Start me up: Jared James Nichols

New and notable guitarists you need to hear

YouTube : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-sdc71gzjZk

Born and raised in Wisconsin, Jared James Nichols started playing when he was about 14 years old.

At a time when some of his friends were getting into playing sports, music caught the embryonic bluesman's attention. He didn't want to play soccer or football, but there was just something about the music he began hearing that started to have the effect of a siren's call…

"I wanted to play drums, but for some reason, I heard guitar players and went, 'You're not playing that riff right; it doesn't sound like that, let me try!'. Then, all of a sudden, I got hooked and I was like, 'Hey, I kinda like this.'"

Who has he listened to?

Gary [Rossington] came up to me and said, 'Man, you've got to come jam with us - come up and play Sweet Home Alabama!'

As far as influences are concerned, Jared says that he was attracted to all the riff-rock bands such as Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin, with a side helping of classic 70s prog fare, including Pink Floyd.

Later on, he encountered the playing of Jimi Hendrix, and shortly afterwards, his musical world changed.

"The bridge broke for me when I heard Stevie Ray Vaughan play. Then I understood that he was doing more than just playing the guitar; there was a connection that I could feel, and it got really exciting for me then."

Why do you need to hear him?

Jared's playing is all about fire and passion, with critics citing him as a natural torchbearer for the blues. Now aged just 25, as a youngster he was a prodigy, playing his first gig only a week and a half after he first picked up an instrument.

"My friends were saying, 'We have a battle of the bands - are you ready?' And, of course, I wasn't, but I said, 'Yeah, yeah - let's go, guys!' I knew I wanted to be a professional musician probably when I was 16 or 17 years old, when I began to play around the area and I started to see people's reactions and I figured out how much fun it was to play live."

What's so great about his playing?

Back in April of this year, Jared was invited to play on stage with Southern rockers Lynyrd Skynyrd at an arena gig in Germany - testament to the impact he's having on the blues scene at present. Skynyrd's offer came after Jared's band had supported them on some tour dates in Europe.

"On the last show at Germany's MHP Arena, Gary [Rossington] came up to me and said, 'Man, you've got to come jam with us - come up and play Sweet Home Alabama!' To play in an arena in front of 8,000 people and hear them screaming, it was like, "Oh my God, where am I?', y'know? It was one of those experiences that I'll never forget."

What gear does he use?

Intrigued by the tone that SRV and Hendrix were achieving, Jared's first choice of guitar was a Fender Strat.

After a brief flirtation with Gibson Flying Vs, he moved on to Les Pauls, eventually settling for a Custom with a single P-90 in the bridge

After a brief flirtation with Gibson Flying Vs, he moved on to Les Pauls, eventually settling for a Custom with a single P-90 in the bridge - a kind of tribute to Mountain's Les Paul Junior-toting Leslie West, whose playing, Jared insists, is criminally underrated. As far as amplification is concerned, it's Blackstar 50s all the way with no pedals on the floor at all.

Opting to play without a pick, he says that he prefers to coax the tone from his guitar just using his fingers.

"I prefer to just plug straight in. For a while, I was doing what everyone was doing and using pedals and trying to chase the sound but I found out that, on all my favourite recordings, those guys were just plugging in and letting go, you know what I mean? I never got into Tube Screamers or anything like that."

Where should I start?

If you've missed Jared's band opening for Lynyrd Skynyrd or ZZ Top, then you would be advised to check out his debut album, Old Glory And The Wild Revival, a 14-track dissertation on blues-flavoured rock.

And if that whets your appetite, be aware that he is on tour in the UK this autumn in support of Glenn Hughes. Be prepared for a refreshingly old-school approach to playing; for example, of his Blackstar backline, he enthuses:

"They break up pretty well if you just turn them up - I just run my hand over the knobs so they're all the way up and use the volume control on the guitar."

Jared James Nichols' Old Glory And The Wild Revival is out now on Listenable Records. Jared is special guest on Glenn Hughes' October UK tour. www.facebook.com/jaredjamesnichols

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