Nothing can slow down the Les Paul-loving blues-rock force of nature that is Jared James Nichols – not even a freak accident caused by picking up a road case “the wrong way” that left him with a broken right arm, now held together by 16 screws and a metal plate.
“It’s pretty raw and there’s a lot of bumps and bruises,” he tells us – referring not to his recent injury, but to his self-titled third LP, which is released in January.
What was your sonic mission for this album?
“I base everything I do off of the energy of live performance. People were starting to come up to me at shows and say, ‘Man, the show was awesome – you sound so much better live than you do on your records!’ That echoed in my head and I was thinking about how to get the energy across. Everything was cut to tape in an old-school way – there was no tuner, no metronome, and the only overdubs were vocals and about three guitar parts.”
What’s your favourite moment of tone on the record?
“I’m super-proud of Easy Come, Easy Go because it’s got this really cool fuzzed-out guitar sound. I remember being in the studio and playing through this ’69 Marshall Super Lead turned all the way up, and using a Klon. I’d kneel in front of the amp to get feedback, and if you listen to that solo, it almost feels like the amp’s about to explode!”
You’re a man of many Les Pauls, but which one starred the most?
“I cut about 80 percent of the record with my 1953 Les Paul, Ole Red. Then I had a 1956 Junior, and my Dorothy guitar, which is a 1952 Les Paul. It’s one of the first-ever and it’s called Dorothy because it really was in a tornado! It got broken and I had it fixed. I also used a Gold Glory – one of my signature guitars.
“The electronics in the old guitars are warmer and have a lot less attack, whereas the Gold Glory is super crisp. All the guitars had P-90s. There are no humbuckers on the record, but every guitar has its own sound.”
What is it you love about P-90s?
“A P-90 is the perfect middle ground between a sparkly single coil and a humbucker because it retains all the crispness and that snap, but still gets loud and pissed off!”
In the debate of whether tone comes more from the gear or the fingers, which side are you on?
“Definitely fingers! Two weeks ago, we played this festival and the guy who brought the gear had worked for Eddie Van Halen. He brought me one of Eddie’s personal modded Marshalls from 1984. I plugged in and it was incredible, but I sounded like me.
“Having a great foundation of techniques – bending, vibrato, phrasing – is something that’s unique to you. It comes down to your hands, the way you hold the guitar, the way you strike the strings. Your touch is everything. When I play with my fingers – I don’t use a pick – I want those characteristics to come through.”
- Jared James Nichols is now via Round Hill.