to the last seven or eight things that we cut [for the album], we all looked at each other and said, 'Yeah, this feels like a real, real good single.' 'Good Day for Living' just kept rising to the top."

David Abbott Joe Nichols
David Abbott Joe Nichols

Related:Joe Nichols Is Downright Amazed by Blake Shelton: 'That Guy Can Say Some Stuff That I Could Never Say'

A simple song that reminds all of the goodness that is life, "A Good Day for Living" has not only seen massive success on the charts, but also has made quite the impression during Nichols' always-satisfying live show.

"At its core, the song is about gratitude," says the country music mainstay about his still-rising single. "The No. 1 goal is to make people feel good, especially when they're feeling bad."

And when it comes to gratitude, Nichols is full of it.

"I'm thankful. Everything today is great. Even though my haircut ain't working, you know, I get to sleep naked," he tells PEOPLE with a laugh. "Seriously, I think it feels good to sing a song that's just about happiness. It's a reminder that life is good."

Related:Joe Nichols Shares the Spotlight with Sister Kelli in New Music Video for 'Home Run': 'So Special'

The other thing Nichols says he appreciated about this song is the fact that he didn't have to reach too far in terms of its sound and delivery. Basically, the song sounds like him.

"I didn't stray too far off the path, and I think it's authentic to what I am and who I am," explains Nichols, who scored his big screen debut in 2022 in the feature film Murder at Yellowstone City. "Therefore, I think it's recognizable. To hear people connect with that sound again is truly a blessing."

Nichols has long counted his blessings as of late, as the country singer — who first broke onto the scene with his first No. 1 hit "Brokenheartsville" back in 2002 — has experienced his share of hardship and dark times through the years, including a stint in rehab in 2007 for alcohol and substance abuse issues. But the Arkansas native who now lives in Texas had found himself living quite the idyllic life for more than a decade now.

"I catch myself every day pinching myself, thinking about how I got here," says Nichols, whose last No. 1 was back in 2014 courtesy of the feel-good anthem "Yeah." "My story sometimes is unbelievable even to myself. Just the way that I wound up married to my wife, the way we wound up with our children, the way I wound up still alive after all these years."

Related:Joe Nichols Says He 'Got to Fall in Love' with His Wife 'All Over Again' During the Pandemic

He pauses for a moment.

"There's a lot of ways that this story could have gone. It didn't have to turn out like this, where I'm living with the woman of my dreams, and I have three beautiful children that I would die for. I just have way more than I deserve. If somebody wrote a story on my life with all the twists and turns, it would be rather odd. I don't think I would even believe it."

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