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NEW ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: Gary Nichols
By Peter Cronin    © 2006 CMA Close Up News Service / Country Music Association, Inc.

Considering where he grew up, it’s not all that surprising that Gary Nichols is a good musician. But even by the soulful-and-swampy standards of Muscle Shoals, Ala., Nichols has stood out as a singing/songwriting/guitar-slinging prodigy. He was holding (and playing) a ukulele before he was a year old, singing on key at 3, winning talent contests at 5, playing bars by the time he’d turned 7 and touring regionally at 13.

“I remember performing in three talent shows between the ages of 4 and 6,” Nichols said. “I would always sing either ‘Blue Suede Shoes,’ “Swingin’,’ ‘Elvira’ or Earl Thomas Conley’s ‘Holding Her and Loving You,’ which must have sounded strange being sung by a 5-year-old.”

He started out Country, but the young Nichols took a detour, honing his guitar chops in a variety of Southern rock and Top 40 bands, before joining up with a band called Young Country at 14. After gaining experience as a front man in a regional act known as Monkee and the Spank Daddies, Nichols came to the attention of legendary session guitarist Jimmy Johnson and his Muscle Shoals studio, where he gained invaluable studio experience.

Fast forward to 2003 and Nichols’ band played a private party in Nashville attended by producer Scott Hendricks (Trace Adkins, Faith Hill). The producer was impressed, and he introduced Nichols to Universal Music Group Nashville Co-Chairman James Stroud. Next thing he knew, Nichols was signed to Mercury Nashville and recording his debut with co-producers Hendricks and Stroud. The self-titled debut album’s leadoff single, “Unbroken Ground,” co-written by Cris Bergness, James LeBlanc and John Paul White, was released on May 27. 

For Nichols, it’s been a long road to that first release, and while he’s happy to be where he is today, he’s not surprised. 

“I’ve always known that I wanted to be a musician,” Nichols said. “Music is what makes me feel alive, and I know in my heart I’ll be making music as long as I live.” 

IN HIS OWN WORDS: 

Who is your musical hero? 

“Randy Owen.” 

What CD is on your stereo right now? 

“The Definitive Collection by Stevie Wonder”

What song do you wish you had written? 

"‘He Stopped Loving Her Today.’"

What word or phrase do you find yourself saying over and over again? 

"Right On, Right On!"

Who is your dream duet partner? 

“Bonnie Raitt.”

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