Congratulations on the new album. It’s an absolute rager of a blues record and its blues power to the fullest.
Dude, thank you so much, I’m glad you got it, man. I’m excited. I’m happy about it, you know, it feels like I finally got on the record. Like we can stand on its own feet, songs, the sound of its energy. I’m just so happy with how it turned out.
When I first got a look at the album cover, I thought that it really grabbed people’s attention. And then I realized
it’s a Les Paul with the checking throughout the cover.
So that’s actually one of my old guitars. My friend designed the artwork, he’s a total monster. And I want to remember what his company is. I can’t remember right now. But anyways, ridiculous, but I took a picture of one of my Les Paul’s and he basically laid that over the photo to compose the album. And when I saw that I was like that is so cool. And the album cover has a really cool vibe was edgy, but it looks classic. I really loved it.
Is that one of your Gibson’s or is that an Epiphone?
No, that’s one of my Gibson’s and what we did is since I have this new guitar coming out and we want to stick with this blue thing, it’s like a pelham blue theme. He took the picture and inverted that image to make it blue. So that’s my 1952 Gibson. Would like a blue hue on it, which is variable.
So, do you have a new signature coming out?
I do, its breaking news, I just kind of teased it the other night when we had our show in Nashville. It is a Gibson basically. It’s the blues power Old Glory, it’s a blue, single pickup, Les Paul, and it’s coming out in the fall. I’ve had the guitar for a few months, just the prototype and I was kind of waiting to show it off and to play it. I finally got the green light. So now it’s traveling with me, and it sounds killer, I’m so happy with how it sounds.
As far as materials and hardware, is it similar to your other signature guitar, or is it going into a different direction?
Well, what’s really cool about this one is I’m working with Seymour, Duncan pickups manufacturer, right? And created a signature P90 which I never dreamed that far dude, of course I love P90 pickup, but I got to create a signature which is so cool, so I did that. A lot of people would say to me, not even with my model but with like Les Paul’s or Gibson’s in general. They would go “Man, I love these guitars, but I have a hard time keeping them in tune”. So, I wanted to go with locking tuners and other extra little bonus things. It’s cool because you can’t even tell they’re on there unless you look and you’re like “Oh, yeah, they’re locking, that’s perfect.
With your aggressive picking style, do you have issues with your guitar staying in tune?
Honestly, not really. Even my old Gibson’s and stuff that, you know, have been on this planet long before you and me, I feel like with the way that I play, I have this approach where I’m almost pulling up on the strings. Sure, there is like down picking and up strokes. Even with my up stroke it is more of like, up against the guitar. So, I don’t necessarily feel like I have issues with tuning. You know, I’ve been playing Les Paul’s for so long now, I don’t know man. There’s something in my atoms that tells me when I’m a little out of tune. Oh, my G string is flat a little bit, you know. But I would say I don’t really have an issue. I set up all my guitars, I feel like the guitar is so personal of an instrument that I prefer to do my own setup so, you know, maybe not with amplifiers and things like that. But with the guitar, you know, it’s my hands go. Dang it. So, it feels really intimate for me. But the one thing that I notice is if I play someone else’s guitar and let’s say the actions a little too high or too low. That’s when I start to get a little weird with it because I struggle with it, you know. It’s like oh man, this feels way too low, and I can’t get the proper attack right.
Speaking of playing other people’s guitars. I had seen the photo that you had posed for Zakk’s birthday in his kitchen. You’ve got the Holy Grail on one side, the rebel bottle cap guitar on the other and him approaching you from behind with a skillet.
Dude, I love that photo. It is totally hilarious.
I know he’s got a couple Juniors, but were there any guitars in his collection that you were surprised that he owned?
Yeah, a lot of really old school stuff. Like that 57′ that Ozzy gave him, that was a really cool guitar. He had a lot of stuff like Jimmy Page Dragon Telecaster. He had some really cool acoustic guitars. And he had some old school stuff, like almost pre-war style. He had a lot of cool nylon string stuff. Double necks. I mean, Zakk’s collection of Les Paul’s is absolutely crazy. And of course, the fanboy guitars like the ones I was holding and guitars like the broken glass, Les Paul, the No More Tears Les Paul right now the orange and natural. He just had a lot of really cool stuff. And when I saw his collection, it was like the time I saw his Joe Bonamassa’s collection, a little bit.
