Jared James Nichols is getting ready to unleash the follow-up to his 2015 debut record Old Glory & The Wild Revival.
Wisconsin-bred guitarist Jared James Nichols has been touring relentlessly throughout 2017. Over the course of the summer, you may have seen Nichols grace the stages of prestigious UK festivals such as Ramblin’ Man Fair and Steelhouse Festival or on tour with Blue Oyster Cult. As Nichols prepares for the release of his sophomore album he returned to the US to hit the road with the mighty Saxon and UFO.
National Rock Review recently caught up with Jared James Nichols to get the lowdown on his new record Black Magic, his love of the blues and his touring plans going forward.
NRR: You’ve got a brand new studio album coming on the 27th October which is called Black Magic. I believe you worked with Joe Perry’s son Tony Perry on the record and I was just wondering what was it like working with Tony and what does he bring to the table?
Jared: Well I met Tony through his dad when Aerosmith was recording their last record. Tony was looking to move out to Los Angeles from Boston and we got hooked up early on, so I’ve known Tony – we’ve been friends now for probably about three years. The one thing I can say about working with Tony is we were friends before we worked together, so we already had that established.
For anyone that’s ever thinking you know like recording and everything it seems like a really daunting thing, I can only say that when you are surrounded by good people and friends it makes it so much fun.
So when we made this record we had so much fun because we both already kind of knew …he knew what I liked and he knew my guitar stuff and he knew everything. Growing up with the surroundings he did he already has that huge ear for rock and roll you know.
The funny part about Tony is, he was in a band and he was a guitar player his whole life so he already had that side and just recently he got into engineering, mixing. When you have someone that has both sides of the coin it really helps out because I always think of these sounds in my head like oh, I want it to sound like that or man if we can get to this area. Then he goes oh, like this and I’m like yeah, and then we tweak it a little bit.
So working with him has just been – man it’s been a blessing for me because you know not only have we been able to create some awesome music together, we’ve been able to record in crazy studios. Most of the record was done at Johnny Depp’s home studio, so it was just really crazy.
NRR: The new album, it sounds like it was built on a solid foundation of the blues. I know that you are a fan of blues greats like Stevie Ray Vaughan, BB King and Albert King. I was just wondering what is it that fascinates you about blues music in particular?
Jared: Well, the weird part is …even before I played the guitar I always loved like a bluesy sound right, so I was … into all of the British blues stuff, you know Zeppelin, The Who – all that stuff. But really what turned my ear is when I started to play it on a guitar, I realised that there was a big passion in it where like …it was almost like anyone can play the same notes but it’s how you play it, so with the blues, I think that speaks volumes. So like when I play it’s up to me to really breathe the life into the music because you can listen to ten different blues guitar players and we could all play the same thing but it sounds completely different.
So it’s like that drew to me really quick as a guitarist too and I’d say now it’s almost like it’s my therapy because without the guitar every day it’s like I’d probably go around being like the meanest dramatist dude in the world – it’s like when I have a guitar, especially when I can jam blues and stuff and be on the road you know it just helps me because it’s like not only is it playing music but like I said it’s like my blues therapy, I just can get it all out through that you know what I mean?
NRR: On the subject of the blues there’s a track on the record which is called “The Gun”. It’s got a really old school delta blues sound to it but at the same time, it’s got a nice contemporary blues-rock twist. I just wondered, rather than emulating what’s been done in the past by the blues greats back in the day, would you say that with tracks like this that you are trying to come up with an interpretation of the blues which music fans can relate to in 2017?
Jared: Exactly, I think above and beyond anything that’s one of my missions, is to not emulate but it’s to just get the feel – especially with a track like “The Gun”. When I first wrote that with the riff, it was on an acoustic guitar, it was total delta blues, it was totally just that slide riff and the vocal.
If you think about it, it totally is when you break it down, it is the same formula as something that you could possibly hear you know like that kind of groove all the way back to the old delta blues guys. But when I’m making my music and trying to make something that maybe can inspire or people can listen to and go wow this sounds fresh you have to think. That’s where Tony comes in too, we’re trying to think of the bigger picture here is not to just try and copy but to just try and bring some fresh breath of fresh air or just a spin on something that’s been done you know.
I think it’s funny too because a lot of people I think that they will listen to the record and they will hear a lot of different influences. That was important for me as well as to not just beat the dead horse on one thing – I wanted to say hey listen all the flavours are here and it’s almost like it’s a sampler platter for everything to come.
NRR: Black Magic covers a lot of ground across the whole spectrum of the blues-rock arena you’ve got tracks like “Honey Forgive Me”, which takes a slightly more funky approach to the blues. I just wondered could you tell us a little bit about that song and the inspiration behind it?
