Interview by Mark Lacey
Live Photos: Josh Trotter
Once in a while, a guitarist will emerge to inspire the next generation of aspiring players. Now on his third studio album, Jared James Nichols has energised fans with his new brand of ferocious raw blues rock, in the vein of Ted Nugent, and the British wave of the sixties. His previous visits to the UK have seen him play a supporting role, but he’s back again this year playing his first shows as a headliner, and joined by Netherlands’ pioneers DeWolff for a tour full of promise.
“I grew up loving and worshipping the blues. I was obsessing over John Mayall and all of that stuff. But I also grew up listening to the music that my older brother listened to, which was Alice in Chains, Pantera, and Metallica. I think that through loving all this stuff, I kind of developed my own little niche with the guitar”.
MGM: You’re back in the UK; what prompted you to come back over to the UK right now?
Jared: We were in Switzerland when lockdown happened, and we had just finished a few dates in the UK. It was right before that. Early March of 2029 was the last time I was here, and I missed it so much. We’ve been trying to figure it out over 2021, ‘22, ‘23. So, this was the year that we were able to say, yeah, we’re coming back, we’re doing this, and I’m just so happy to be back. I love playing in the UK because people love rock, they love guitar, they love what I love. And I feel it.
MGM: This is the first time you’ve been back here since the COVID enforced lockdown in March 2020. But you were a pretty regular performer before that; your first album came out in 2014, and I think you were here in the Spring of 2015.
Jared: I remember the UK was one of the weird ones because I started in Europe. I started in Belgium; that was my first show ever, and I came over for one show in the UK. Then I started to get support slots; in the UK. I did Living Colour, Glenn Hughes, Blue Oyster Cult, Zakk Wylde … so many names. This is the first time I’ve come over as a headliner, which feels pretty awesome, because I feel like finally it’s a jump.
MGM: Rock music, and blues rock in particular is having a real resurgence over the last couple of years, and that whole sound has really exploded. Fans that play guitar often talk about the ferocity of your playing, even though you play without a pick. They also talk about the incredible tone that you achieve with your guitars. What influenced your approach?
Jared: The thing about playing the guitar without a pick … that wasn’t something that I thought was going to turn into anything. It’s simply because I’m left-handed. So, when I first picked up a guitar, I wanted to play lefty. But I’m playing righty. The first teacher I had said, hey, man, you got to flip it because I’m not going to teach you lefty. What’s funny is, growing up, I never had this ambition to be a guitar player. I just did it for fun; a kid playing guitar. So, when I flipped it to righty, the pick never felt right. I just started to say, you know what? I’m going to use my fingers because that feels cool. And going along with the ferocity, it gives such a different sound. I’m influenced by so many different things. I grew up loving and worshipping the blues. Even the sixties British blues; I loved it all. I was obsessing over John Mayall and all of that stuff. But I also grew up listening to the music that my older brother listened to, which was Alice in Chains, Pantera, Metallica, everything that was current in the nineties, even early 2000s. So, I’m really happy that I stuck with the way I did. I think that through loving all this stuff, I kind of developed my own little niche with the guitar, which is something that’s hard to do nowadays.
MGM: It’s interesting to hear you talk about the sort of sixties’ British players. Just before COVID, Mick Fleetwood put together a tribute for Peter Green at the London Palladium, featuring some iconic players including John Mayall, Billy Gibbons and Kirk Hammett. Have you seen the film?
Jared: Yeah. It’s amazing, man. And Kirk Hammett came out with Greeny, the original guitar. I got to spend a day with Greeny once. That guitar is awesome. That would have been like a year ago. My friend is the CEO of Gibson. I live in Nashville, and he lives in Nashville. He goes, dude, what are you doing today? I was like, not much, I’m not on tour. And he goes, I have Kirk and Greeny here. Come hang out and play it. So, I went over there and sat and played Greeny for about six hours.
MGM: A lot of people have also compared your sound to Ted Nugent. Would you agree with that?
Jared: Yeah, definitely. I’m a huge fan of his music. I actually got to jam with him. I love those records of the seventies that Ted made. I think there’s something about them that’s so raw, and the way that they were recorded. I love his guitar sound. I love the way that his playing makes me feel. It’s almost this reckless abandonment and I think nowadays, I’m going to sound like a philosopher, everyone wants to be so perfect and precise when they play. It’s like everything’s got to be on tracks or this or that. There’s something about the raw honesty of making a mistake, or having it be a little fucked up, that I love.
