Question: Which 2012 WGNA Countryfest singer admits to discovering a love of whiskey and the music of Merle Haggard at the age of 13?

Answer: Joe Nichols recently revealed on GAC's Backstory that he started drinking 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, Nichols 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.

According to his web site, Joe Nichols married Heather Singleton in ’07 following a friendship that began when they were 19. Just 30 days into their marriage, Nichols 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.