Jared James Nichols put on an electrifying performance on Tuesday, Jan. 21, at the Mint in Los Angeles.
Alongside virtuoso guitarist Nichols were bassist Erik Sandin and drummer Dennis Holm.
Nichols, who hails from Wisconsin and is a mere 22 years old, has rock-god-level guitar skills. His overwhelming stage presence and virtuosity took hold of the audience. Not since Jonny Lang has there been such impressive playing from a very young musician.
Nichols' gig at the Mint was a last-minute showcase set up for some overseas labels interested in checking out the musician. At first the club had a slow vibe. Then last-minute stragglers started filling up the joint.
Nichols who stands at 6 feet tall with shoulder-length blond hair looks a bit older than his 22 years on stage. But up close, he had an unassuming nature and sweet disposition. We know that because we asked him a few questions after the gig:
Q: You've been called a prodigy, but it seems like you have been honing your guitar skills since you were 15 or 16 years old.
A. Yes exactly, I think that word (prodigy) is used a little too loosely these days. It is just a love of music, a love of playing and hard work, like you said.
It's dedication. I have dedicated 10 to 12 hours a day through my whole teens, and even now I still practice just because I love music and I love the guitar. I want to be the best I can be at it.
Q: How many hours do you practice?
A: I'll go on (a practice session) for 12 to 14 hours if I can on a day when I don't have anything going on. When I was a kid, I would do that every day. I would come home from school, and I would play from 3 in the afternoon until 3 at night, then wake up for school the next day and then sleep through it. It has been these long practice sessions since I was about 15.
Q: Your mom took you to your first blues show and introduced you to the musicians. Was she a great source of creative encouragement to you growing up?
A: Yes, my mom was such great source of inspiration everywhere – she was such a hard worker herself. She provided for the family. Not only that, but she would come home from work, and I would tell her, “I want to jam with good musicians.” I said that when I was 15. And she said, "Well I'll take you to a jam, a blues jam, so you can go up and jam.” And I said, “OK.” We lived in Wisconsin, and a parent could take their kid into a club or into a bar. Sure enough, we go in the bar, and she goes to the bartender, "My son plays guitar, can he play with the band?" While I literally choked on my drink thinking to myself, “I do not think I want to do this.” I was so nervous. She was such a great inspiration to push me. She would just say, "Do what you want to do, I'm here to help.” And of course she was my monetary support as well. She bought the guitar and all this stuff. I am forever indebted for that.
Q: Would you say she is one of your best critics?
A: Oh, 100 percent. I value her in every way. Still, to this day she will call me and say, "I think you play this one song to slow, or I think you …etc.” And I'll be like, “Really, you think so Mom?” She is just a fan of music. I think it is going to be like that forever, but I always listen to what she has to say coming from a fan's outlook.
Q: Can you tell us about the style of “Blues Soul Power”?
A: “Blues Soul Power”... One of the first blues records I ever got was Albert King's, "Live Wire Blues Power," and it just hit me right in my heart. It's just “blues power.” It's not technique. It's not any certain genre – it's just connecting with people: being able to take what I play and what comes out of the speaker and what comes out of my voice and connecting with people in the audience and actually feeling the music and getting something from it Instead of just, maybe, oh, “that's really cool,” or “that looks great.” It is more connecting with them on a deeper level.
Q: Where does a young adult – or kid when you started – pick up a feel for the blues, not having yet lived the full life experience needed to be a blues player?
A: To tell you the truth, the only way to get my feeling for the blues is just life experiences and everything that I've lived. And obviously I have not lived as much, like you said, as one of those blues guys. It's just a feeling that I get from blues that I can pass on. I just tapped into it at a young age. I just connected with it immediately. I knew when I heard the blues that I did not want to play anything else. There was something about it that just captivated me, and luckily I feel that it is something that I have since I was young – to be able to connect on another level. When I hold the guitar in my hand, it all just made sense.
Q: You play the Dobro acoustic guitar on one of your songs (Take my Hand). For those readers that may not be familiar, how different is that from a regular six-string guitar, and do you play it often?
A: First of all, besides the wood of the neck, it is all metal. It is really resonant, and it is heavy. There are a few different kinds of resonators. The one that I play is like a Mississippi-style resonator, and I play it with a slide, and it has an almost metal quality. It is not so warm. It is more cutting and brash in its tone. It is one of the early instruments of the blues, and that is how I picked it up. That is some of the first stuff I heard, and it connected with me immediately. It felt great on that song. There's something in that sound I loved when I first started. Ten years later, to be able to put it on my own record is pretty cool.
Q: I understand that one of your dreams is coming true--to record @ the Abbey Road Studios
A: Yes, that is true, I got a call on Friday night from a company I work with called Hype music. We work with them. We give them our song and they get place in movies, TV and...Russell, the guy, he is such a supporter of the music and he is such a fan of the music, and the blues power, he is from England, he said listen I have an in at Abbey Road, how would like to record their for a few days in June. I said are you kidding seriously a dream of every musician to do that. My jaw dropped when he said it was already booked I cannot wait to feel the connections in that room and the vibrations. It is going to be amazing.
