Jared James Nichols tours the UK with L.A. Guns from Friday 31st August.
31 Aug: O2 Islington Academy, London
01 Sep: Muni Arts Centre, Pontypridd
02 Sep: Riverside, Newcastle
04 Sep: The Robin 2, Bilston
05 Sep: Craufurd Arms, Milton Keynes
06 Sep: Rebellion, Manchester
08 Sep: Tivoli, Buckley
This is one of the coolest cats on the road right now, Jared James Nichols talks all things from life in rural Wisconsin, Berkley School of music, hanging with Zakk Wylde to life at MIT in L.A. and recording at Johnny Depp’s home studio. Roll up! Roll up! You’ll hear it all straight form the horses mouth in a no holes barred one to one with the hottest property in Blues Rock right now.
RNL – So Jared you’re from Wisconsin, were you born and raised there?
JJN – Yeah born and raised there, the Mid-West right, so cornfields and bean stalks!
RNL – A small town was it?
JJN – You know, not even a town just some farmlands, really rural. I used to ride my bike to the nearest town that was maybe eight miles away or so. It was a good boring place for a kid to get engrossed in the guitar!
RNL – Are you from a musical family, where did your interest in music come from?
JJN – You know what I’m not, I never met my grandpa but I was told he played drums in a polka band! Strange but true, but my musical interest came when I was young and I would hear Classic Rock on the radio, my mom and dad would have it on the radio, they didn’t even have a record collection but I would hear Free, Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath and I was like whoah, I like this I could dig the Rock right away. By the time I was 10 or 11 I was singing along and every time we got in the car we’d stick on Classic Rock, that was kind of how it all start and I remember my friends we all starting to get into music and sports, I tried sports first but then music, I tried drums first but you know when I picked up the guitar I was just hooked. You know you play your first Sabbath Riff and it was like oh jeez, this is awesome!
RNL – So when you started playing guitar did you have any mentors or where you tutored on the guitar?
JJN – Yeah you know it was cool cos a few of my friends had been playing for a few years already so I could steal a some things from them, like “hey what was that” you know? Then I had my first guitar teacher a guy called Greg Freemont, he was like an Eddie Van Halen guy with the guitar, amp and the whole thing. I distinctly remember when I first met him he was like “ So what do you wanna play?” I was like, “Man I just wanna play Rock!” He introduced me to Eddie Van Halen and ‘Erruption’ and I it was the first time I had ever seen that up close, it really connected with me and I was like “I want to do that!”
RNL – So what kind of age where you when you started to get out a gig?
JJN – Funny to that my mom was hip to all these cool jams and gigs going on, where I grew up it was maybe an hour forty five minutes outside Chicago, so there was all these Blues guys who had moved outside the city and were taking part in these cool jams. So she said she wanted to take me there so I could watch, In the states you can be in a club until your 21 but since I was with my mom it was cool. I remember walking in and being like Whoa, I was 15 years old and she says to the guy “Oh my son can play guitar” and I was like “Oh NO, NO, NO,” I was so nervous but the guy said he had a guitar in the back and would you like to play with us and that was that. I do remember though I was so nervous I couldn’t even plug the input jack into the guitar! That was that, I was addicted and I would bug her to take me to these jams and that was really only a few months after I started playing. It just came naturally, it wasn’t like I was pushed into any of it, it was more like I found it and this is what I want to do.
RNL – It must have been a great way to learn guitar rather than being that bedroom warrior, actually learning from fellow musicians and jamming?
JJN – You know you’re absolutely right, I kind of had the best of both worlds as I would prep myself for these jams and find out what songs would be played, I was the generation before the big You Tube explosion, I would look at tabs online or try and learn by ear. So it was really cool to sit there for hours in my bedroom but then go out and Jam with these guys, it was a real game changer for me to be honest.
RNL – It’s something an awful lot of young guitarists neglect isn’t it, playing with other musicians as much as they can?
JJN – Especially now man, So many guitarists you hear them on their own and you go wow, that’s a great guitarist but you put them in that live setting and it’s such a bummer. I think that is something that is often missing from today’s guitar culture.
RNL – So when did you decide to take on the Berkeley School Of Music approach?
JJN – Well what happened with that was, I was on summer break from school and I was trying to get better and better on guitar, I saw that Berkeley had a summer programme for kids and I was like man I would love to go there and see what’s up. It was funny I had gone to this summer programme and I had saved up all my pennies, my mom helped and everything and I went there and remember being around people who were just so passionate as much as I was right, people my own age. One guy would be crazy on Jazz, one guy would be crazy on Shred and I remember them saying “If anyone here is interested, we have open scholarships to come back for school” and I was 16,17 maybe and I was yeah right, like I’d ever get a scholarship, but you could go and try and it was free so I gave it and go and you know, I got the scholarship! That was all that it took, but you know once I was there I soon realised that it simply wasn’t for me. The playing aspect was for sure, but the educational side and the hardcore theory behind it all I didn’t enjoy, I was more into playing and the idea of touring. I just wanted to grow and by my own player and didn’t really want to know how to conduct an orchestra, so I ended up getting a touring gig and you know I just said that’s me, im out!
RNL – But you found yourself again in MIT (Music Institute Of Technology)
JJN – Yeah about a year, year and a half after doing to touring thing I had to stop and say “So whats next for me?” cos I knew I had a lot to growing to still do. It’s not as if you get to a certain level and thing im gonna stop, you know there’s always more so I’d heard great things about MIT and I knew that I’d only go if I could land that scholarship again and I did and I have to say I was very lucky for that.
RNL – So how does that process work for the likes of MIT, do you have to do an audition for that?
JJN – Yeah exactly, it can kind of nerve wracking, maybe not if you know it but for a guy like me who didn’t have the experience he wanted at Berkeley, I didn’t know anything about Classical Music so I had a lot of learning to do.
RNL – It must be an amazing education and a musician to have all that information coming at you?
JJN – Absolutely, I think the best advice I could offer any musician is put yourself in more awkward positions cos that’s where you will grow the most, you know id grow more in a week there than I would in six months playing in the bedroom. I was surrounded by such talent that’s just how that goes, but yeah for sure.
RNL – So from there yu went on to put out your 1stEP ‘Live from The Viper Room’
I had said to you previously I thought that was a pretty ballsy move for a new musician on the LA Scene? I thought to myself Jesus Christ what a cheek dropping a live cd from such an infamous venue – fair play man!
JJN – (Laughs) I remember this, yeah now that I think about it more I’m like man, you know you’re young and you just don’t think about that kinda stuff. I don’t know if I told you this but the reason we put this out was when we arrived at the Viper Room we were so excited to just be there and play, it was such a big deal for us. We were setting up and tuning up, doing our sound check and the guy comes across the mic and says “You know for $50 I can record tonight’s gig and give you the board tapes” and I looked at the guys and said we should do it, cos it was really one of our 1stgigs together. Lets do this and see how it turns out, you know it is what it is bumps and bruises ‘n’ all. You know I just thought it was the best way for people to experience us live, I still enjoy listening back to that cos it puts me back to that moment, you know what im saying, every record is a snapshot in time so it’s funny to listen back to it now as I can tell where I was nervous in it, it’s hilarious now.
RNL – It’s funny you say that as I recently watched an interview with Vivian Campbell of Def Leppard where he talked about cringing while listening to some of his early solo’s on recordings etc, Do you ever have those moments yourself?
JJN – You know man I cannot lie and say no everything was perfect, but I look at my heros like Hendrix and SRV man I wonder if they had those moments too, cos it just gets to a point when you have to let go of all that and just say, you know what I’m not perfect its just where its at, but there’s not anything that I listen to that I’m so cringe that I cant take it! But there a lot of moments when I just smile and grin and think to myself “ I did not know what I was doing” especially as a singer, like that Viper Room recording as it was right at the time I started the trio, so I look back and can tell I had so much to learn, you know what I mean?
RNL – For sure, its just like you say it’s a snapshot in time and 12 months from now you’ll be in a different place than you are today, everyday’s a school day!
JJN – Exactly man, every day I just try and push a little harder to get the sound you want and the musician you want to be.
RNL – So from there you went on and released your 1stfull length LP, which must have been a big evolution from the previous release?
JJN – Oh my gosh yeah, man it was crazy, you know we got the tour and went to Europe and we had to have something, we had the EP which was great but we felt we had to have something to sell and promote, I remember working on that man there were so many moments I had to pinch myself as I was working with Eddie Kramer. Being in a room with Eddie who had worked with Hendrix to the Stones to Zeppelin was huge for me. I was like a kid in a candy store I was nervous just being around him, so it was crazy going from “Hey Man I can record your set for $50” to recording at Abbey Road with Eddie Kramer. It was insane!
RNL – I’m sure a guy like Eddie Kramer will bring something to the game that you just wont get elsewhere?
JJN – Oh yeah, it’s a wealth of knowledge that you’ll never learn in a day, a month or a year, it’s one of those things that when I listen to that recording there are just so many layers to it. A guy like that and the stories he’s gotta tell, man legendary, talking about Woodstock, how Hendrix setup his guitars and I’m just like whoah is the dream over or what!
RNL – So that was when you had toured with Zakk Wylde, that must have been a crazy ride?
