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