Watch Jared James Nichols, Richie Faulkner, Zach Myers and Marty Schwartz trade licks in awe-inspiring Free Bird cover

Jared James Nichols recently invited three guest stars onstage for a shred-heavy rendition of Lynyrd Skynyrd classic Free Bird

Among the onstage talent was Judas Priest guitarist Richie Faulkner, Shinedown’s Zach Myers and guitarist Marty Schwartz (of the Marty Music YouTube channel). 

The 10-minute set closer is initially relatively faithful to the original, with Nichols showcasing some tasty slide in between vocal lines. The blues rocker then takes the first of the lead sections – with a sharp shred section – before handing over to Faulkner who adds a bit of speed metal flavor. 

Myers and Schwartz are then invited – via the age-old nod of the head – to give their contributions, which land more in the traditional rock ’n’ roll vein, before all four get together for an explosion of unison bends and guitar stank faces. But in the best possible way.

Skynyrd’s original Free Bird solo sections have become some of the most iconic leads in rock history. Guitarist Gary Rossington once told Guitar World that the solo section was partly invented to give vocalist Ronnie Van Zant time off during long sets.

“Ronnie said, ‘Why don’t you do something at the end of that so I can take a break for a few minutes,’” said Rossington, in a 2009 interview.

“So I came up with those three chords at the end and Allen [Collins] played over them, then I soloed and then he soloed. It all evolved out of a jam one night. So we started playing it that way, but Ronnie kept saying, ‘It’s not long enough. Make it longer!’”

Due to its length and challenging nature, it’s also become a long-running joke for audience members to request rock bands play Free Bird – a challenge Nichols and co seem to have met with enthusiasm.

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Matt Parker

Matt is a freelance journalist who has spent the last decade interviewing musicians for the likes of Total Guitar, Guitarist, Guitar World, MusicRadar, NME.com, DJ Mag and Electronic Sound. In 2020, he launched CreativeMoney.co.uk (opens in new tab), which aims to share the ideas that make creative lifestyles more sustainable. He plays guitar, but should not be allowed near your delay pedals.