Me and my guitar: Jared James Nichols

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(Image: © Olly Curtis / Future)

How taking away his neck pickup changed everything for Les Paul-loving Wisconsin blues rocker, Jared James Nichols...

LP history

“I’ve been playing Les Pauls for the past eight or nine years and the shape just kind of called to me. When I was coming up, a lot of my favourite players had Les Pauls and when I picked up a Custom it felt different. Between the ebony fretboard and its weight, it felt huge and it was heavy. And I just felt when I put it on that it was a man’s guitar! I just got really excited.”

Take it to the bridge

The restriction of having a single pickup with a volume and tone forced me to change the way I played

“I never truly went to the neck pickup a lot because I play with my fingers and when I do that I get a very thumpy, duddy sound right away, so I was always relying on my bridge pickup. I just wanted to do something different... something of my own, so I ended up getting a Custom Shop Les Paul fitted with a single P-90 pickup. 

“I found it on Reverb.com and when I got the guitar, I remember that the restriction of having a single pickup with a volume and tone forced me to change the way I played in order to get all the sounds. So when I got that guitar I had a new lease of life between the way I picked, the attack, the vibrato and wherever I set my volume and tone knob.”

Baseball bat

“I started working with Epiphone a little less than a year ago and they introduced me to this one, which is the 1955 Custom. It has a huge neck and it’s literally like a baseball bat neck and I love that. It has the jumbo frets so you can dig in a little more. And Leslie West from Mountain is one of my guitar heroes and he had a Les Paul Junior so this is like the marriage between a big Custom and a Junior.”

Tone and volume

“Having one pickup has made playing a lot more fun because it pushed me to do it in an old-school way and roll down my tone knob. So for me that and the volume is like my lifeblood, from zero to 10… it’s a huge deal for the tone. I have a really simple setup; I use a Blackstar Artist 30 with a Seymour Duncan overdrive so I really rely on the volume, pickup and tone.”

Picking a P-90

The P-90 has that thing where it’s the perfect marriage between a humbucker and a single-coil

“The dog ear pickup came because I’m kind of crazy in that when I have a soapbar it feels different when the screws are actually screwed into the pickup instead of the outside. It’s like a weird oscillation. I got skeptical about it and now I need dog ears on everything. It’s a Seymour Duncan Antiquity P-90 - I’ve used the brand forever. It’s the closest thing I’ve found to what the originals sound like. The P-90 has that thing where it’s the perfect marriage between a humbucker and a single-coil.”

Wrapped-up

“The reason I do the wrap-around on the bridge is because normally I use a wraptail. I’m used to the wraptail Juniors as, usually, I play with my fingers and it allows me to dig right in. It feels better for bending, gives me more control and seems like a different vibration too when you’re playing. There’s not so much tension on the strings. It just feels better, but I do go through the bridges quite often - the strings start to eat into them.”

Jared James Nichols’s latest album Black Magic is out now on Listenable Records.

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