That was actually going to be my next question. Of the two, who has a bigger collection?
Well, Zakk’s got the cool factor in his collection, which is stuff that’s like, wow, I remember being a kid, seeing you play this, and you know, on this concert whatever. But Joe only has the collection of real vintage instruments. I remember the first time I hung out with Joe. I went to his house in the Hollywood Hills. I cruise up there and he passes me a cigar, I was sitting on his deck chatting, getting to know each other and within about 20, 30 minutes, he goes “You wanna see some cool guitars?” and I’m like, “Yep!”. So, the first thing he says is, “Have you ever played a real Flying V?”. And he passes me a 58′ Flying V. I’m like “Ok?” and he plugs into a 59′ Bassman. The amount of guitars that Joe has on a collector’s standpoint as well, it’s staggering. Like, mind blowing. I was at Joe’s house when I was in Los Angeles last time, he had I think 13 1959 Les Paul’s. Just insane.
And the other part of the mystique to most of them, are the stories attached to them. Like the 58′ Korina V that he found at an estate sale.
What an amazing guitar that is, by the way. Knowing the stories is kind of like my old Les Paul you know, Dorothy. The stories are so cool. And if you have a story with some of these guitars like that trash bag V. And then you play it, it just makes you go wow, this is like a fairy tale. You know what I mean? It’s crazy that a lot of that stuff, you know, lasted through time, and it didn’t get tossed away or whatever. But dude, when you’re at Joe’s house, you literally feel like you’re at a guitar museum. It’s crazy. With Joe and Zakk and so many of these other guys, you know, I’m really just a fan. I grew up with a Joe Bonamassa poster on my wall and Zakk as well and these guys are my guitar heroes and now, I’m friends with them, it’s just crazy. Joe has shown me so much love, and I’m very grateful.
One of the things about the new record that I thought was unique and really vintage, is that you recorded straight to tape instead of the mainstream digital approach to recording.
Right. So what was kind of the game plan to go that route as opposed to digital and it came from a few spots. The first one being obviously, a lot of my biggest influences and a lot of the music all of us love was recorded to tape right? There is something old-school like nostalgic about it, but it also sounds really cool and has its own sound to it. And you know, when we were thinking about making this record and I got my headspace about it, I thought about my previous releases, which I love, and I love the energy. But the one thing I feel like wasn’t translating yet, was the live performance element where it was like you could feel whether you’re a listener. You could feel me on the other end that makes sense. And I remember being in the UK playing the show and this guy comes up and says, “That was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen.” and he says, “I wish your records sounded like your live shows.” and kind of stuck with me.
And I ran in with this album to not only prove myself to like rock and roll. You know what, I want to make the record straight to tape on the computer. I want to make it like old school. But I want to sound like a stick of dynamite, and I don’t want to do a lot of overdubs. I don’t want to do this thing where it’s like, okay, let’s play the drums and bass on top of it. Let’s all be in the same room, let’s capture the excitement and go for it. That was the element I want to bring back because so much music, I feel like is just so produced and it is so put through a strainer. It’s like okay let’s fix all this stuff. With my record, there’s a lot of points in it that are kind of nasty and it’s like “woof”. But it’s that human element that feels real and it feels like me, and that’s the thing about it with you’re going to tape and doing all the stuff that I love.
I listen to the Blues from all different eras back to the 50’s. And of all that music, I can honestly say that the only two musicians that I’ve heard actually make the Blues heavy, is Bonamassa and yourself. With Hard Wired being a shining example of that on the new record.
