American Blues rock guitarist extraordinaire Jared James Nichols may not have huge name recognition in the pop music world but that may soon change abruptly. The young hard rocker with a heavy picking style was named as an official Global Ambassador for Gibson Guitars in June. Jared is one of three guitarists to be given this title, the other two being Slash and Dave Mustaine putting him in rarified company. Since moving to Los Angeles in 2010 forming his own power trio, the musician has shared the stage with some of the biggest names in the Blues genre. Grateful Web had a chance to chat with Jared about all things Blues.
GW: You grew up in Wisconsin. How did you get your start as a musician?
JJN: I grew up just like any other Midwest kid. Music hit me early on, I remember getting into classic rock when I was about nine years old. I didn’t truly discover the guitar and my passion until I first picked up an electric guitar at the age of 15. The best part about growing up in Wisconsin was that I did not have many distractions in the way practicing and learning! Originally, I wanted to be a drummer. The drums were too loud for my house, I’m really glad I ended up giving the guitar a try! It changed my life.
GW: Who were your biggest influences growing up?
JJN: When I first started playing, I was all about classic rock. Led Zeppelin, The Who, Black Sabbath. That was the soundtrack of my childhood. When I found blues music, everything changed. Between hearing Stevie Ray Vaughan, Albert King, and Buddy Guy, I was hooked!!! Eric Clapton and Leslie West were also massive influences on me.
GW: You have a unique style that reminds me of the music of Leslie West in Mountain that is conducive to hard rock blues, a heavy picking style. However, your high-energy ‘pick-less’ electric guitar playing technique is unusual. How did that come about?
JJN: It’s funny, I am left-handed. Everything that I do in life is based around that. When I first picked up a guitar, I was holding it lefty! I remember my first guitar instructor told me to flip the guitar, play it right handed. I did not know any better so I went along with him. But when I tried to use it guitar pick it did not feel natural. The feel and connection that I get when playing the guitar with my fingers is everything. I never thought that it would become a signature technique or be recognized as a key factor in the way I play, but it has! I also think it helped me develop my own sound and feel.
GW: Let’s talk about guitars. You are very attached to a couple of old guitars that you have rebuilt, and you also have worked on designing new ones with Gibson. Could you share your passion for your instruments, like your signature single-pickup Epiphone Les Paul Custom P90 nick-named Old Glory or your vintage original 1953 Gibson Les Paul nick-named Ole Red? And talk about being an ambassador partnering with Epiphone luthiers twice in the past two years to re-create your favorite legendary Gibson models, the “Old Glory” a Les Paul Custom in Ebony and the “Gold Glory” Les Paul Custom in Double-Gold Aged Finish both of which have quickly become best-sellers.
JJN: I feel honored! Partnering and becoming a Gibson brand ambassador is one of my biggest dreams come true! I actually never dreamed this far! To work with such a historically incredible company is amazing. As a musician, my guitars are such in massive elements to my sound and style. The fact that I have been able to develop my own models is still completely mind blowing to me! It’s funny, my guitars are so personal to me. But it is incredibly satisfying to see them inspire guitarist from all different age ranges and genres. I feel so grateful to help influence players with these instruments.
GW: I saw you perform at the Gibson Live party in 2019 during NAMM in Anaheim. What was that experience like playing with some of the most iconic rock guitarists all on one stage?
JJN: It was insane! I felt like I was flying that night. Being able to perform with so many legends that night still hasn’t sunk in! Between Peter Frampton, Billy Gibbons, and the whole other All-Star crew, it just doesn’t feel real! I feel honored to be truly living the dream, playing music with my biggest heroes!
GW: Do you have much of a relationship with Jimmy Vivino? Not really a question, but Cadillac Zack helps keep blues music alive in Southern California. He produces four gigs a week in small venues. Jimmy shows up regularly with a whole host of special guests. John Mayall played just last week. Joe Bonamassa is playing with Jimmy at the end of the month. Many of the players who were at the Gibson Live party have performed.
JJN: Absolutely! Jimmy is such an amazing person and musician! He has played with everyone! I love his sound, style, and feel. Every time I get to hang out with Jimmy, I feel like I’m going to school! He truly is a world-class musician, and I am grateful to be able to call him a friend.
GW: I interviewed Hamish Anderson, stuck in Australia, last month. I asked him this question. I noticed back when I was fortunate enough to travel pre-pandemic. It appeared that traditional American blues music is much more popular in the rest of the world, Europe or Australia, for instance. In the U.S. much less so. A good example is the Beale Street Music Festival in Memphis. Arguably the best music is in the blues tent, but the three main stages with the biggest crowds are mostly Hip Hop and Pop music with a few breakthrough artists like Gary Clarke Jr. Why do you think traditional blues music is not more popular with U.S. audiences?
JJN: It’s funny, because I still feel as if blues music is the most influential in the world today. For me, it is the red thread in the fabric of every genre. Maybe I’m crazy, but I feel as if it is the most universal language music on our planet. Although popular music changes all the time, it is a true testament to the fact that blues and American traditional music is still played all over the world today. I have noticed that traveling outside of America especially Europe, and Japan, they LOVE IT! I’m not sure if that is the fact that it is more attributed to the artform, or the soulful feeling of the music. The connection definitely seems deeper and more revered outside of America today.
GW: I love your video for 'Skin n Bones' it borders on heavy metal with Blues roots. Can you talk a little about making your newest release, Bad Roots?
JJN: Thank you! Bad Roots was recorded in the same vein as skin ‘n bone. We recorded live to tape playing all together in the same room. Speaking of intensity, there is no other feelings or connection as pure as playing live. We wanted these songs to have that energy and the spirit of our biggest influences and recordings. We did not use any computers or editing, what you hear is exactly as it was played. Lyrically speaking, I dug deep, I went for it and tried to express myself through these songs. For me, this was definitely a lyrical departure, I poured my heart and soul into the songs.
GW: Do you want to talk about your upcoming E.P. titled SHADOW DANCER, to be released on September 17 via Black Hill Records?
JJN: Absolutely! I am so excited to get this EP out into the world. I truly believe this is our greatest recording to date, I know that might sound cliché, but I wholeheartedly believe it! Buckle up and hold on tight, shadow dancer hits hard and it’s going to take you on a complete BLUESPOWER journey!
GW: So hopefully, fans can see you on tour soon across America?
JJN: Yes! At the moment I am touring across America with John 5. This tour will go into the beginning of September, but keep your eyes peeled for more dates starting later in September all the way up to Thanksgiving! We cannot wait to play live and connect with audiences in true rock ‘n’ roll fashion!