Exclusive interview – hellfest.fr: JARED JAMES NICHOLS
“It feels like I have been training for it. I put in all this work and now it’s time to kick some ass and rip it apart! Once again – to play Hellfest and to go to festivals like this is an honor!”
Jared James Nichols – May 16, 2017
How the hell are you?
I’m great man! Living in sunny LA sitting here with a guitar, I can’t complain.
I was struck by your move from Wisconsin to LA – what was that like?
It was an insane culture shock man! I literally grew up in farm country. The closest neighbor was five ten minutes away by car. To get to the nearest town was ten miles. For me to come from there to Hollywood was a culture shock. I was like the kid that got off the bus. I embraced it and I saw the potential here and I just ran with it.
Obviously you’ve wanted to do this for a while – but what attracted you to LA?
I was touring and playing the Midwest from the age of 15 and I knew I had to get out of that area and go to more of a music city because it was hard to find guys to play with. I always had the fire to play but I knew if I moved to Nashville or New York or LA it would be a smart move. I got attracted to LA first off because a ton of my favorite players and musicians live here, there’s beautiful weather and I didn’t want to go the country route in Nashville so I figured I would come out on blind faith!
To what extent does being from Wisconsin impact your music today?
The more I’m out here the more I get in touch with my roots. I still play what I grew up on. I took what I was doing back in the Midwest and when I moved to LA I could start my own trio and I got more of a rock edge and more aggressive. That’s just the lifestyle. I kept my roots with blues and soul but added a little more piss and vinegar. It’s cool for something to blend together like that. It’s funny to see that evolution! It’s like, damn that’s different!
What do you think about your music appeals to the bigger guys who take you out?
I think what they connect with is that they genuinely love blues and rock and roll and playing guitar. I put everything I have into it. I’m not trying to do what’s cool, I do what I love. Maybe it’s because in Wisconsin we are twenty years behind the curve. It’s like going back in time. They see that I grew up on the same stuff as them. Maybe that radiates with them to see a younger dude taking it somewhere else and doing it now, not ten twenty years ago.
How do you keep your songwriting current?
It’s funny. Usually when I write songs it comes out of nowhere, I hear a riff or a melody and I put it together and within twenty minutes I have a song. I don’t know if it’s a thing of what I’m listening to at the moment or just in my own head. I love collaborating too. On the last record I was able to write some songs with Eddy Kramer who wrote with Hendrix and Zeppelin. When I worked with him I went to a whole other headspace. The way we constructed the song was totally different and it’s something we would never have thought to do. I’m writing now with a guy named Tony Perry whose father is Joe from Aerosmith. He is super curent and listen to songs on the radio. He has a lot of different ideas. It’s interesting because everything I do is ‘old school or die’ and I’m able to take that mentality and fuse it with current sounds I hear and try and make that into my own thing. Taking a fresh approach at something old and looking at it from a different angle. I try not to get to into my head about writing. I just see what hits me and work on that.
Having that outside voice can really help…
Absolutely! I think a lot of people think they can do it themselves. I love collaborating because it’s a whole other influence that you would never have yourself and it comes to the table and it’s like “Damn, this is killer!”
How do you choose who you collaborate with?
It depends. There are some people who I had in my sights, I heard some music that they produced or played on and I was like “Man, this is great!” Or if I’m just kicking it with a guy and we have similar influences, or we don’t… I’m not picky. I can tell within a few minutes of sitting down or playing if its going to work. I’m currently collaborating with an insane Brazilian metal drummer and we are playing together and some of the stuff on the new record has him on drums. He’s so talented and hearing him play with a mixture of almost metal and Led Zeppelin and my guitar playing… it makes me play and write different. I’m not fearless, I make mistakes, but I like to write with all types of people. What’s the worst that can happen? It will suck? Then we don’t do it again!
Something you said just now was very interesting – you said you can tell within a few minutes if it’s going to work out if you’re going to collaborate… how do you know?
I know it sounds cliché but its the vibe! It has to have the right vibe. If we can sit in a room together face to face and are playing or writing, we just have to hit it off. Sometimes guys will get a little passive aggressive or be strict and stubborn and whenever someone gets stubborn… I always say “Let’s try everything!” You can tell within a few minutes if someone you’re working with is on the same wavelength and working for the actual song and not because they want to do something because it is fast or technical. The question is who is there for the right reasons to make the song as good as possible. With Tony it clicked right away.
This is just kind of a silly fanboy question – but is it ever weird working with the son of the guy from Aerosmith?
It was at first! I met his dad before I met him. When Aerosmith was recording their last record, who else but me got to listen to playback with the band. I was in the studio with Jack Douglas who did all the classic Aerosmith and John Lennon and I was like a kid in a dream. Then when he showed up a few weeks later it was like “I know your dad kind of…” and we hit it off. It was surreal because we record in LA and we did a lot of it at Johnny Depp’s house because Johnny and Joe are friends. It’s insane because I get to record and play in situations that are beyond my wildest dreams. That I won’t take for granted because a lot of stuff is about building relationships and with the relationships he has I’ve been able to do some crazy stuff! But fanboying? I get it! If you had told me a few years ago I would have been doing all of this I would have said there’s no way!
How many times a day do you pinch yourself?
(Laughter) A year ago, two years ago I was all about that, it was all happening. Now I can’t even think like that because I get inside my own head so much about it. Now it’s like “This is what it is and I have to work hard to keep this going and push it further. I know I’m lucky to be able to do this stuff and to have these opportunities and to make these connections, but then again there’s the whole fact that after doing this from the age of 16-17 and doing it this long it’s still exciting for me to see that it’s paying off. It’s one of those things where it’s like, “Is this real”? I will be in situations and be like “Is this happening?” Hanging with Zakk Wylde – I don’t believe that will ever get old, I can’t believe it actually happened. I’m very lucky!
Speaking of cool things you get to do – have you had a chance to check out the Hellfest lineup at all?
Of course! I saw the documentary even! It will be insane. To open up the main stage at Hellfest… even before I dreamed about traveling to Europe I knew what Hellfest was and even after seeing the documentary and the lineup and knowing we will be able to stay and hang out… I’m over the moon! I can’t wait! I didn’t believe it until I saw my name on the poster! Opening up the main stage is cool but the headliner is Aerosmith and like we discussed there is history there. I’m over the moon for it. It can’t come quick enough. It feels like I have been training for it. I put in all this work and now it’s time to kick some ass and rip it apart! Once again – to play Hellfest and to go to festivals like this is an honor! We are going to stay two days and we are hanging! We are going to be in it having a great time!
To head towards the end, what do you love so much about music?
To be honest what I love about music more than anything is for me as someone who plays music is that it’s like my output. Besides the expression it’s how I get through the day, playing guitar and putting everything I have into music is my filter for everyday stresses and life in general. Other people like MMA or take it out in drinking, but for me music makes the world go round. Honestly the guitar is like my best friend, it’s the one constant in my life and has been since I was 15. It sounds cliché but it has taken me all over the world and I’ve met my heroes and had so many adventures. To me music has been my life in a way that it has kind of created my life. I don’t think I chose that, I think the guitar spoke to me at a young age and I took it and ran with it and for a kid like me to come from Wisconsin and growing up in cornfields and living this lifestyle… it’s funny to think about. It’s one of those things I will always be grateful for. The guitar is my best friend. Without it I would be lost or in jail! It has kept me sane and insane!
Interview: Matt Bacon
Many Thanks to Steffie (Listenable Records)