Oh yeah! Well for me, a lot of people like a “blues purest”, they would probably just look at me and say no way. It’s funny with the Blues. I love, love, love traditional Blue. I love rock. I love a lot of metal. I’m into old country, there’s so much music I love. And I’m not afraid, kind of like Joe, I’m not afraid to show my influences. I’m not afraid to get a little heavy and rock and even get a little dirty with it and I think there’s something really beautiful and expressive about the Blues when it’s translated into a little heavier form. And that’s really what I chase. The blues is such a common thread of music, like I feel like there’s elements of it in every other genre. For me, I embrace that, and I say, you know what, I love the Blues. There’re some nights like the other night in L.A. We were up there, and we ripped War Pigs. It was straight up Bluesy, it’s rocking, it’s heavy, But ultimately, it’s just great music. So, for me, are there some heavy elements? Yes, it just feels great.
What tuning did you use for Hard Wired? Because it doesn’t really sound like it’s in standard or just a half-step down.
So everything on the album is in standard. But with Hard Wired it’s actually in drop D. So that lowest string is down and what that does is just makes it sound a little heavier on the bass side you know? And you can feel especially when it kicks in it’s gotten a real nice low, heavy groove.
When trying to decide what was going to be the first single off of the album. What was it about Down the Drainthat sealed the deal?
Well actually you’ll find this actually hilarious. So that first little guitar part, that riff, was kind of a warm-up exercise for me for a long time. It was just like to warm up my fingers just like a little progression and feels like a million cool songs I love. And what happened was, I got together with some friends to do a little song writing session. I started playing that riff as I’m talking to my buddy Aaron and was like “What was that?”. And I was like “What?”. So, I played it again and I had this line “won’t you follow me down the drain” and he starts messing with it and we’re riffing on this thing, and I swear to you bro, within 10 minutes we had the hook of the song, we have the chorus, we had the verse going. So, we wrote this song, and we just recorded it on my iPhone.
My buddy the next day said, “Come back over and sing on this.”. So, I did. And then I didn’t talk to him for two or three weeks and got back on the road and, you know, I got back in my groove. And then some people I work with at the label one morning start sending me all of these emails about “Down the Drain” and I’m like, “Uhh, what song?”. I haven’t even heard it and he is starting to send it around to see if people liked it. So, when we come out with the record, the labels like “Man, I think we should release this as the first single.”. And for me I really dug this song because it kind of combines a lot of elements. It’s super bluesy. It’s got that 90s grunge vibe. It’s got like cool guitar moments, it’s got a cool vocal, I was all about it. And that song is so fun to play live. Once you hit that chorus man, it just rips.
There were multiple points on the record where it sounded like a subtle tremolo effect. But were you actually playing through a Leslie?
Ohhh yes! I had my amplifiers and for a few things like Shadow Dancer, obviously Down the Drain and Out of Time. I had a Leslie Cabinet, and I would go from my amp to that speaker and obviously being that sound like the rotating sweeper. It was so cool because it just made those songs go somewhere totally different when you’re using a real organ speaker.
When you’re sitting down to start writing, do you just play through different keys and see what you can pull out of it, or do you hear something in your head and try to work it out?
It’s always different. Sometimes I’ll pick up a guitar and play something and go “Hmm” and I’ll try and develop it, and I’ll try and push it, push it and I’ll come up with a riff like that. Otherwise, I’ll come up with something in my head. I feel like with musicians and guitar players, sometimes you’re always playing. I could be walking down the street, or I’m at the grocery store, I’m thinking about playing guitar, and I’m thinking about a riff. So, sometimes stuff will pop out like that all the sudden I’m not holding a guitar, but I have this melody in my head, and I’ll get home and I’ll pick up a guitar and go “Yeah” to whatever it is and I’ll just try and find it. I just let inspiration strike wherever it does. If I find a riff and we’ll the other thing I always do is thank God for technology. I had my cell phone. So, if I find a riff, I’ll go to my voicemail and record it.
With all of your albums and releases. Are there songs that don’t make it on those particular records that you think could work on future work? Or are you of the mind that if it is not good enough for one album, it’s not good enough for any album?
Dude, I have a lot of stuff, even for this last record that has slide guitar and some really cool kind of groovy stuff that I really like, and maybe one day I’ll release it. Maybe try to refresh it a bit and see if it can go somewhere. But I try to have a record that feels concise and feels like there is a flow to it. I love that about an album when you put it on and it takes you on a journey. I’ve had songs where I say “I love this” but it’s just not right for the album. So I’ll throw it in the vault and maybe someday use a riff or a segment from it and use it for something else and recycle it. But with this record, the vision was there, and we had a few extra songs but we ended up not doing them. Sometimes, you don’t have to throw all of the stuff at it at once.
