INTERVJU: Jared James Nichols

Jared gick från att mjölka kor på landet i amerikanska Mellanvästern till att flytta till Hollywood och bli omtalad gitarrist. Här berättar han om att ta beslutet att bara ge allt, men också om lärdomar från Zakk Wylde, hur han ser på sig själv som gitarrist och det faktum att han som sagt är från vischan.

“I´m a country boy. My first job was baling hay. It was literally fucking throwing bales of hay and from there I went to milking cows.”


Tell me about East Troy, Wisconsin, where you´re from? It´s a small place.

Dude, what´s funny about East Troy is that I didn´t even grow up in East Troy. I grew up outside of it. I was like in farm land. I was 10 miles away from East Troy. The best part is that I would ride my bike to East Troy and it would take me and my friends two hours to get there. We would ride around all day and then ride back when the sun was setting. I grew up in a total farm area. When I think about it now it´s like “Damn man, I was in the middle of nowhere!”

How much of that is still in you, so to speak?

Oh shit, so much, man! It´s funny because I find that after growing up in that environment, going from there and then moving to Los Angeles, to Hollywood, it´s like polar opposites. When I got to Hollywood it was like “Where the hell am I? How did I get here?” The reality is that there´s a ton of that in me. I still feel that in my blood. I´m a country boy. My first job was bailing hay. It was literally fucking throwing bails of hay and from there I went to milking cows.

That´s hardcore farming.

It´s hardcore, dude! It feels so long ago, but it´s still such a part of me.

Coming to Los Angeles. did you find that difficult?

I did. It was difficult and in some ways it was more difficult because I was going to LA and there was so much happening all the time. So many musicians and so many clubs and not only that, there´s acting and tourists and just a shit ton of people. I kind of had a hard time finding my footing, but in one way it was really good though, because it made me hyper focused. It was like “Alright if I´m going to do this, I´ve got to dig in. I´ve got to go super hard and figure out what the hell I´m going to do and how I´m going to do it.” I had to make a plan because I think a lot of us, when we´re at home or we´re in our comfort zone, we´re used to saying “Yeah, it´ll be ok. I´ll do it then.”, but for me it was like “I don´t have another choice. I´ve got to do this now.”

It must´ve been hard work? You read about it all the time, how it´s a city that can easily eat you up.

Oh yeah! All I can say is that I went all in. I didn´t care. I just wanted to do it so bad. I developed like this attitude of… I don´t want to say “take no prisoners”, but “I´m going to do it and I don´t care what it takes to do it. No one´s going to stop me.” In that way it was amazing because I was able to do just get into a new mode and say to myself “Now is the time to push it.”, but you´re so right though because I had so many friends that I´d met in LA, but it was like a revolving door. I would meet someone and they would be my friend for a few months and then I´d never see them again. It was like “What happened to that guy?” and someone would say “Oh shit, he went home! He got addicted to this or that.” It´s a weird place, because it chews people up and spits them out sometimes.

Going back. What was your first taste of music?

The first taste, and now I´m going back to the country, me and my dad used to drive around in his car and he would listen to old country music on tapes. It was everything from Hank Williams to patsy Cline and my first taste of it was that I started memorizing all these lyrics and I was probably five years old and next thing you know I´m singing along to all these songs. After that it would be classic rock radio and Led Zeppelin. I remember distinctively hearing “Whole lotta love” and just blasting that song. Especially that middle part before it goes into the solo. “What is that sound?” I loved the sound of the guitar before I even knew what it was. It was like “I want to do that!” Funny enough, I didn´t start playing until I was 15. It took me a lot of different things before I got into music. It wasn´t that I was avoiding it, but shit, growing up where I grew up, we were into different stuff. Dude, I loved fishing and I worked on cars and stuff. I never got into guitar until my friends, by the time we were 14, their parents would buy them guitars. I remember I didn´t even want to play guitar. I was like “I´ll play drums, because everyone plays guitar.” I got a drum set and my dad was like “Dude, you can´t play that in here! Get a guitar!” Long story short, I got a guitar which I borrowed from a friend. I tried it and it just came pretty easy to me. It was the first time in life that I tried stuff and it was like “Wow, I can do that!” It was weird. Going back to my first taste of music, I started into the Zeppelin stuff and Black sabbath. It was like those single note riffs like “Into the void” and my first riff ever was “Electric funeral” That was the stuff where I was like “Whoa!” and then I figured out how to do distortion and it was like “Yeah!”

Your guitar hero is Leslie West, right?

