No stranger to the top of the charts, Joe Diffie is enjoying yet another out-of-the-box hit with the title track of his new album, Tougher Than Nails. But this collection, his first for Broken Bow Records, is about more than another round of commercial success for a performer with 10 No. 1 records and six million in sales to his credit.
First and foremost, Tougher Than Nails is an expansive vehicle for one of the most respected vocalists in country music. And his voice continues to draw the support of the music industry's top talent--from songwriters, to producers, to one very high-profile country legend.
Beyond that, the album strikes a delicate balance by returning to Diffie's beginnings while tipping its hat to the future of country music. In terms of material and style, the album is the most diverse offering since his first. Perhaps most importantly, Tougher Than Nails illuminates Diffie's continued growth as a songwriter.
"We started on this album with a clean slate creatively," Diffie says. "I've tried to approach this project as I have every other album--find the best songs. I choose songs on gut instinct, but when I sat down and started writing it really helped the album take shape. We started to see things that lent themselves to a lot of different styles, like my first album. A lot of people tell me that first release was their favorite, so we didn't hesitate for a second to let this one recapture those roots."
Joe Logan Diffie was born and raised in Tulsa , Oklahoma , where he was immersed in music from a young age. His first public performance came in his aunt's country band when he was only four. It was songwriting, interestingly enough, that lured Diffie to Nashville after his song "Love On The Rocks" was recorded by Hank Thompson.
Diffie found work in the Nashville-area Gibson guitar plant and soon established himself as one of Music Row's top demo singers. "When I first came to Nashville I sang a lot of demo recordings--songs that would be pitched to other artists," he explains. "I had worked in a foundry in Oklahoma , and singing for a living seemed like a piece of heaven. I took it very seriously, making sure I told each song's story the way I thought the songwriter intended.
"I'd written a few songs that had been recorded," he continues. "Holly Dunn recorded my song, 'There Goes My Heart Again,' and when I heard her version it confirmed that her interpretation of my lyrics was what made it a hit. So I've always learned the 'story' before I sing the song."
That innate sense of phrase and meaning, that relentless attention to detail, served Diffie well as he made the transition from demo singer to major label recording artist. Early hits including "Home," "If You Want Me To, "If The Devil Danced In Empty Pockets," and "New Way To Light Up An Old Flame" established Diffie as, arguably, country music's foremost balladeer.
As his career progressed, Joe began flashing a more playful side on up-tempo smashes like "John Deere Green," "Third Rock From The Sun," "Bigger Than The Beatles" and "Prop Me Up Beside The Jukebox (If I Die)." Over the course of the nineties, Diffie used his steady radio success to build a solid fan base while notching his belt with 17 top 10 hits, two platinum albums and two gold albums.
When his deal with Sony finally expired after the 2001 release of In Another World , Joe began taking more of his career in hand. He signed with Broken Bow Records, one of Music Row's preeminent independent labels. And he began making music--donning the producer's hat for the first time in his career, enlisting Lonnie Wilson and Buddy Cannon as co-producers.
The roster of top shelf contributors to Tougher Than Nails is indicative of just how much weight Diffie's remarkable instrument carries in the country community. Wilson, a noted session drummer and producer, and the acclaimed Cannon (Kenny Chesney) are only the beginning. The songs bear writer credits from A-list writers like Frank Meyers, Leslie Satcher, Harley Allen, Shawn Camp and Bobby Tomberlin. George Jones, with whom Diffie won a 1993 CMA Award, voices a duet with Diffie on "What Would Waylon Do?"
More than the stellar supporting cast, Tougher Than Nails is a singular statement from its principal. "This album shows more of me-the way I was raised, where I am in life, how I approach things--than anything else I've recorded," Diffie says. "Probably because I wrote so much of it. I've always gravitated toward substance over sizzle, and this album really displays the inner workings of my creativity. It's got substance."
--- from the official Joe Diffie website