Gary Nichols
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Gary Nichols


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"The Ultimate Definition of Dangerous Country"

Feature Article November 2006

The Ultimate Definition of Dangerous Country

By Dan Wunsch
All rights reserved
Copyright 2006

NMG was at the International Entertainment Buyers Association (IEBA) convention in Nashville in October, which brings talent buyers and venue owners from around the world to Nashville looking for talent to book. As part of the convention, Buddy Lee’s Birthday Bash is a showcase at BB King’s Nightclub of artists signed to the roster of Buddy Lee Attractions. The acts performing that night were all outstanding, but one young man especially stood out from the musical pack, Gary Nichols. His funky, bluesy and swampy countrified singing and guitar playing were one of the musical highlights of the night.

Several years ago on the same B B King stage NMG spotted an unknown female singer performing during the Country Radio Seminar. She sang a song that was about to be her debut Sony Records single, and she too caught the ear of NMG. She was the photo feature in our news section for the CRS event. It turns out the act was Gretchen Wilson and the song “Redneck Woman” written by John Rich. The rest is musical history.

Ironically, Gary Nichols’ current single released to radio last month is also a song penned by John Rich with his Musik Mafia Mate James Otto as a co-writer and is entitled “I Can’t Love You Anymore.“ Don’t be surprised if lightning strikes twice, and this lamenting lost-love ballad launches Nichols’ career.

His first single off the album, “Unbroken Ground,” written by John Paul White, James LeBlanc, Kris Bergsnes & Gary Nichols, made waves charting in the top 40 of Billboard and the video of the song, directed by LA’s Paul Boyd, reaching the top 15 videos on both GAC and CMT.

The Album

His debut album on Mercury records is entitled GARY NICHOLS. His unique bluesy country sound permeates throughout the disc from the party anthem “Southern Girls” to the rocker “Homegrown” and the grooving “Love for a Living.” One of the most passionate songs on the album is the ballad, “Makin’ Love to You,” whose lyrics and melody capture the sexual connotation of its title. The album was produced by two of Nashville’s most successful producers, Scott Hendricks and James Stroud. How does James Stroud describe the Nichols’ music, “The ultimate definition of Dangerous Country.”

Sadly, you can’t buy the album at this time, for it’s release date is early Spring 2007.

NMG asked Nichols what was his favorite song on the album, and he responded, “You know my favorites are all of them. I was concentrating on the entire album being representative of me as an artist and my music, and I believe I achieved this, so it would be hard to pick one favorite.”

The Big Break.

Nichols, unlike many singers trying to “make it,” never actually moved to Music City. He was born and lived in famed Muscle Shoal, Alabama and made several trips to Music City, mainly pitching songs; he considered himself in the early days as mainly a songwriter and musician. That’s when fate stepped in. He joined the rock cover group Gulliver and became their lead singer. In 2003, the band was hired to do a private party in Nashville, and the young crooner caught the attention of Nashville producer Scott Hendricks. Gary recalled, “During the break I started talking to Scott Hendricks, and to be honest with you, I didn’t know who he was. When he found out I was a songwriter, he asked to hear some of my material. I took him out to my car and played him songs I had written. Well, I get back to Alabama and I have my last $20 in my pocket and about to buy some guitar strings, when Scott calls me on my cell phone. He tells me he wants to work with me and he’s gonna make me a millionaire. I said, ‘What did you say?’ That’s how it started.”

The All Important Buzz.

One of the best ways to get a record deal in this town is to create a buzz about yourself from different people in the business. E. J. Bernas, a radio promoter out of Alabama, heard the young artist performing on Jerry Phillips’ Radio Show, “Muscle Shoals to Music City.“ E. J. told the A & R folks at Mercury Records about the talented guitar slinger from Alabama, so they already knew about Nichols when Hendricks approached them with songs he had produced on the young artist. Mercury signed Nichols, and his first album on the label was produced by Scott Hendricks, James Stroud and also Gary Nichols. Nichols commented, “Before I signed I wanted to make sure the album would represent who I am as an artist and my music.”

The Triple Threat

Besides being called “Dangerous Country”, Nichols is also “the triple threat”, based on his talent as a singer, musican and writer.

Nichols regards his musical skills as being mainly self-taught. Nichols related to NMG, ”I only took a couple of lessons. My one g - Nashville Music Guide


-"Unbroken Ground" - Top 40 Billboard and R&R'
-"Unbroken Ground" - Top 20 CMT Video
-"Unbroken Ground" - Top 10 CMT Pure Country Countdown
-"I Can't Love You Anymore" - over 100,000 iTunes downloads
-Gary has received 3,065 spins to date in America's top 120 largest radio Markets. Including 433 spins in his hottest market Miami.
-Gary's song "Going Fast" is used in EA Sports "NASCAR '07" Video game. All formats
-Gary has also spent the last year doing free radio shows and travelling to and visiting with each of the top 120 market stations, including all the major corporate owned stations such as Clear Channel, Cummulus, Entercom, CBS Radio, Citadel and Others.