JJN – Yeah it was, we done Europe, the US and Canada it was a crazy time and still to this day you just don’t know what will happen next, so when we got the call to tour with Zakk, man I had poster on my wall as a kid of this guy and then here I am in London on opening night sitting with the guy and he’s asking me if I need anything to let him know, like yet another pinch me moment. So yeah its just one big evolution one after another you know.
RNL – I suppose as a musician and a guitarist in a band that evolution and growing pains that you go through must be quite surreal?
JJN – It is and sometimes you just gotta remember and this is just straight up, you have to enjoy the moments. Music today for me is so different to 12 montsh ago ya know, and sometimes I just need to slow down and not be so intense, being in the middle of all of that you’ve got to savour the moments whilst trying to make sure everything is going ok and goes off without a hitch. There’s a lot of emotions that being in a band and playing in a band that musicians can relate to, the will to keep pushing and growing so you can evolve and play for more, do more tour etc so yeah there’s a lot going on.
RNL – How do you find your relationship with the music industry, it is something you feel you can manage yourself or do you prefer to have others to help you navigate that?
JJN – Well we take a very grass roots approach, especially where the industry is now wit Rock and Blues and even me, we had to take a grass roots approach it had to come from a different place, it’s not like we had a pop budget ya know or I was found on You Tube or anything it was more like we had to build it from the ground up, and build it fan by fan. So for me I’m cool with the industry I’m just so diy that even if I had a big team, I feel its just how things should be today. You know even guys like Zakk he’s so hands on with everything he does and that’s really inspiring to see.
RNL – So your latest release Black Magic came out in 2017, and that was recorded in NYC & Johnny Depp’s studio in L.A. – I forgot to ask when did you make that transfer to L.A.?
JJN – Yeah good times that’s right, It was around 2011 when I left for MIT….
RNL – It must have been such a contrast to Wisconsin!
JJN – It still is man it still is, its crazy cos things happen so fast and there’s so many people and so much happening all the time, the city is always on. Its great in one way as it pushes me to get better and work harder, but also you never know what’s going to happen here, there’s always so much going on, at any given moment there’s some cool show, or someone to hang with or jam with so it’s a lot of fun but at the end of the day im still a guy from a rural area and still that at heart, sometimes I wish I could click an off button! You know what I mean!
RNL – Regarding the music industry in L.A, with such a rich history in Rock there is it not an intimidating environment to work in?
JJN – It is but it’s got a lot easier since I got the lay of the land and made a few contacts, but for sure when I got here it was daunting, like where do I start, who do I talk to etc, and with a place like this with so many people there’s also so many jokers if you know what I mean and it can be hard to look through and find reality in all this. It was daunting at first but throughout I just tried to play my best foot forward and if I got a bad feeling about anyone or a situation, you know I’m just gonna try something else. Unfortunately out here more often than not it’s that way,
RNL – Yeah a ruthless industry and a dog eat dog city so you have to tread carefully.
JJN – 100%
RNL – So with your last recording Black Magic again you were at Johnny Depp’s home studio, working with Joe Perry’s son etc – it’s yet another surreal moment where you’re rubbing shoulders with the industry elite once again.
JJN – Yeah man and I don’t take any of that for granted; I’m the kinda guy that if we’re at a recording studio in the middle of nowhere, or at Johnny Depp’s studio in L.A. im in love either way! But I’ve had a lot of those moments recently where I have had to pinch myself and ask “How the hell did I get from there, to there?” Im so lucky, but I like to quote the “The harder you work, the luckier you get”
RNL – Yeah its true people often say he or she is lucky but often overlook the graft that has been put in to get into that position.
JJN – It’s so true, like for me to come to L.A with nothing and know no-one, I dint have anything man, so it just shows that if you are truly passionate and keep pushing you can make it happen.
RNL – So looking forward later this month you’re back in the UK with the L.A. Guns, you seem to have a good relationship with the UK?
JJN – Yeah! I love the UK, The UK’’s great man, every time I go it just gets better, I see more and more people at the shows, and I don’t just mean London. Like it’s so cool to travel around and play different shows and the people are so nice, I have a great relationship musically and it’s just been a lot of fun. I am always excited to go back.
RNL – Yeah the Rock scene in the UK is strong and they really dig your vibe.
JJN – 110% man I foresee a long and beautiful relationship! Every time I go through border patrols they look at my passport and they see I’ve been any times before!
RNL – So what’s on the horizon then Jared, is there a new recording in the pipeline?
JJN – Absolutely man, we’re getting into that right now, actually I haven’t really stopped writing since Black Magic. My focus now really is on the quality of song writing, hone in on the guitar and as a band as well just continue to grow in that way, as a vocalist yeah it’s all good.