Guitarist Nick Perri signed his first contract with music legend Clive Davis when he was only 15 years old. Ten years later and he’s played in bands including Silvertide, Perry Farrell and most recently Shinedown.That is until Perri decided late last year to quit Shinedown, take his enviable collection of Gibsons and strike out on his own.

Why did you leave Shinedown?

My decision to leave has absolutely nothing to do with the band, crew, label, or the management. Everybody in that organization is top notch. I just felt like I needed to be playing my own tunes.

What’s next for you?

I have to go and do what I feel is my calling. I’m ready to write the songs I want to write, play the way I want to play and pick the players — basically do it my way. I can you I’m going to work my ass of and write the best songs possible. I’m going to take the next six months to write and demo as many songs as humanly possible. I’m going to create a body of work that I’m really proud of. The real big change here is that I’m going to be stepping out as the front man. I’m not running short on inspiration; I’ve got plenty to say and it’s my time to say it.

You have so many Gibsons! How many are there exactly?

I decided to invest my money in guitars. I remember my band mates at the time were spending their money on some of the craziest, off-the-wall stuff. If I still had everything that I ever bought it would be well over 100 guitars. Over the last year I decided to streamline my collection and only keep what I actively use and a couple of sentimental pieces.

What sentimental pieces do you own?

I still have my very first Gibson, which was a Heritage Cherry Gibson SG, just like Angus Young’s, who was one of my big influences growing up. I got that guitar on May 5, 1998 and it was a gift from my parents — I still remember that day. That was the start for me, I was hooked.

Why Gibsons?

At one point in every guitar player’s life they have to make a decision — are you a Gibson guy or not? There’s really only two ways to go. I at that moment, when I got my SG, became a diehard, loyal Gibson fan. I’ve even got Gibson bar stools. I’m just that guy.

Have you owned other guitars?

Sure, I’ve owned quite a few different brands over the years, but the staple of my collection is the Gibson.

Is it true that all of your Gibsons are Ebony?

When I first joined Shinedown, I had a definitive vision of what I wanted to have on-stage and what I wanted to present. That vision was to have all Gibsons, all in black. I have an ES-335, Les Paul Custom, a ’57 reissue, a ’67 reissue Flying V, an Elvis Presley Signature Dove, the black SG GT, an Explorer and a black Firebird. When you see all those guitars together in a rack, it just has such a presence.

How does using different guitars during a show affect your playing?

Good question. For any professional about to go out on tour, one of the things you do is sit down with the set list and make commitments to which instrument will serve each song. You have to consider the tuning too — I would set up each guitar based on the song I chose to play. My guitars are my tools. These are my hammer and nails when I go to the job.

Who are your influences?

That’s interesting. I actually didn’t even hear any rock and roll music until I was 12. I grew up in a conservative house, but I have this incredible person in my life, My Aunt Teri, and she was the rock and roll rebel of the family. She gave me two cassette tapes that changed my life: Pearl Jam 10 and AC/DC Highway to Hell. All of the guitar greats influenced me: Angus Young, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Johnny Winter, Albert King, Freddie King. All of those guys.

What first grabbed you about the guitar?

I remember that my favorite part of the songs was the instrumental — later I figured out that was called the guitar solo. When I discovered those two words, “guitar solo,” it was like that was my calling. It was a spiritual moment — I knew that’s what I was put on earth to do.