The blues guitarist’s charismatic charm comes shining through in this Rig Rundown, where he walks us through his trusty lineup of Les Pauls and simple, practical gear.
“I feel like a lot of people, when they see me play, they think, ‘Oh, it's going to be super aggressive, and there's a lot of shades of that,” shares Jared James Nichols. “But I'm so obsessed with the tone, the feel of it…. Growing up listening to Jeff Beck, Albert King, guys like that; the super feel stuff to me is where it's at.”
That sentiment is overwhelmingly clear when hearing just a single note of Nichols’ playing. And what makes his musicianship that much more compelling is his abandonment of the pick—most of the time, he’s not really “fingerpicking,” but he uses his fingers to shred like any picking guitarist. He explains, “I'm a lefty, so that's where it originated. I tried to use a pick, and I was really uncoordinated. I can play a lot of the same riffs that someone could do with a pick, but play ’em and they sound a lot different.”
Earlier this year, Nichols came out with his third full-length release, Jared James Nichols, which adds to his catalog 12 more dirt-covered, gritty tunes that dig in with his infectious passion and signature, glistening tone. The album comes on the heels of Nichols’ growing success, bolstered by his extensive touring and tens and thousands of new fans.
Given his commitment to Les Pauls, it’s fitting that Nichols was born in Waukesha, Wisconsin, the birthplace of the guitar’s namesake inventor. Now, Nichols is a global ambassador of Gibson Guitars, an honor shared by only four other guitarists. And, since his last Rig Rundown, he was honored with a signature Epiphone guitar. In this new look at his rig, he shares his legion of trusty Les Pauls, as well as why he prefers simplicity when it comes to amps and pedals.
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The first guitar Jared shared on the Rundown was a prototype for his new Signature Epiphone “Old Glory” Les Paul Custom, in a matte Pelham blue. It features just one of his signature Seymour Duncan P-90 pickups at the bridge, and locking tuners. “For me, I love the simplicity of a dog ear because when you roll up the volume, it's just like a microphone,” he says. This and all of his guitars are strung with DR Strings, .010-.046.
“I have rarely seen ’59 single-cuts,” Jared shares on his 1959 Les Paul Junior, “and something about this guitar is just really cool; it has a really articulate tone.” It’s been appointed with Grover tuners, which he feels gives it a different sound. He’s borrowing it from his friend, Charlie Daughtry, who runs the Les Paul forum.
Jared’s 1953 Les Paul goldtop was sprayed red long ago—“They just rattle-canned that thing!” But, other than the over-spray and frets, it’s all original. The thin ear wrap tailpiece indicates that it came out of Kalamazoo in late 1953. “Simply put, this is one of those ones that just inspires me to play,” Jared enthuses.
The night of this rundown, Nichols was playing this 1959 Les Paul Standard which belongs to his friend Kris Blakely, aka Fried Okra. It once was owned by Paul Kossoff of Free. On this particular model, Nichols comments, “I love the ones that vibrate against your body. And then while you're playing, it feels like it's alive.”
The Perfect Storm
This center-seamed, flamed-maple-topped Les Paul Standard goldtop was salvaged after being caught in a tornado in Peoria, Illinois in 2013. It came into Jared’s possession after someone reached out to him on Instagram—the guitar had fallen into the person’s yard after the storm. It was masterfully restored by Joel Wilkins of JW Restoration, who merged a newly built neck with the guitar’s original electronics and plastics. Its pots date to April of 1952. “From the moment I plugged it in, this guitar turned into like, my favorite Les Paul,” says Jared.
Here's some close-ups of the scars from Dorothy's turn with the twister.
Down and Dirty Meets the Loudmouth
On the right, Jared has put some serious mileage on his Blackstar JJN-20R MkII Signature, which came out in 2019. He runs it into a 2x12 cabinet. “This is the first one they ever sent me, and I'm still using it. I run this on the clean channel with the dirt all the way up,” he explains. Along with his JJN-20R, Nichols runs a Blackstar Artisan 100-watt into a matching 4x12 cabinet. “This thing is like cut your head off loud,” he comments, “What I'm basically using this for is a lot of the low end.”
Jared James Nichols' Pedalboard
Nichols likes to keep his pedalboard simple. He runs a cable from his guitar to his RMC Wah Pedal, which runs to a Tycobrahe Octavia Octave Fuzz, into an Ibanez TS808HW Tube Screamer, into a B.G. Harding Zonk Machine—“It’s disgusting! It’s gross!” Jared enthuses—to a Sabbadius Funky Vibe (from an Argentinian company), to an Ibanez TS808DX Tube Screamer, into a Lehle switcher that sends the signal to his amps.