News Column

Plugged In with Gary Nichols

October 17, 2013


Oct. 17--Few adults realize their childhood aspirations. For most, the "What I Want To Be When I Grow Up" dreams remain unfulfilled.

Count Gary Nichols among the elite.

This year, the 35-year-old Muscle Shoals native celebrates 29 years in the music industry.

The Southern rock-funk-bluegrass-Americana-rhythm-and-blues performer has rocked bars, released a single that appeared on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart and is currently touring the world as frontman for The SteelDrivers.

"It's my breath, it's what I'm supposed to do. Some people play baseball, some people save lives, some people are journalists. I am a musician. This is a part of me. It is what I have to do," Nichols said.

The one-time frequent performer at The Brick will return to Decatur on Friday as the headliner for 3rd Friday Downtown.

"It's been a long time since I've performed in Decatur. It's going to be so much fun to come back, strap on an electric guitar and let loose in a high-energy, funk rock, Muscle Shoals-type jam session," said Nichols, who previously performed with the funk-rock group Gulliver.

Ashley Ashwander said the Gary Nichols Band will perform from 8 to 10 p.m. at Founder's Park by the Old State Bank. The Oktoberfest-themed 3rd Friday represents the last block party of the season.

With the opening of new restaurants, children's activities, antique car show, marketplace, notable musicians and the agreeable weather -- knock on wood now -- the monthly 3rd Friday Downtown events have attracted larger crowds, filling the streets and shops with locals and visitors.

In preview of the event, Nichols discussed what audiences can expect, his influences, favorite bands and love for music.


--Gary Nichols, vocals and guitar

--Jamie McFarlane, bass guitar

--Justin Holder, drums

--NC Thurman, keys

What should the audience expect?

A lot of original music. The musicians are outstanding. Jamie and Justin usually play in The Local Saints, and NC used to play with me at The Brick. We'll probably throw in a Gulliver song or two. And maybe I'll even strap on the acoustic guitar and do a solo song. It's going to be a lot of fun. People will dance.

You've performed country, rock, bluegrass and funk. Do you have a preference?

It depends on my mood, the day, the crowd and the venue. I just love to play the guitar. Walking on stage with an acoustic guitar and nothing else, I love that. I also love going on stage with an electric guitar, bassist, keyboardist and drummer. It's like the difference between a glass of wine and a cocktail. A glass of wine has a mellow feeling, while whisky has more of an edge.

Who introduced you to music?

My mother and Uncle Larry. My mother gave me a ukulele when I was 11 months old. It was my favorite toy. When my dad was out of town, my Uncle Larry would come over to be the man of the house. He would bring his guitar. I remember the smell of that guitar. The smell of a new guitar is like the smell of a new car, except better. He would tell me not to touch it, walk out of the room and wait until I picked it up. Uncle Larry got me lessons with Randy Lindsey at UNA. At 6, I was playing in a band and have been doing it since. I knew early on that this is what I wanted to do. I never considered anything else.

Who influenced you?

All things Muscle Shoals, Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin, Allman Brothers, Stevie Ray Vaughan, BB King, Eric Clapton, Vince Gill, Stevie Wonder and Snoop Dogg. Both good and bad music has shaped me. I love music. There is not one genre I listen to. Music is music; someone else put a label on it.

What do you love most about what you do?

Freedom of expression is hard to beat. I was really shy as a kid and not popular. I found it hard to express myself. I was able to communicate with my guitar and vocals.

Who are you hot on now?

John Paul White, Jason Isbell, Alabama Shakes, Mumford and Sons, Avett Brothers. I really like the duo Carolina Story from Nashville. And I would have to say my current favorite band, which is different from any of my favorite bands in the past because they are so mellow, is Bella Mae. They are a group of all-female singer-songwriters.

Catherine Godbey can be reached at 256-340-2441 or

If you go

What: 3rd Friday Downtown

When: Friday, 5-10 p.m. Gary Nichols Band will perform, 8-10 p.m.

Where: Second Avenue and Bank Street

--Bank Street: Classic and antique cars, tours of the Old State Bank and heirloom garden with free herbs and plants, Carnegie's Carnival Krewe kick-off at Founder's Park, painting demonstration by Julie Robinson at The Cupboard, complimentary refreshments at Bank Street Art and Antiques.

--Second Avenue: Handmade Goods Marketplace at Casa Grande Park, haunted tour of the Princess Theatre, kids zone with face-painting, karate and sidewalk chalk.

--Music: Jordan Landers at Simp McGhee's, Tennessee River Ramblers at Bank Street Green, Farris, York and Sledge Jazz Trio on Bank Street, Gray Cauthen on Bank Street, DJ at the Princess Theatre, Kim Stone at Downtown Dawgs, Dowacky and Friends on Second Avenue, and Jonathan Laird on Second Avenue.


(c)2013 The Decatur Daily (Decatur, Ala.)

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