Gary Nichols was born near Muscle Shoals, Ala., 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.As a teenage guitarist, Nichols performed in bands that specialized in Southern rock, soul or pop hits. He also gravitated to Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Stevie Wonder and Eric Clapton, as well 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.He won several talent shows as a child, using his prize money to buy a guitar. His guitar teacher placed him in a kiddie country band at age 6; by age 7, his father was asking local bands to let him sing. 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 Nichols made making music now became more important to the family than ever. By age 15, he was working 30 hours a week at a construction-equipment rental company, going to school full-time and playing country music at every opportunity.In 1997, he was introduced to Jimmy Johnson and his Muscle Shoals Sound studio, which led to him playing guitar in his first studio recording session. Next, he joined a regional party band called Monkee and the Spank Daddies that performed everything from Marshall Tucker to Marvin Gaye to Matchbox 20. Up until this point, Nichols had been mainly a sideman guitarist. This group gave him a part-time singing slot. When it broke up, he became the lead vocalist in the funk-rock group Gulliver. By this time, he had also started writing songs.Nashville producer Scott Hendricks heard Gulliver play a private party and approached Nichols about recording together. Their demos landed Nichols a deal with Mercury Records, which is slated to release Nichols' debut album in 2006.