Wisconsin-born, Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter and red-hot blues guitarist, Jared James Nichols returns this October with a new album Black Magic.
He fronts a “power-trio” under his own name, with sounds based around the raw vision of late 1960s & early 1970s hard-rocking blues outfits such as Cream and Mountain.
Over the last four years, Jared James has shared stages with ZZ Top, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Zaak Wylde, Glenn Hughes, Walter Trout, Blue Oyster Cult, UFO and Saxon.
Black Magic features 10 new songs and is released via Listenable Records on Friday 27th October.
We caught up with Jared at this year’s Ramblin’ Man Fair.
RAMzine: Tell us all about the new record…
“I can tell you this… it’s direct, it’s raw, it’s straight to the point. If you’ve heard Old Glory [the debut album] and you like the direction and the style [of it] then Black Magic is like a stripped down version of Old Glory. It’s a little bit more raw. I’ve released a single ‘Last Chance’ and that had a pretty heavy hit to it. But the album has so many influences, we touch upon a lot of bases. Pure blues al over the record, of course… but it’s got that Southern flair and it’s a little bit more dirty , if I can say that. A few years of touring has progressed the music to this point, you know. I’m really excited and I think, honestly, people are really gonna dig the fact that it touches so many different bases whilst staying true to the same thing.”
RAMzine: What were your earliest musical influences ?
Honestly, the more I think about it the more I realize there were so many. It started with Sabbath, Quo, The Who all the key stones, right? But then I started digging deeper… Guys like Jack Bruce and Free, obviously Cream, Mountain, West, Bruce and Laing, Peter Green, Fleetwood Mac, The Taste, Steve Marriott, Humble Pie, all that kinda stuff, you know. Those sounds started creeping in and really changed the way that I play, especially when I started playing as a trio.”
“Oh man! I just wanna sound like Cream, Wheels of Fire you know? But it’s like with my own spin. That influence runs deep and I think that to me that music means everything. But when I get out from under my rock I see that wow! A lot of people don’t even know it! Or maybe, somehow, people brushed it out. And so, in the live thing, I really wanna go further into that. I wanna push deeper into that thing that Cream was doing and what Rory Gallagher was going for.”
RAMzine: You obviously enjoy the experience of playing live, but recording… is that a chore?
“You know what? The only chore I have (and it’s not the recording, I think the recording is fun, right?) but I find the only chore comes when I’m trying to write songs. For me, anything that I’ve written and I have enjoyed and it stayed with me, has been something that’s been written off the cuff. It’s almost kinda written itself. Maybe from a jam or from an idea. But when I sit down with a pen & paper and try to write a song — I’m not very good at that.”
“The way I connect with music is on such a primal level, right? The live thing. Or being in a studio or maybe getting the right tones… getting the hooks and lyrics. That’s primal. But the sitting down with pen & paper thing… Nah! I’m a bit lacklustre.
RAMzine: Tell us about your guitar Old Glory
Yep! That’s my Les Paul custom. That guitar kinda embodies everything I’m going for with my trio. What makes it a different instrument to all the others is that, instead of having two or even three pick-ups it only has one, in the bridge. And it has a p90. Actually I was very lucky to find the guitar. First of all it was custom made for somebody, Gibson made it in their custom shop for someone but then they hated it. They even wrote on line, “I hate this guitar. It doesn’t play. It doesn’t sound like I want it to.” And, of course, when I looked at it I said to myself, “Ooh! That’s it.”
RAMzine: How did you know what it would sound like?
“I didn’t. I just took a chance! Sometimes you gotta take chances, yeah? And with that guitar people would think, why would you only want one pick-up? Well the answer is, for me, it’s more along the lines of figuring out everything you can get out of it. So, yeah, that guitar’s really special to me. Every time I pick it up to play I start to get excited!
RAMzine: Do you think that your blues translate across genres and can be appreciated by hard rock and even heavy metal devotees?
“Yeah, it’s funny because when I was growing up I was really heavily into blues. Just the blues. I remember there was a point when I wasn’t playing with any distortion. It was very clean with a Stratocaster. And when I moved to L.A. I wondered how I was gonna break out… But once I got that single pick-up and I put some attitude on it, well I knew that’s it. You’re right.”
“We’ll go from playing a blues festival to a heavy metal festival and people don’t mind. It translates. Maybe in the past people had more filters but now we are here, and the state that music is in, we can all agree, that if artists are playing real music with real instruments and it has a great beat and a great vibe to it, that’s what’s important these days. With the shape of the music industry now, anyone that’s real about it is a rare bird.”
RAMzine: Well, thanks for keeping it real and we wish you lots of success with “Black Magic.”
Jared James Nichols was talking to Neil Mach.