Yeah, he´s like my old school guitar hero. I got to jam with him about a year and a half ago in New York City and it was the coolest thing. Of course I love Mountain, but as a guitarist he´s that cutting edge of really bluesy and soulful, but he´s got that tone that cuts, especially on those Mountain recordings. He just blew me away because he was a simple guitar player, but when he played, he played with such a force, it was like a statement. I just love Leslie´s playing and I love everything about him and what he does. Another one of my heroes and friends is Zakk Wylde, but Leslie was a little different for me. His playing spoke to me, man.

You´ve toured with Zakk too, right?

Yeah! I hooked up with Zakk,,, it´s been a few years already and in 2016 we did a tour all around Europe and then we did a whole America and Canada tour. I was out with Zakk for about four months. It was great.

Can you learn something from a guy like Zakk, who´s been doing this for a long time?

Oh yeah! Honestly man, I´ve been able to tour with so many. Really what it comes down to is a lot of people say “What have you learned from those guys?” and it really doesn´t come down to “Oh, I learned how to play this lick.” It comes down to just seeing their overall flow and how they work. Watching professionals at work… I mean, when you´re able to see a guy like Zakk every single day for four months, I would study everything from how he did soundchecks to watching him work the crowd to meet and greets. Obviously the playing, but then I would see the backside of everything. I would hear him doing interviews and how his whole day was laid out and it´s like watching a professional like that is really awesome. It helps me learn so much. As a young dude coming into the business, sometimes you´re like “What the hell? How do I do this?”, but when I get to watch these guys close, you get to really feel the sense of professionals at work and it´s good because it shows me stuff. It´s like “Dude, I can do this! It´s possible.”

When you came to LA and decided to go all in, it takes a certain determination to let everything else go, knowing that it could all go straight to hell too.

To be brutally honest, it was kind of scary. There were times where I would, not second guess myself, but I would have to say “Am I doing the right thing here?” because ultimately it´s the way you live your life, it´s a whole lifestyle. Before I even started my career I put ten years in playing guitar 12 hours a day, just to get to the point where… it´s just so much more. It was that daily struggle. I moved to LA alone and I was there alone trying to figure it out and there were points when I definitely didn´t have any money or connections, but I just kept saying that it was going to work. The reality is that I didn´t wait to make it work. I just made it work. There´s that attitude “Never say die. Just keep pushing.” And hell yeah it was scary and I had a lot of things I had to put on the backburner. I had to cut a lot of things out of my life just to keep the train rolling. I missed a lot of life moments, especially when I started touring. Now it´s so important for us to keep pushing and pushing and spread the word. You miss a lot of things. We´re on the road and we keep kicking it. It´s a lifestyle, man. I love it and I still get excited to play guitar every day and that just doesn´t go away.

Now that you´ve been around for a while, are you in any way a guitar collector?

I wouldn´t call myself a collector but I´ve gotten some friends that are influential in that way. Hell, even Zakk´s given me like five guitars, pedals… everything. I work with Gibson guitars so they´ve given me a ton of stuff to use. And then I have some friends like Joe Bonamassa and other friends have hooked me up with older Les Pauls and stuff like that. I wouldn´t say I´m a collector, but shit man, I´ve really amassed a collection! (laughs) I love guitars and I´m a gear nut. I never go on websites and try to find stuff to buy. I´m all about enhancing the music. I´m not trying to collect. The things I have I use, but I love guitars. I don´t think I´ll ever be a collector, but I definitely want some more good guitars.

What is it that makes you a great guitar player then?

Well, I think we would all say that we´re still working at becoming a great guitar player. I think that´s one of the things, to never stop. That fire is always in you to continue to grow. I think the thing that makes me stand out a little more than other guys and especially guys in my age, is the fact that I´m not afraid to put everything I have into my playing. When I play guitar I´m just all in. I don´t try to sound like anyone else. I´ve tried to create my own sound and I´m trying to create my own style and I think that helps me stick out a lot. There´s the little things, like my tone. I don´t play with a pick so I have a little different tone. There are little things like that that makes me stand out as a player, but I think that it ultimately comes down to the passion of it. I just try to play with as much passion and intensity as possible and I found that that makes me stand out.

Not playing with a pick makes me think of Mark Knopfler. Is he someone that in any way influenced you?

I love Mark Knopfler and he´s a crazy amazing player, but guys that really influenced me to do it are guys like Albert King. I´m left handed and the thing was that I could never get down really or feel comfortable with a pick. I wanted to feel the strings under my fingers. I wanted to play and have that feeling that I felt every note. Now when I hear other people play my stuff, if they´re using a pick it´s great, but it´s just not the same.

(Jared spelar i Stockholm 17 mars och i Göteborg 18 mars.)


Text: Niclas Müller-Hansen

Foto: Therés Stephansdotter Björk (Zakk), JJMs fb-sida