Jared James Nichols, singer songwriter and blues rock guitarist, chats with Kevin Cooper about his musical influences, his love for the UK, working on his latest album and being Blue Oyster Cult’s special guest on their forthcoming tour of the UK.

Jared James Nichols is an American blues-rock guitarist, singer and songwriter from the state of Wisconsin. He fronts a ‘power trio’ under his name who are rooted in the early 70s hard rock vein of Cream and Mountain. He is best known for his high-energy performances and ‘pick-less’ electric guitar playing technique and he is rarely seen without his single pick-up Les Paul Custom guitar affectionately nick-named Old Glory.

They released a three song EP called Live At The Viper Room, after Nichols won the Musicians Institute Most Outstanding Player Award. In 2015 he released his debut album Old Glory & The Wind, and last year he featured in a series called Uncharted by Honda and UPROXX which centred upon his guitar playing and determination to further himself in the music industry. The documentary went viral on line, resulting in over seven million views within one month of its premier.

Since then Nichols and his band has toured across America and Europe with the likes of Glenn Hughes, Walter Trout, UFO and Saxon.

Whilst getting ready to tour the UK with Blue Oyster Cult, he took some time out to have a chat with Kevin Cooper and this is what he had to say.

Hi Jared how are you today?

I’m very well thanks you Kevin how are you?

All is well thank you and let me just thank you for taking the time to speak to me today.

It’s my pleasure, I’m only too glad to.

And just how is life treating you today?

To be honest with you life at the moment is just great. We just keep travelling and we are currently getting ready to come back over to the UK.

You are about to support Blue Oyster Cult on their Forty-Fifth Anniversary Tour here in the UK. How did that feel when you got the call?

This was another one which for me was high on my bucket list. I am a huge fan of rock music and also of Blue Oyster Cult in general. It will be great for me to be there on the show and when I have finished my set I can become a little kid and simply watch those guys perform. I am very excited about that. It’s also cool because we will be playing some of the same venues that I have played already such as Rock City which means that when I go back there I will be more familiar with the place and that is what makes it fun for me coming back to the UK. You begin to feel more at ease and more at home with all of the different venues.

I have now seen you twice, firstly supporting Glenn Hughes and secondly opening for Walter Trout. What did you learn from being on the road with those guys?

Oh my gosh, first off I was such a fan of both of those guys way before I was given the opportunity to tour with them. Being with them out on the road, well everything just sort of clicked. There I was playing with these guys daily which for me was totally amazing. I mean for me to be able to jam with a guy like Walter was just off the scale. It was simply amazing. The thing which I took from both of those guys was how high they set the bar when it comes to their work ethic together with just how excited they both are to still be playing and still be doing this thing that they love dearly. It showed me that with the correct amount of determination and enthusiasm you can still do this for many years to come.

Well I will let you into a little secret. I was speaking to Walter and he absolutely loves what you do.

That is so good to hear. I truly do love Walter. For me it was such an honour to do that tour with him.

You are now spending more time here in the UK. Do you enjoy being here?

Yes I do, I really love being over there in the UK. We really do have such a nice time whenever we play over there. Touring the UK has rapidly become one of my favourite tours of the year. I love spending time over there with you guys. Not only do I enjoy playing in London but I love travelling all over the UK. I love travelling all the way up north to then come back all the way down south (laughter). For a guy like me coming from Waukesha, Wisconsin to be in a position to spend so much time in the UK is pretty amazing. For me to be connecting with the UK crowds is really awesome because let me tell you, they are really music lovers over there. You guys love your music with a passion.

Do the UK audiences appreciate just what it is that you are doing?

Yes they do, I really think that they do. The reason I think that is that a lot of times when I get out of the trance on stage and I kind of connect with the audience, I can feel their presence and it’s not as though they are observing me in order to judge necessarily, it’s almost as though we are all on the same page. That feeling just makes me want to play and to let the music flow. It’s funny because when I first started playing over there in the UK I didn’t know how the audiences would react but literally the first time that I played there it was like ‘wow I love this, this feels good’ (laughter). Every time since then the reaction just keeps getting better and better.

You played Rock City here in Nottingham with Walter. What do you think to the place?

Well, when I opened for Walter that was the very first time that I had played there at Rock City and I have to say that it was such a cool night. Now on this tour, I will be playing there with Blue Oyster Cult which is going to be totally amazing. For me Rock City is a cool ass rock club. The whole place and set-up is perfect for a guy like me. It’s big enough to allow you to turn it up but it is also intimate enough for you to really be able to connect with the audience.

I have to ask you what is happening on the recording front; how far into the recording process are you?

The honest answer is that we have nearly finished. Right now everything has been written, a ton of stuff has been recorded, and once we have finished this tour we will be going straight back into the studio to put some final touches to the album such as a few more drum parts, a little more bass, a few more vocals and we are going to have this all packaged up and ready to roll in September. In making this record after having spent the last two years out there on the road, I have tried to put all of those experiences gained from touring into it. I have taken more chances on this record than I have ever taken before. I haven’t held back on any level.

What can you tell me about the album?

Well what really excites me about this record is that there are some really heavy hard-core blues songs on there together with some upbeat rock tunes. There are also a couple of ZZ Top trio type softer songs on there too. It has been great for me to be able to go around all of the bases on this record.

Can you give me the title of the album?

No (laughter). You should know better than to ask me that (laughter).

Was it always going to be a career in music for you?

The simple answer to that is yes. Since the very first time that I stepped out onto the stage I got the bug; I caught it really early. Since I was fifteen years old I always knew what it was that I was going to do but I didn’t know just how I was going to do it. But I just knew that I wanted to have that feeling that you get; that rush that you get when you walk out onto the stage.

Who has musically influenced you along the way?

In the beginning it was the classic rock bands, guys like Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Cream, Jimi Hendrix, guys like that. I still listen to that stuff but then I got heavily into the blues, people like Albert King, Howlin’ Wolf, Elmore James, all of the classic blues guitar heroes. Then when I moved to Los Angeles and started my own band I got in to guys like Grand Funk Railroad and of course Blue Oyster Cult; the list just goes on. For me if it has got a great groove, a great guitar with some soul behind it then that does it for me (laughter).

Is the blues currently in a good place?

Yes it is, I really do think that because there are still a lot of people that love to hear it plus there are still a lot of guys out there who are trying to play it. I think that as long as there are guys like me that really do love playing this music then it certainly will not die with our generation. I think that almost all of the modern music is soul blues based and it is such a great time to be playing this kind of music.

Which current artist would you gladly buy a ticket in order to see them playing live?

Well funnily enough I have just bought a ticket to go and see Robin Trower play live (laughter). For me he is the classic guitarist. I have also bought tickets to go and see Blackberry Smoke; I think those guys are musical geniuses, I love them. I think that what a lot of artists are doing, for example Joe Bonamassa, is continuing to open the doors for everybody else to play the blues. I really do admire Joe’s work ethic and what he has managed to build up for himself as a player and also the following that he has achieved worldwide. It really is a huge melting pot now and long may it continue. Whenever I see what Joe has achieved it gives a guy like me a lot of hope.

Whenever you are writing what comes first for you, the lyrics or a melody?

To be honest it is all about a great riff. I always try to connect on the guitar first because that’s my house; that is where I am. I feel most comfortable writing with the guitar. I usually find myself picking away, thinking about something and if a riff pops out I will record it on my mobile phone and I will either save it for later or I will bring it the guys. We will all then jam around the riff and hopefully then something will develop organically and naturally. What you always have to remember is that it is okay to sit down on a couch and write a song but for me I have got to field test everything and initially see how it feels playing it with the band. That is what it is all about for me.

I have to say that there is not a lot of people who are doing that these days. It’s not about recording a certain member of tracks or if the song works in the studio, for me the songs have to connect firstly with me, then the band and then with the audience. That really is what counts for me. From there I will put together something that feels comfortable, start to build it, and let it evolve naturally. I will be the first to say that I am not happy with something if it doesn’t feel right. It has either got to come naturally or not at all. I am not the sort of person who will spend days picking away at a riff. Playing this kind of music you cannot afford to become too contrived.

Is it always with the electric guitar, or do you write using the acoustic guitar?

No, for me it is always with the electric guitar. The electric guitar is my instrument so it is always the electric guitar, never the acoustic. There is no rhyme or reason for the way that I calculate the madness. The only thing that matters is that it is exciting for people to listen to, it feels fresh and it connects with me. There are far too many guys out there that are doing stuff which is maybe a little too planed out which takes the spirit out of it.

Where would you like to see yourself in five years’ time?

I honestly would be happy if I were continuing to do what I am doing now, writing, recording and playing the blues. I would love to play for as many people as is humanly possible. I just want to connect with the people more. I would love to be able to tour and see the world more. I would love to be able to come over to the UK and play in every city that I can. For me, it’s not necessarily where do I see myself in five years’ time in a material way or anything like that, I just want to continue doing exactly what I am doing now.

Writing, recording, touring, which one gives you the biggest buzz?

The order in which I would put them in reference to the most enjoyment gained from each activity would have to be touring, writing, and recording. Recording for me can sometimes be a blast, it really can be the best thing in the world. I love writing especially when things flow from you but for me I would have to say that touring gives me the biggest buzz. Touring is what does it for me.

What was the first record that you bought?

That was We Sold Our Soul For Rock ‘n’ Roll by Black Sabbath. From that moment on I was really in love with Black Sabbath and their body of work.

Who did you first see performing live in concert?

The first band that I saw playing live was Aerosmith supporting Kiss (laughter). Not a bad first concert was it? It was at that moment that I thought ‘wow I want to do that’ (laughter).

On that note Jared let me once again thank you for taking the time to speak to me today, it’s been great. You take care and I will see you here in Nottingham at Rock City.

That’s no problem Kevin, you got it. Take care and I will see you soon. Bye for now.