Q: What inspired you? I understand you grew up street from Alpine Valley Resort—the location of Stevie Ray Vaughan's last performance, is that what geared you towards that?
A: It was definitely in the air, it was brought to me very early on, that is where SRV had died there. We lived less than a mile from the hill, and my Mom said on the morning of there was a serious fog, and recalls the hearses rolling by. I had family that was respondents to the accident. It was totally brought on to me early on.
When I started playing guitar, it had only been a few days when I had started playing, when a friend brought over a tape of SRV, I heard that, I saw him, and it was a done deal. I knew exactly where I wanted to go with the music. Take the blues and the rock and everything about it and just connect.
Q: SRV performed there and he died in that area too?Yes, he died there, that night they got on a helicopter, and they hit the Stiegel right next to the venue.
Q: You are learned from Milwaukee and Chicago blues jams at age 13 from some of OG blues men.
How many people get that opportunity?
A: It was amazing to have been able to play with a lot of the older musicians that have lived a full life of music, that have seen all the different genres and they have been playing all along. Some were hard on me; definitely, you have to earn your stripes for sure. For many musicians like big Jim Johnson, who was a great Mississippi, Chicago bluesman, to take me under his wing and to show me the style?
I felt like I was learning it from...it was not as if I was learning it from a book. Firsthand few of the old, old bluesmen from Chicago would come up. It was amazing to watch it live in person, it is a very different thing than to be on Youtube or to hear it one recording.
Q: Did they show you some secret techniques?
A: Yes, they showed me many tricks of the trade, stuff you just do not' pick up on, and you do not know about. You know, hmm I did not know that, can you show me that, can you slow it down?
Q: You have many music honors, to many to name, your musical journey leading to?
A: The way I see my musical career going, I just want to play for as many people as possible and I want to share to spread this music as far as I can, and obviously travel. We are going to central Europe in about a month in a half. And will be there for about three months playing. I want to share this music as much as possible. its (the Blues) is not being put out there enough. It has never left, it is never gone away, and It just needs t be out there more... I want to be the guy to do it.
Q: If you could pick anybody to play with, who would that be?
A: Oh man, if I could play with anybody I would love to sit down with guitars with Jimi Hendrix. Does that count? Just me and Hendrix with a few guitars Stevie Ray Vaughn of course What about something crazy like Bach or Mozart, you know just to watch them play and kind of study. I am about watching other musicians, studying off them. There are many people I would love to play with Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson all the old blues guys that no one really knows about. Especially Robert Johnson, to be able to play with him is crazy.
Q: What about musicians that are still alive?
A: I know Steven Tyler pretty well, I would love to jam with ZZ TOP
Q: You did, right?
A: Well I mean get up and jam with them. We opened for ZZ, A lot of the classic rock bands I would love t jam with them, the Allman Brothers band of course. That would be huge.
Q: Will you be attending and performing @ the NAMM event in Anaheim?
:A: Yes I will be at Namm, we will be playing for a guitar company, Seymour Duncan, Saturday at the Sheraton Ballroom. I will be hanging out with a lot of friends I don't get to see. Everybody comes from everywhere for the event. It's very exciting.
Q: You originally wanted to be a drummer, that seems to be true of quite few guitarist and bassist.
A: Yeah there's something about the drums, especially when you are a kid. You just want to hit them. You want to rock out. My friend brought over a drum set when I was 14 years old. I hit it for about 20 minutes and my parents were like, oh man I don't think we can do this. A guitar we turn it down. And I was like," Everybody plays guitar." Something about the guitar, then it was my thing, and I started discovering more. What other instruments do you play? I can play a little bit of harmonica bass guitar, keyboards I can figure out and stuff like that. I put my attention on guitar because that is what I perform and that is what I am better known.
Q: EP called Old Glory & The Wild Revival is this first album and it is live?
A: We released a small EP live at the viper room in 2012 we just handed it out Old glory and the wild revival is our first EP studio. We did that in June with a great producer Warren Hubert its five songs and now we are recording five more. Hopefully old glory is going to be released in Europe in a10 song LP I get to cover a Robert Johnson song. The first song I ever learned, and that is on the steel guitarist special to me.
Q: You were featured in a Blues documentary, Six Generations of the Blues." Would that make you the 21st century bluesman?
A: That was an amazing experience to actually play and hang out with one of the oldest living bluesman (David) 'Honeyboy' Edwards, I sat with him for like five hours and he told me stories about plying blues in the thirties. And it was amazing to be able to sit with someone that has gone through all that stuff. And to be included in the actual film was amazing, as a 21st century guy. You know I just love that music so much and to be included in something that big was huge t me. I take that with great honor and I take it as big shoes to fill. To say the least of all the great musicians that there has been that I can be the greatest I can be.James Jared Nichols will be performing @ the NAMM event in Anaheim. He will be presenting/performing the Seymour Duncan guitar company Saturday at the Sheraton Ballroom From there he will be recording in Europe this summer and then gearing for a yearlong tour MORE INFO: Your introduction to JARED JAMES NICHOLS is here.