Does it jump out at you right away when a song doesn’t belong on a record?
Ya, it does. Especially since I’m such a live person. I live to play live kind of vibe. That’s when I hear certain things and I know, you almost feel in your gut where you’re like, it’s cool but it’s not the thing. It’s like when I’m playing live sometimes, and I’m improvising. I’ll go off on a thing and I’ll be really excited about it, and I’m like, yes, it’s a spark to a flame. And other times it’s cool. But not really doing anything for me.
Jared, we can’t thank you enough for your time today. It was great talking shop with you. This new record is amazing, and we wish you luck on your tour in Europe.
Thank you man!
It really doesn’t take much…
With nothing more than a Gibson Les Paul slung over his shoulder, a warm amp turned all the way up, and
a hot microphone on and ready, Jared James Nichols churns out the kind of rock that rips, roars, and rolls
without filter or apology. The Wisconsin-born and Nashville-based singer, songwriter, and guitarist, who
stands at a staggering 6 foot 5 inches tall, delivers a one-two punch of gritty vocals straight from the gut
and incendiary fret fireworks. After earning widespread acclaim from the likes of American Songwriter,
Guitar World, Relix, and more, tallying millions of streams, and packing houses at countless shows, he
showcases every side of himself on his 2023 self-titled third full-length offering, Jared James Nichols[Black
“You have to strip yourself back so many times to figure out what you’re trying to do,” he observes. “For
me, it was quite simple. As an artist, music is freedom; music is whatever you want it to be. So, I see it
with the bumps, the bruises, the crashes, and everything intact. The album is a day in the life with the ups
and downs, but it musically rings true to who I am as an artist.”
Back in 2015, Jared emerged with his debut Old Glory & The Wild Revival. On its heels, the 2018 follow-
up Black Magic yielded the fan favorite “Honey Forgive Me,” piling up over 3.8 million Spotify streams
and counting. In between showstopping solo shows, he performed alongside icons a la Slash, Billy
Gibbons, Zakk Wylde, and even the late Leslie West, to name a few. Guitar World attested, “If you’ve never
witnessed Jared James Nichols onstage, let us say right now: you’re missing out, big time.” Following the
2021 fan favorite Shadow Dancer EP, he collaborated with both Maggie Rose and Joe Bonamassa in 2022
for revised versions of his song “Threw Me To The Wolves.”
Along the way, Gibson formally welcomed him as an official ambassador, plotting the release of several
signature Jared James Nichols guitars. Blackstar Amps followed suit and Seymour Duncan also designed a
signature pickup to his specification—due out in 2023.
Officially partnering with Gibson was a huge moment in the guitar aficionado’s life. Nearly a decade ago,
a Les Paul literally landed into the yard of a fan during the biggest tornado ever to impact Washington, IL.
The fan shared a picture of the guitar with Jared. “It was one of the earliest known Les Pauls ever created
from 1952,” he explains. “It was battered and bruised with a broken neck from the tornado, but it was
still salvageable.” The fan offered to give it to Jared to restore and play. He sent it to one of the world’s
best luthiers, Joel Wilkins.
“It is a very important piece of musical history as it is a prototype—1 of 25—to the most important electric
guitar shape in the world, the Gibson Les Paul,” he smiles. “It is one of the most perfect instruments I have
ever played. I play it every day, take it on tour, and make music with it all over the world. It’s the best way
to honor its legacy. I named the guitar ‘Dorothy’ after the tornado experience.”
Fast forward to present time, and after weathering the Pandemic, Jared’s long-awaited return to the road
would be unceremoniously derailed. About two weeks into a tour with Black Stone Chery in the fall of
2021, he tried to help his band pack up the stage and upon grabbing a road case, he felt a pop in his right
arm. What he thought might be a pulled muscle wound up being bone scraping inside his arm. Whisked
away to the emergency room, the x-ray showed a chipped humerus bone due to longtime stress fractures.
The only solution proved to be emergency surgery with a chance he might never play guitar again or even
use the arm.
“After surgery, I found myself with a plate and 16 screws in my arm, completely sidelined, and back home
in bed,” he sighs. “I did not let this hold me down, and I found myself re-working how to use my right arm
to play again within days. If anything, breaking my arm forced me right back to square one and to rebuild
into the best possible version of myself I could be.”
Busting his ass to restore a semblance of normalcy, he pushed forward and regained use of the arm and
his storied guitar proficiency. Going into the next season, Jared made a decision to track his next body of
work live, reflecting the spirit of his show on tape like never before. Joined by producer Eddie Spear, the
album proudly preserves all of the grit and gusto from the rooms in Blackbird Studios and Sienna Studios
where he first cut the tunes.
“It was made live with intention and zero fucks given,” he notes. “It wasn’t like we could fix the tempos.
We didn’t use a click track. I wrote a batch of songs to capture everything I’m about. I didn’t hold back. I
thought of what I listened to growing up, whether it was grunge or blues. We got a little heavier. I made
a record to serve as the menu for the live show. There’s an element of excitement and danger. It’s my
version of rock ‘n’ roll with a little more humanity.”
Speaking of, he paved the way for the record with the 2022 release of the hypnotic and hyper-charged
“Hard Wired.” Born from a jam session with Tyler Bryant and Graham Whitford, the single bulldozed a
path for Jared James Nichols with no shortage of raw and raucous six-string bravado.
“Sometimes, a song comes out of nowhere and basically writes itself, and that is exactly what happened
with this one,” he says. “I immediately knew it was going to be a song I wanted to incorporate into my live
set and cut for this record. Lyrically, it comes from a place of self-destruction. You know something is bad
for you, but you continue to do it anyway even though the result will be tragic. It’s like a stick of dynamite
ready to blow, and it encapsulates the mood and tone of this entire record.”
On the follow-up single “Down The Drain,” vulnerable vocals snake around melodic guitar in ominous
fashion. Baring its fangs, it snaps into a chantable chorus punctuated by a wailing lead.
“It’s easy to get addicted to a shitty relationship,” he reveals. “You know it’s going to end wrong, but you
can’t get out. You’re going down the drain. The concept is relatable to everyone, whether it’s about a
friend or a romantic relationship.”
From the jump, the record kicks into high gear with the bluesy wallop of “My Delusion.” In between steady
tambourine, distortion roars as he confesses, “Your body is my temple, and your heart is my ruin.”
“‘My Delusion’ kept evolving,” he recalls. “It was like water starting to boil. By the time you get into the
solo and the riff, it’s ready to go off the rails. When we stopped after the second take, we were sweating
head-to-toe. We knew we got it!”
On “Hallelujah,” a flurry of drums gives way to a thick and heavy battering ram of a blues riff only to crash
into a rickety bass line and atomic shredding.
“It was recorded balls to the wall,” he remembers. “We were like, ‘Let’s go’. I was channeling all of my
heroes. Obviously, the first riff I ever learned was a Black Sabbath tune. It’s a fist in the air song.”
“Good Time Girl” pays homage to “going out, drinking, partying, and having a good time” over a
hummable guitar groove. The record culminates on the emotionally charged “Out Of Time.” Jared’s Les
Paul practically cries out as he says goodbye to his old man with a heartfelt and tearful tribute.
“I lost my dad, and it was the hardest thing I’ve ever dealt with in my life,” he admits. “I wrote ‘Out of
Time’ when I was thinking of him. It’s a heavy song. I was crying when I was doing the vocals. It’s a different
vibe, but it’s impactful for me.”
By keeping it simple, Jared remains primed to leave his imprint on rock ‘n’ roll forever.
“I hope you listen to this record and connect to it,” he leaves off. “Rock ‘n’ roll is not always about a
throwback. It’s fucking 2022, dude. I’m right here, and I’m ready to rip. I’m not trying to be anybody but
myself and play the music I love for today. I’m giving you loud ass guitars and no fucks given rock ‘n’ roll,
and I’m loving it.”