MGM: How does the UK compare to the US in terms of how receptive the audiences are to your style of music?
Jared: It’s different in different regions of America. When I go play in the Midwest, which is kind of like where I grew up’; middle America, the south; there’s total love of that music, even down into Florida East Coast. I feel like the music is ingrained in America in a way that it never really left. So, on any given night, anywhere, you can go see a band playing blues and rock. But there’s not such a scene for fostering and harbouring new bands and new talent. In the UK, I hear of all these bands that are just coming up, or who’ve been around for a few years, that I’ve never heard of.
MGM: It’s great to see you over here to do this tour alongside DeWolff. You’re both winning support, and keeping blues rock music alive for that next generation. When some of the legacy bands like Deep Purple, Aerosmith, and others are no longer able to tour, someone needs to keep it going.
Jared: I would definitely still consider myself an up and comer. I think in the guitar world, I’ve been very lucky that I’ve been able to make a name for myself, and I’m super proud of that and I love that. Coming over and doing a headline and having DeWolff here feels great, man. This is killer.
MGM: How did the idea for this tour with DeWolff come about?
Jared: Well, I did some shows with them in February in the Netherlands. They are massive. We were playing to 3000 people a night. Insane. And we started to talk and obviously we became good buddies. It got to the point where we were announcing this tour and I thought to myself, who would be amazing on this bill. There’s something so incredible about their sound, it was just a no brainer. They wanted to come to the UK.
MGM: You’re just a few dates into this tour, and you’ve played Nottingham and Wolverhampton. How have the shows been going?
Jared: It’s pretty incredible because I feel like when I come to the UK, what’s happening now, is I’m seeing a lot of people that are championing me. Wolverhampton was my firs
t time ever headlining there, and Nottingham. They were both rammed. People were singing the songs. The UK just feels right, and the show have been great. I always go to merch afterwards and everyone comes and hangs out, and it’s just incredible.
MGM: It looks like you’re playing with some new guys in the band this time around. What’s the story with that?
Jared: I do have a new band on this tour. My longtime drummer Dennis recently had a baby, and he said, hey man, I want to go be with my family. So, I have Ryan Rice on the drums; I’ve known him for twelve years. And Lewis Collins. He’s actually from Bournemouth, but he lives in California. For both of these guys, this is our first tour together and they fucking rock. We’ve done about 27 gigs in 30 days, so we’re getting to know each other pretty well.
MGM: You’ve just released your third studio album, self-titled, and you have a new record label too. What did you want this album to say versus the previous two?
Jared: The first record was truly my first time ever in a real studio. So, I was just trying to find the sound. Second record was made while I was on tour. It was in the moment. It was just, let’s go. Let’s make something that we can put out that feels awesome. This record was the first time, due to COVID, that I stopped and I was literally able to have peace and say, what kind of record do I want to make? What do I want this to sound like? And the reality was I wanted to make a record that served as the menu for the live show. I wanted a record that sounded like I did on stage. A lot of people would come up to me and say, I love the show; you sound so much better live than on the record. And that’s almost like a backhanded compliment. I really want my records to stand on their own. So, with this latest record, we went into Blackbird Studios in Nashville with a producer, Eddie Spear. He’s an English guy who lives in Nashville, and he works with Jack White and he’s done insane stuff. I worked up all these songs I had. We went in and tracked them live. I didn’t sing, but it was all recorded live in the same room to tape. The only overdubs were my vocal and, like, two little baby guitar parts. Otherwise, it was all live, no edits, straight as it was recorded. It’s the most honest record I will probably ever make because it was so organic. We made that record in two days.
MGM: This tour finishes over the next few days, so what is next on the horizon for you?
Jared: We have to go back to America, and we’re doing a tour up until Christmas time and then we’re back out again in America at the end of January. We’re starting to line up festival dates over in Europe and the UK next year. We’re already trying to figure out when we’re going to come back for another headline run. So really, it’s a shit tonne of touring which I’m happy with; getting to play all the time and living the way I do.
Jared is currently touring across the UK and US. Tickets and dates available here: