Joe Nichols has learned a thing or two over the course of his 18 years in the country music industry. Nichols has released eight studio albums during that time, and he says that he appreciates his success more the longer he's in the business.

Nichols was signed with the independent Intersound Records when he was 19, and his career didn't take off quickly: His self-titled debut didn't do very well, and he was dropped by the label. His next deal with Giant Records didn't last long either, and Nichols ended up spending a few years working a series of odd jobs around Nashville.

“You know, I think a lot of circumstances have happened over the years, whether it be, you know, my work ethic has gotten me in trouble at times, and then being in a partnership with people that don’t necessarily want to be a in partnership with you, vice versa, you know, that can kind of put a stop to a lot of things," Nichols told The Boot during 2014 CMA Awards week. "People don’t work as hard as you’d like. You know, sometimes, you pick the wrong song, and it’s hard to recover from that. We’ve had some singles that didn’t work, and we’ve had to work our way back to gain the trust at radio."

Nichols is now on the roster at Red Bow Records, which is also home to Chase Bryant and David Fanning.

"I think, this time, all those things have lined up, where I’m at a great group ... They work really hard, which is all I ask for, and I work really hard for them," Nichols says. "I make sure I do everything I possibly can, and have a family, that I can for the promotion sake of the record."

When he first came to Nashville to try to jump-start his country career in the late '90s, the genre was experiencing a major shift toward a pop sound, and Nichols had a hard time finding a label who wanted a more traditional-sounding country singer.

"I tell you, for a while, when I was trying to get a record deal back in ’98, ’99, when I first moved to town, nobody wanted to hear a country singer," he says. "I used to go play for record labels, and they’d say, ‘We just can’t sign a country singer right now.’

"Rascal Flatts was having a lot of success … Shania [Twain] and a lot of the more pop side of country was having a lot of success," Nichols adds, "and there was literally zero labels in town that wanted a country singer."

Once he got a deal and signed with Intersound, Nichols expected his Nashville debut to be a bigger success than it was, and he thought success would come easier than it did.

"It’s so different than it was when I first began because I thought success was easy. I thought you had a record deal, you had money behind you, you went out and played shows, it just came to you, and that’s just not the case," he says. "There’s a lot of hard work in it, a lot of people that are working really hard for you … I was young, an idiot. I was just dumb."