Hoopla

Hitting home with Joe Diffie, coming to First Avenue Club in Iowa City

Crystal K. Martel photo

Country hitmaker Joe Diffie will bring his honky-tonk attitude to the First Avenue Club in Iowa City on Feb. 7.
Crystal K. Martel photo Country hitmaker Joe Diffie will bring his honky-tonk attitude to the First Avenue Club in Iowa City on Feb. 7.
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A number of country recording artists could seemingly do no wrong during the early- to mid-90s. Among them were Garth Brooks, Randy Travis and Joe Diffie.

The latter recorded a succession of top five hits, including “Is it Cold in Here,” “Ships that Don’t Come In” and “If You Want Me To.”

It’s hardly surprising that Diffie was mentioned by Jason Aldean in the middle of his hit “1994.”

“It was a bit jaw-dropping at first,” Diffie said by phone from Nashville. “It was quite an honor.”

Diffie’s extraordinary success extended into the following decade. From 1990 to 2004 the easy going singer-songwriter, who could hit his audience with the poignant and the humorous, charted 35 singles on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. Five of those songs peaked at No. 1. He picked up a 1998 Grammy Award for best county collaboration with vocals on “Same Old Train.”

“It did feel like I could do no wrong for a period of time,” he said.

But Diffie, 60, a Tulsa, Okla., native, didn’t envision airplay during his demo singer days in the 1980s when poppy country ruled the charts.

“There was a country renaissance that spurred a revived interest in ‘country-er’ music that paved the way for the ’90s,” he said.

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“Home,” the catchy and moving single from his 1990 album “A Thousand Winding Roads,” was his first hit and chart-topper. Diffie recalled what it was like the first time he and his family heard “Home” on the airwaves.

“It was a bit surreal, almost like a dream,” he said. “I really was shocked when I heard ‘Home’ reached number one. I was with my parents and my oldest children when I first heard it on the radio in a car. We pulled over and everyone was crying.”

A skilled tunesmith who has co-written singles for Tim McGraw, Holly Dunn and Jo Dee Messina, Diffie is adept at manipulating emotion in song. His tunes range from tear-jerkers to amusing. The latter isn’t so easy to craft.

“It’s tough, since there are so many nuances involved in humor,” Diffie said. “There’s tone of voice, timing. You have to project how you think people will interpret what you’re trying to get across. It’s difficult.”

“Big Balls in Cowtown” is one of Diffie’s funniest songs. However, that quirky cut has been retired.

Don’t expect much in terms of novelty songs when Diffie performs Feb. 7 at the First Avenue Club in Iowa City, since the odds are that he’ll primarily run with the hits.

Diffie continues to craft traditional country music.

“I have a new project that will be released in the spring,” he said. “I’m very proud of it and hope folks will enjoy it.”

Diffie also is a philanthropist, who donates his time and money to good causes. He’s held charity concerts and golf tournaments benefiting First Steps Nashville, a nonprofit organization for the education of children with special needs and medical conditions. His work earned him a Humanitarian Award from the Country Radio Broadcasters in 1997.

“I think it’s important to give back,” Diffie said.

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“I’ve been so incredibly fortunate in so many ways. If I have a chance to help people I’ll definitely help. I’ve had a great career and life. I’m very thankful.

“I never knew it was going to turn out like this when I was starting out. It’s been an amazing experience.”

Get Out!

WHAT: Joe Diffie

WHERE: First Avenue Club, 1550 S. First Ave., Iowa City

WHEN: 8 p.m. Feb. 7

TICKETS: $25 general admission with no meal; $35 general admission with buffet; varying prices for reserved tables; Firstavenueclub.com/events/joe-diffie/

ARTIST’S WEBSITE: Joediffie.com

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We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

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