Joe Nichols
 Ann Marie Hensley

The 2014 CMA Music Festival is off and running, with many artists already having held their annual fan club parties. For Red Bow recording artist Joe Nichols, the day marked an opportunity to get up close and personal with over 300 of his fans with a party at Nashville's The Listening Room. Nichols told Billboard that for any artist, the fan club party is special -- as it puts you directly in front of the fans who have been there through thick and thin. 

"It's an interesting day," he said. "I think the people here actually root for me on a daily basis -- they came here from as far as Europe or Asia. That says a lot to the dedication of people who want to be here. It's a unique day. Not all shows are like this."

Hosted by Big D and Bubba, fans got the chance to ask Nichols some questions, which always puts him on the spot. But, he likes the hot seat. "It was very awkward at times, but I love awkward moments. It keeps things interesting. If you have an expected moment, things get boring."

Over the past year, Nichols has returned to the top of the charts with "Sunny and 75," and is currently No. 13 on Hot Country Songs with "Yeah." Getting to share those successes with the fans is a great feeling. "It thrills me that we're still having hits and to see fans. But, when we were between record labels, fans still came to the shows and bought records. For that, I'm truly grateful. It makes these moments that much sweeter."

He admits that these fans can quote not just the lyrics to singles, but album cuts - all the way back to the beginning of his career. "I love that they are into the albums as a whole -- not just the singles and the hits. That's a true test of the appreciation they have for what I do. They have quite the knowledge of the catalog -- album cuts that I haven't thought of in ten years."

Are there any artists that Nichols would have love to have had the chance to visit with in similar fashion when he was younger? 

"Definitely Merle, George Strait, or Keith Whitley," he said. "I was a big fan of Keith's and wish I had gotten the opportunity to see him live when I was a kid. I've gotten to have a couple moments like that with Randy Travis, which is very cool. He's been a great influence on me, and gotten to know him quite well. I'd love a Q&A with Hank Williams, Jr. He's a very interesting guy, for sure."