Joe Diffie won a Grammy award in 1999 for his thoughtful country music. His songs, which reflect the challenges and triumphs in his own life, show heart and joy.
“I’ve always loved well-written songs,” Diffie said. “There’s really no magic formula. I’ve just always drawn on my own experience, whether it’s falling in love or hanging out in a bar. I feel like if I relate to it, other people will too.”
Those two decades-plus of experience have led Diffie to headlining gigs across the country, including one in the main show of the Tennessee River Jam at 4 p.m. Saturday at Paris Landing State Park.
Originally from Tulsa, Okla., Diffie was an athlete in high school with his goals in the field of medicine, but he was soon set on a different path through his love of music.
He began performing in a gospel group and later joined a bluegrass band before moving to Nashville.
He started working in a warehouse at Gibson Guitars, and was discouraged about his musical career.
He was even thinking of moving back to Oklahoma before he spoke to his father about it.
“The best advice I ever got was from my dad,” Diffie said. “He said, ‘If you don’t have a goal, you don’t have anything to shoot at. Do something every day towards your music. Write a song or play your guitar.’”
“I took that to heart and made sure I did something every day whether it was big or little.”
“I remember getting out of bed one time because I had forgotten to do something towards my music. I actually got up, got my guitar and played for a few minutes and then went back to bed,” Diffie said. “I feel like that had something to do with the success that I’ve managed to achieve. I think it would apply in anything. I lived, breathed, ate and slept music all the time. I was so obsessed with it.”
Diffie’s first big break came when country musician Holly Dunn recorded “There Goes My Heart Again,” and asked him to sing harmony.
By 1990, Diffie was signed with Epic Records.
That year, he released his debut, “A Thousand Winding Roads.” His first single from that album, “Home,” hit No. 1 on the country charts.
Plenty of other songs he released in the 1990s, including “So Help Me Girl,” “Is it Cold in Here,” and “Third Rock from the Sun,” earned him acclaim as well.
He had five songs that made the No. 1 spot on the Billboard singles chart: “Home,” “If the Devil Danced (In Empty Pockets),” “Third Rock from the Sun,” “Pickup Man” and “Bigger Than the Beatles.”
In Jason Aldean’s song, “1994,” the artist paid tribute to Diffie and his influence, and Luke Bryan, Thomas Rhett, Little Big Town and Jake Owen appeared in the video to show how he influenced them as well.
“It was a nice shot in the arm and it’s amazing to me the impact that it’s had. A lot of fans are coming to my shows now to see who the dude is that Jason and Thomas are talking about,” Diffie said.
“The really amazing thing is the fans know every song that I sing. We’ll go to a place and there’ll be a bunch of younger people and they’ll know every single word. Obviously, they’ve gone back and done some research or downloaded something. It’s pretty cool.”
Diffie is as active as he’s ever been. Recently, the artist teamed up with producer Phil O’Donnell to release “I Got This,” which is slated for a 2019 release. Two singles from the album are already available.
“I love music. It’s just a part of me,” he said. “Retiring would be like cutting off my arm or something. I enjoy everything about it … It beats working any day.”