Jared James Nichols is taking his scorching guitar chops around the world this year, playing shows and festivals from the U.K. to the States. He reaches the U.S. in September to support UFO and Saxon on their fall run.

Catch Nichols on the road, and you’ll surely spot him with his black Les Paul Custom.

“Gibsons inspire me to play!” Nichols told Gibson.com. “I want to reach higher and play better when I pick up a Gibson. With these guitars, the possibilities are endless: unmatched tone, legacy and quality. They are the best.”

Nichols’ upcoming studio album, Black Magic, drops this fall. Tony Perry – the son of Aerosmith’s Joe Perry – produced the set. Nichols checked in with Gibson.com to discuss his favorite Gibson guitars (“For me, the Les Paul Custom is EVERYTHING,” he says), the new album and more.

You're known for having some amazing guitar chops. What are your first memories of playing guitar?

Jared-James-Nichols_by-Jim-Donnelly

I was 15 years old when got my first taste of electric guitar. Honestly, at first, I really wanted to be a drummer. Unfortunately, the drums were way too loud and driving everyone in the house crazy. My parents steered me to try out the guitar. My brother had an old acoustic stored away in the closet. They said that if I could learn a song all of the way through, they would buy me an electric. I locked myself in my bedroom for a weekend. I remember learning the riffs for “Dazed and Confused” by Led Zeppelin. I was absolutely hooked! That next Monday, I got my first electric guitar.

Who are some of your guitar heroes?

My biggest guitar heroes are Leslie West and Stevie Ray Vaughan. I love guitarists that play with intensity and fire—tone, touch and feel. I take so much inspiration and style from their playing. Sometimes when I'm playing, I say to myself, “What would Leslie do?!” That's when you know you have serious influence!

Congratulations on the new album, Black Magic. The first single, "Last Chance," has a great, edgy rock sound. What was your approach to making this album? 

The approach for the new record is real, raw, and honest. It's very old school and nothing is over polished. I went in with ideas, but nothing was set in stone. Guitar wise, I took a lot of risks. Instead of writing and preparing all of my solos beforehand, I worked them out in real time in the studio. My main goal was to capture the “live energy and feel” on this record. It was exciting. I let it all hang out.

What do you love about how the album turned out, musically?

For this record, I love that I was able to do exactly what I wanted to do: breathe a little fresh air into the guitar and the blues-rock genre I love. It's an incredible feeling to put my own spin and stamp in music.

What was it like working with producer Tony Perry, Joe Perry's son?

It was a blast! We have been friends for a good while now. When the opportunity came to do my second record, I called him right away. He has amazing talent on both sides of the game, engineering and writing songs. It's in his blood! We wrote this record together in no time without any stress or hiccups. Like myself, he likes to take risks and isn't afraid to push the limits or crank my amplifiers all the way up.

Let's talk guitars! I've often seen you with a killer-looking Les Paul. What makes the Les Paul a good fit for you as a player?

For me, the Les Paul Custom is EVERYTHING. It is the whole package: pure tone, playability and incredibly expressive. It's beyond inspiring. When I think of playing music, I envision doing it with my Les Paul. Honestly, I've built my whole style, tone and career with this guitar at the forefront. Believe me, I have tried to find its faults and limitations, but I haven't succeeded yet.

What are your main Gibson guitars on the road and in the studio?

My main Gibson is a single-pickup black Les Paul Custom I nicknamed “Old Glory.” Besides playing without a pick, this guitar has become the main thing people now associate me with. It's like a Les Paul Jr. in a Les Paul Custom outfit. It has a single Seymour Duncan P90 and a wraparound tailpiece. I've been all over the world with this guitar. I love it so much, it's basically the only one I play. It's the perfect guitar for me.

Tell me about the Gibson acoustics that you use.

I use a J-45 a ton! It's another staple for me. It's amazing for writing and recording. I tend to layer my electric guitar parts in the studio with an acoustic to add more dimension. The Gibson electrics and acoustics go hand in hand. 

What makes Gibson guitars special? 

They inspire me to play! I want to reach higher and play better when I pick up a Gibson. With these guitars, the possibilities are endless: unmatched tone, legacy and quality. They are the best.

What's next for you? 

After a busy summer in Europe, we are getting ready for a U.S. tour with UFO and SAXON in September. I'm excited to release the new record Black Magic in the fall and tour everywhere on that album. 2018 is going to be crazy and full of excitement. I’m guaranteed to be on the road, crankin' my Les Paul all over the world!

Photo credit: Jim Donnelly