Gary Nichols may be country music’s new “guitar slinger,” but don’t mistake him for a “rookie.”

The hotshot instrumentalist, singing wonder and songwriting champ fits the classic definition of a “guitar slinger,” but he’s no novice. This is a role he was born to play.

Although still in his 20s, Gary Nichols has been rocking the clubs of Northern Alabama and Southern Tennessee for nearly a decade. And that’s just his most recent musical history. This is a guy who was given a ukulele at age 11 months, who was warbling tunes at age 3, who won his first talent contest at age 5, who got his first paying music job and joined his first band at age 6, who played in honky-tonks at age 7, who was touring regionally at age 13, who performed in Nashville at age 17 and who had his first recording session at age 19.

Gary Nichols began playing guitar seriously when he was 6 years old. By the time he was 9, he was also proficient on bass and drums. He started playing piano in church at age 12, and somewhere along the way, he picked up mandolin and trumpet. Oh, and he’s a world-class singer to boot.

One listen to the autobiographical rocker “Going Fast” or the sky-high power ballad “Making Love to You” is enough to inform you that you are in the presence of vocal greatness. The ear-catching, alcohol-recovery song “Stay Strong,” the swampy groove and survivor lyric of “No Mississippi” and the Southern Fried rocker “Makin Love for a Livin'” demonstrate Gary Nichols’ additional prowess as a songwriter.

All of these illustrations of his oversized talent appear on his debut collection for Muscle Shoals Records. So does his Top 40 Single “Unbroken Ground,”

“I just kind of fell into making music,” says Gary Nichols of his impressive credentials. “Obviously, it was something I had an interest in from a very young age. But even after I was into it professionally, I thought I just wanted to be a songwriter and a session musician. I damn sure didn’t know how to go about getting a recording contract.” Fortunately, others did. And that’s how, eventually, he made the journey from Muscle Shoals, Alabama to the worlds stage.

Donald Gary Nichols II was born in the Muscle Shoals area in 1978. His father, Donald Gary I, was a construction worker who loved the classic country sounds of Conway Twitty, Vern Gosdin and, especially, George Jones. His mother was a toy-store clerk who sang gospel music. His Uncle Larry (Condrey), who lived with Gary’s family for a while, was a guitar player in area country bands.

“Guitar slingers” in country music include such Hall of Fame members as Merle Haggard and Glen Campbell, as well as such current stars as Keith Urban, Vince Gill and Brad Paisley. Gary Nichols admires all of these singer/songwriter/instrumentalist “triple threats,” but his musical education extends beyond country’s boundaries.

As a teenage guitarist, he performed in bands that specialized in Southern rock, soul or pop top-40 hits. He also gravitated to the sounds of Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Stevie Wonder and Eric Clapton, as well as to such contemporary-country record makers as Alabama, Lee Roy Parnell and Ronnie Milsap. He cites all of these as influences, as well as the traditional country music of his boyhood.

“Uncle Larry would leave his guitar out and say, ‘Don’t touch that!’” Gary recalls, “Which made me want to touch it even more. As soon as he’d leave the room, I’d pick up that guitar. I remember performing in three talent shows between the ages of four and six. I would always sing either ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ [Carl Perkins], ‘Swingin’’ [John Anderson], ‘Elvira’ [The Oak Ridge Boys] or ‘Holding Her and Loving You’ [Earl Thomas Conley], which must have sounded strange being sung by a 5-year-old.”

“Those three talent shows pretty much cemented my goal to be a musician. At the third one, I won $100 and a chance to be on the Country Boy Eddie TV show in Birmingham. I took that $100 and bought my first guitar.”

His guitar teacher put the 6-year-old into the kiddie country band J.J. Smith & Company. For the next three years, he sang his same four country ditties in the group. When Gary was seven, his father began taking him into bars and asking local bands to let the boy get up and sing a couple of tunes.

“I loved music so much that I took my guitar to kindergarten and first grade with me. By this time, I was also playing and singing in church. I just kept on playing, taking my guitar to school and sitting at home watching music videos, trying to learn the guitar riff in ‘Sweet Child O Mine’ by Guns N’ Roses.”

At age 14, he joined his second country band, Young Country. As before, he was the youngest member in the group. A short stint in a group called Cross Roads brought him to Nashville to play at the Renaissance Hotel. Then there was his teenaged tenure in his uncle’s Backwoods Band

His father suffered a stroke around this time. The money Gary made making music now became more importan