Jared: Yeah, absolutely – “Honey Forgive Me”, that was a riff I’d been sitting on because with all of these songs and I think with everything I do it always starts out with a guitar, it’s always about the riff.
When I recorded with Eddie Kramer on the last record, he said it’s all about the riff, you’ve gotta have good riffs, that’s the hooks of the song especially if you are a guitar player and that kind of resonated with me. So that little riff on “Honey Forgive Me” we started playing that, and at first I thought to myself oh man, I could make like a really kind of cool Texas kind of ZZ Top vibe thing. But, it’s funny with all of this stuff, once it grows on you a little bit in a song like “Honey Forgive Me” all of a sudden I thought to myself no I wanna go deep, I always wanna go deeper with stuff. I’m like I wanna figure out the simplicity but take it as deep as I can.
With something like that instead of going for the straight-ahead blues-rock approach like ok, let’s just get it done let’s just hammer it out, we thought man what if we put like a funky backbeat on it. Then we called my friend Jessica Childress to sing backups on that and just try and really ring it out and give it a little more dimension than just a standard blues rock song.
So that song was cool because I’ve been playing that song and that riff for a few years here kind of working it out, as with this record you know, we’ve been on the road so much that these riffs have just kind of come out over the past few years of being on the road you know. What people are hearing is like honestly, it’s just snippets of the past few years coming out on our record.
It’s funny because that song like when we play it live, I can take that solo for like 10 minutes, I can just go off. With all of these songs, we can just go off on them and jam. But this record we had a clear kind of vision that … we wanted to cut all of the fat and we just wanted to be as bare bones as possible serving the songs and really just playing the songs instead of just making a jam record – nothing against that but for this that was the vision of it.
NRR: Black Magic has a real, raw timeless energy to it. I just wondered in terms of the recording of the album, how did you go about capturing that sound, were you all in the same room at the same time, or did you record the different elements of the songs separately?
Jared: Well this was the thing, when it came to the basic tracks – the bare bones, when we are talking the rhythm guitar, and the drums and the bass, it was in the same room. Literally, we would go for the best takes we could.
I was lucky to not only play with my trio but have a few guests on the record that really brought it up you know. But the intention the whole record was energy over technique because there’s a lot of times in there that you’ll hear like instead of taking a guitar and mic-ing it properly, I said let’s just turn it all of the way up and then you push it as hard as it can go. On a song like “Home”, like that solo, it was probably the most unorthodox way to record it.
You know there’s a lot of things on here, but I think that resonates with the music where it’s not about the perfection, it’s about the feel, it’s about the energy behind it. I think that now more than ever with the recording techniques, people always try to be perfect, they always push for perfection whereas with this record it was kind of like we just said to ourselves, let’s just go yeah, that feels right and let’s just stick with that. We didn’t like sit on anything or just really try and rip it up and like ok, we are gonna do eight days of vocals – no we just did what felt good. So that was kind of where we took it on the record.
You know it’s funny because there are parts where we are like for the drums there’s only three mics on the drums, kind of like they used to do it back in the day you know, but it’s the way you get those sounds. You have to push your gear, you have to push the equipment and just kind of be fearless in the studio.
NRR: You just mentioned there about “Home”, again that takes the album in a slightly different direction, it’s got much more of a southern rock vibe to it. I know that you toured with Lynyrd Skynyrd in Germany, and Gary Rossington was so impressed with your playing that he invited you to take the stage during “Sweet Home Alabama”, and that’s something that had never been done before. I just wondered what was that experience like for you?
Jared: Oh my goodness, I think it was like honestly ..the easiest way I could say it is like if you are just about to go on a rollercoaster and you are nervous, you are excited and you are a little scared all at the same time. Because I remember when we played with them, we did a string of shows and it was going so good that I thought man, this almost seems too good to be true.
The last night we were in Germany and we got off the stage, and it was funny because those guys would watch our set and their stage manager was like they don’t watch anybody’s set. But they would get to the venue early to come and watch us play.
I just remember Gary walked up to me and we had a shot of Jack Daniels, and he said ‘hey, you wanna come out and jam with us tonight, you are gonna come out right?’ and I said ‘ah, what?’ and he goes ‘come out and play “Sweet Home Alabama” with us’. I went ‘you’ve got to be kidding?’ and he was like ‘yeah, you’ve got about an hour or so, get ready’.
So I’m in the backstage warming it up and I’m just like what’s happening you know? I just remember getting on that stage and it was like it was almost like a full circle thing, because I mean for me I’ve been a Skynyrd fan forever and I remember being a kid and having a boom box on my bike and listening to Skynyrd you know with my friends. So it was just a weird thing.
I remember he looked at me and he said ‘go take the solo’ and I just went to the front of the stage and maybe there was you know 10,000-12,000 people there in this arena and I just hit it you know, and it was a surreal moment, and it was a moment I will never forget. So like especially when I play in our band you know, its always a nod to my heroes and you know Skynyrd, Allman Brothers, Blackfoot, all those kinds of great bands.
NRR: Again on Black Magic, there is a track called “What Love”, which I believe you got that down in a single take. It’s such an incredible song, I just wondered did you know straight away that you had nailed it from the beginning with that one?
Jared: Oh my gosh, that’s gonna be one that’s gonna go down in whatever history, but no not at all. Literally, we were thinking to ourselves, I wanna do something that’s just simple, one guitar a voice and maybe a kick drum or some hand claps or whatever.
I said I’ve got this idea – because Tony had a guitar from his dad Joe and the guitar it was a six string, it was a big hollow body but the lowest string was a bass note, so you could literally play bass and then play the guitar over it.
I remember I started with that little riff and then I went – this is kind of an idea I have and maybe we can lay it down. I remember Tony was like – whatever, just try it. You know he was just kind of like whatever – because I’m like that, I always get really excited about stuff and I’m like oh, let’s try this, let’s do this. It ended up, that he put up the mics and I went in there and he said just try and record it.
It’s funny because when you are not worrying about stuff, all of a sudden you will get a take like that where it was like oh, I will just try it one more time. Even with the solos, I had no idea what I was going to play until I played it.
I remember that a few people heard it like Jack Douglas, who is a legendary producer – he did all of John Lennon, he worked with Mountain, he worked with all of these crazy acts – he heard it and he goes don’t change that all, just leave it. Then Joe heard it and Johnny heard it and all of these people and they said yep, don’t change that take.
It’s funny because when you hear that, you can hear all of the bumps and bruises and it’s like it’s just real – that’s really what it was. I remember I sat on it for like a week and I listened to it and I thought man I’ve really got to re-record that and really think about what I’m doing. But at the end of the day, once again I said you know what, let’s just put it on as the last track – like who cares, let’s just put it on and when anyone hears that, they are gonna hear like, especially during the solos and it was just kinda it was what it was and what you are hearing is literally the first take. So it’s pretty exciting.
NRR: So do you think that song could evolve as live performance, could you embellish on it or build on that track?
Jared: Absolutely, I feel like that’s another one just like the rest of these tracks on the record, where you know all this stuff when we play it live we can jam on it. I just need a special guitar, because I’ll have to get a guitar with a bass string on it. That was what is funny too, is literally that song came from a guitar, it came from that riff, and it was like well I can play bass and guitar at the same on this, so I just threw on a slide. Yeah, I definitely want to play that one live, because I think it could be really powerful.
NRR: Do you have any plans to tour the UK in support of the record?
Jared: Absolutely, well so like we said we’re going out here in the States with UFO and Saxon, but the plan is we’re gonna do a pretty big tour in the UK in February. We are gonna go on the Monsters of Rock cruise and then straight over to the UK.
We are going to start doing things where we do like headline shows, we will do co-headline and then we will do support acts as well you know, because I was kind of asked what do you want to do as far as doing shows from here on? I said I wanna continue to support artists I love but, I also want to start to do headline shows so that I can stretch out and I think it’s all important to do.
Black Magic by Jared James Nichols will be released on Friday 27th October, the album will be supported by an extensive tour in February alongside rising stars of the rock British scene Stone Broken and The Bad Flowers. The tour will start off on the 22nd February at The Haunt in Brighton before covering the length and breadth of the UK.
Planet Rock will hold an exclusive 48-hour ticket pre-sale for this incredible triple bill on Wednesday 25th October. Tickets can be purchased via http://bit.ly/2gCIO5V. Tickets will go on general sale on Friday 27th October via MyTicket – http://bit.ly/2y1BxEA.
Stone Broken February/March 2018 UK Tour with Special Guests Jared James Nichols & The Bad Flowers
Brighton, The Haunt Thursday 22 February
London, Islington Assembly Hall Saturday 24 February
Manchester, Club Academy Sunday 25 February
Glasgow, G2 Monday 26 February
Newcastle, Riverside Wednesday 28 February
Nottingham, Rescue Rooms Thursday 01 March
Pontypridd, Muni Arts Centre Friday 02 March
Birmingham, O2 Institute2 Saturday 03 March
Sheffield, Corporation Sunday 04 March
Chester, Live Rooms Tuesday 06 March
Bristol, The Fleece Wednesday 07 March
Jared James Nichols
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Header photo: Adam Kennedy