Jared James Nichols Explains Decision to Switch From Strats and Teles to Les Pauls: ’This Feels Like a Cadillac!’

In his new interview with Total Guitar, modern blues master Jared James Nichols reflected on his use of Gibson and Epiphone Les Paul guitars. Jared, who’s now pretty much entirely associated with the legendary single-cutaway model, revealed that he used to be into Stratocasters and Telecaster as a kid. However, trying out an LP once pretty much changed his mind, saying that it felt like a Cadillac.

Discussing his use of Les Pauls, Nichols revealed a deeper connection with the instrument that goes way back before he even started playing guitar. He said:

“I was actually born in the same city as Les Paul, a place called Waukesha in Wisconsin. There’s a massive street there called Les Paul Parkway that was named in tribute to him, which has all these street signs with his signature on them.

Jared James Nichols - Down the Drain (Official Music Video)

“So even before I knew what it was all about, when I was like five years old or whatever, I remember thinking how cool that was. I probably wanted to steal one!

However, as Jared explains further, when he started playing, Telecasters and Stratocasters were his weapons of choice. He continued:

“Later on, when I started out on guitar, I was playing a lot of Strats because of Stevie Ray Vaughan and even Telecasters, because Jimmy Page often recorded with them. And then after a while I ended up trying out a Les Paul Standard with two humbuckers.”

Jared James Nichols - Skin 'n Bone (Official Music Video)

But then he tried a Les Paul Standard with two humbuckers and his whole world changed. Jared added:

“The first thing I thought was, ‘Holy fuck, this feels like a Cadillac!’ I knew what I had in my hands was some seriously fancy shit. Then I hit an E chord and felt all this power. It sounded huge, like all the Black Sabbath records I was listening to at the time.”

To Nichols, this Les Paul was a game-changer. Nothing could ever compare to the raw power of the legendary guitar model. As he said:

“I quickly realized the other instruments I had been playing didn’t sound like that. I knew I was holding something truly special. To me, it felt like the guitar was alive.”

It had this super punch that no other guitar had – and every time I would try out different brands or models, just to see what else was out there and hear how they made me play, I would keep coming back to the Les Paul. Honestly, it just kept calling back to me and I think it was a combination of the weight, the feel and the sound…

However, Jared also pointed out another thing that we may not always think of when discussing Les Pauls — its 4-knob layout. Like it or not, knobs on your guitar are an incredibly underrated tool, especially if you’re playing through a dynamically responsive tube-driven amp.

And don’t even get us started on how versatile the criminally underrated middle position can be when you utilize all controls. Jared said:

“People don’t talk about this enough, but I really love the layout of Les Pauls. It feels so user-friendly to me – you have a volume and tone as a pair for each pickup – and the pickup selector up high, where it makes sense to have one. And the more I started using those controls, the more I realized just how expressive a Les Paul can be.”

Epiphone | Jared James Nichols "Gold Glory" Les Paul Custom

“Turning those knobs and fiddling around can really change your tone! So that’s when I started to dig in and try to figure out what the fuck my sound was going to be. How would I take this guitar that we all know and love, which we’ve all heard our heroes play, and find my own voice in it?” 

But, as you may already know, Jared uses Les Pauls with P90s these days, which are single-coil pickups. And, according to what he says, such a pickup layout can actually “cover even more ground” than your usual setup. Jared adds:

“Eventually, I ended up with Les Pauls fitted with P-90s and realized a guitar with those pickups could cover even more ground. They can sound super-aggressive, almost like humbuckers, but they can also be very touch-sensitive.”

New Jared James Nichols Epiphone Old Glory Les Paul Custom Signature in Pelham Blue

“Whenever I would manipulate the volume or tone controls, I could dial in so many different sounds, and I quickly realized that was it for me.”

“This was going to be my sound. A Les Paul with just one P-90, which is what I tend to play, can go from a whisper to a scream. It’s funny, most people will look at Les Pauls and think, ‘I’ve seen those things since forever; they’re kinda boring!’

“But there’s something about the construction and design that has allowed players to speak over the years. It’s a tried-and-true instrument that has stood the test of time.” 

The BEST "Factory Error" | 2021 Epiphone Jared James Nichols JJN Gold Glory | Review, Demo + Compare

These days, Nichols has his signature model with Epiphone. Called the Old Glory, it’s a super-simple yet incredibly effective guitar, combining usual Les Paul features with the minimalistic single-pickup and wraparound bridge approach of LP Juniors. Elsewhere in the interview, he recalled getting this signature model:

“I’ll never forget the day I was hanging out at Gibson and they said, ‘Hey Jared, we want to make you signature Les Paul Custom through Epiphone, so it’s affordable for kids!’ They hadn’t even finished talking and I was like, ‘Yes, 100 percent, I’m in!’ There was the Old Glory in black, then we did the Gold Glory in gold and soon there will be a Pelham Blue version coming out.”

Photo: Summerissweet2021 (ImaniGivertz JJNStudio-65)


  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at Ultimate-Guitar.com, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor.