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FEATURE: Jimmy Nick Interview 
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John Primer, Dave Weld, Mike Wheeler, Demetria Taylor, Big Dog Mercer, Blooze Bros, John Kattke, Jimmy Nick & more!
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Jimmy Nick titled his new CD: Dangerous Decisions & Bad Things.

However, this rising young star has been making smart decisions and doing good things with his career.

Jimmy Nick by Ronnie Swanson

By Eric Schelkopf

Photos: Ronnie Swanson

His wildly energetic shows have earned
Jimmy Nick much acclaim in the Chicago area and beyond.

Nick, a Crystal Lake native, has headlined at Buddy Guy's Legends in Chicago and performed with the likes of John Mayall, Samantha Fish, Pat Travers and Los Lonely Boys. In 2013, he won the Chicago Blues Guitar Slinger Challenge.

Nick and his band, Don't Tell Mama, will perform on Saturday, Aug. 18 at the McHenry Rotary Blues, Brews & BBQ Fest in McHenry, IL at 4 p.m. The fest runs Aug. 17–19 and includes many top blues acts.

A full listing of his upcoming shows can be found at his website at

I had the chance to talk to him recently about his latest musical endeavors.

Jimmy Nick kicks by Ronnie Swanson

Q – I know that you grew up in Crystal Lake. Do you still live in the area?

Oh, yeah, I'm still in Crystal Lake. 

Q – It seems like you really play all over the place, which is good.

You got to, man. I have a great following in the Chicago suburbs and even in the city now. I headlined at Buddy Guy's Legends in March and I've played in different states. I'm trying to get out.

Q – The fact that you are now headlining at Buddy Guy's, how does that make you feel, given the caliber of the musicians that play at the club?

It's awesome, man. It really is. It's a badge of honor, because that's the top club, especially for blues, in the city of Chicago and I would say the country.

Last time I was there, he got on stage with me, which was an incredible feeling. We were doing our set, and then he started doing some Chess Records blues stuff. It was a great time.

I just kind of stood back and just played the chords with my rhythm section and just let him do his thing. I was very excited versus being nervous.

Q – Growing up, was he one of the musicians that you listened to? 

One of my favorite albums is probably Buddy Guy's Sweet Tea. His playing and singing on it really stands out to me. I definitely listened to a lot of Buddy.

Jimmy Nick closeup

Q – It seems like you have been busy. In December, you released the album Dangerous Decisions & Bad Things. What were your goals for the album and do you think you accomplished them?

There were all kinds of goals. There was kind of a time limit goal, because I had a show already booked for the Raue Center in Crystal Lake for New Year's Eve. So I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to release a new album on that date.

I booked the studio time, and we got in the studio in November. We did the bulk of the album in a day and a half. It was incredible.

It's hands down the best sounding CD I've put out. That was a goal that was accomplished. Another goal was to have a more mature sound from the last time I was in the studio, with more mature guitar playing and singing, which I think really comes through.

If you put on Rare Breed, which was my 2014 album and then this new one, you're going to hear the maturity in my playing and my voice and even the songwriting. I also think it sounds really clean. I recorded it at Waysound Recording Studio in Fox River Grove, and owner and audio engineer Justin LeBreck engineered it and co-produced it with. He did a phenomenal job.

Q – You were talking about how it didn't take long to record. Were you trying to replicate your live sound at all? 

We basically did it pretty much live. We rehearsed two days before and then went in the studio. The drums, bass, rhythm guitar and a scratch vocal were all done live.

It was a pretty straight process, very live, very raw and a lot of one takes. What you hear on the CD is damn near live.

Q – It does seem like there are a lot of albums that are overproduced, where there is no warmth to the album or anything. 

I agree100 percent. You want that grit and that soul to it. It's part of the art form, just that live energy. That's what people want.

Jimmy Nick wild hair

Q – It seems like you like to roam through a lot of musical genres, including rockabilly.

We do some Johnny Cash stuff that people love. I have a bit of that old country in me, and like you said, rockabilly. I love that, too.

Q -- How did you first discover the blues and rock’n’roll ?  Did your parents listen to it?

My parents always had great records. The Beatles Hard Days Night, The Monkees’ Greatest Hits and Michael Jackson’s Thriller were some of my favorites. Plus, The Blues Brothers sound track. Also, my parents always had the oldies radio station on.

Q – You also put on an energetic show. It seems like you're really trying to energize the crowd through your music.

I think that is one of the most important things. People want to see something, and they want to feel a part of it, and you really have to cross that line when you are live.

You want to give it your all, all the time, and make them part of the show.

Jimmy Nick sprawled on stage

Q -- Are there any performers who influenced your dynamic style on stage?

 Yes. My main influences are Angus Young from AC/DC, Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry, Howlin’ Wolf and Bobby Rush.

Jimmy Nick pink suit

Q – Speaking of your shows, you've won several blues challenges. Does that make you feel good, being recognized by your peers like that? Is it kind of like a feather in your cap?

Oh, yeah. It's cool. In 2013, I won the Chicago Blues Guitar Slinger Challenge. That was pretty cool.

That was held at B.L.U.E.S. on Halsted in Chicago. To win it in front of that crowd was really cool.

But I don't focus on winning blues challenges as much as trying to consistently put on the best show for my audience. That's the real thing to worry about.

 Q -- How did you, a young white dude from the far NW ‘burbs, manage to convince three top call blues veterans – Brady Williams on drums, Kenny Hampton on bass and Rodney Brown on sax – to join forces with you?

They were the house band at B.L.U.E.S. on Halsted for a guitar competition I played in back in 2013. We clicked right away. I ended up winning the competition too!

Jimmy Nick & Don't Tell Mama band shot
L to R: Rodney Brown (sax), Jimmy Nick, Brady Williams (drums), Kenny Hampton bass


Q -- What have you learned from them?

I learned a lot, not only about music and playing together but also about how to be a better band leader.

Q – How would you describe your guitar playing?

It's very straight ahead, not fancy, kind of a mix of rock 'n' roll and old Chicago blues – Chuck Berry, Angus Young, Elmore James, a lot of the Muddy Waters stuff and a lot of Bobby Rush's funky guitar licks and rhythm.

I'm really trying to focus on rhythms and riffs now and being tight with the band versus playing a million notes a second kind of thing. I like straightforward stuff.

Q – I understand you turned 28 in December. Do you see yourself as bringing the blues to a younger generation?

Yeah, definitely. My shows have been getting the younger audience. If you can get them to like it, that's really the goal, to get them dancing and having a good time.

They're getting it in their heads and they don't even know they're digging the blues, so it's a cool thing.

One of my favorite compliments is getting some younger people to come up to me after a show and say, "Man, we don't even like blues, but we love you guys." That means a lot, that I'm kind of crossing over and getting more people on the blues stuff.

Interviewer Eric Schelkopf has covered the arts and entertainment scene in Chicago for over 25 years. Visit his informative blog at:

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