Blues rock phenom Eric Gales talks about the God, socio-cultural implications of music and his experiences

"My hopes are to surge in the moon non-stop, with everything that I do. My fears are where the world is going, at this rate. And if the expectation can be provided from what it is that I do, that God has blessed me to be able to do, then there may be some hope."

Eric Gales: Pure, Free and Original!

Eric Gales grew up in a musical family with four brothers, two of them who learned to play the guitar upside down and left handed in the same fashion that Eric does. Eric’s brother Eugene Gales played bass in the Eric Gales Band and his brother Little Jimmy King had a thriving career as a blues artist before his untimely death. Eric released his first record at age 16 for Elektra records to an amazing response from the media and music fans around the globe. Guitar World Magazine’s Reader’s Poll named Eric as “Best New Talent,” in 1991. After recording a second record for Elektra, all three brothers teamed up for The Gales Bros. “Left Hand Brand” which was recorded for the House of Blues label in 1996. Through the years, it would not be unusual to look out in the audience and see artists like Carlos Santana, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, B.B. King, and Eric Clapton, looking on with interest as Eric took his God-given talent and worked crowd after crowd into a frenzy. The new Millennium presented new opportunities for Eric and he was signed to a deal with Nightbird Records which was affiliated with the Hendrix family and recorded the critically acclaimed record “That’s What I Am” in 2001.

In 2006 Eric recorded the critically acclaimed CD “Crystal Vision” for Blues Bureau and set the stage for his incredible Blues Bureau follow-up, “The Psychedelic Underground”. Eric followed sharply in 2008 with "The Story of my Life" and in 2010 hit a new stride altogether with the incredibly successful album "Relentless". That album combined with his studio album "Transformation" released in 2011 set the stage for his upcoming Double Live Album/DVD due in October of 2012. As both an African-American left-handed guitarist of extraordinary ability and an expressive vocalist, it is natural for people to compare Eric to Hendrix but Eric has developed a unique hybrid blues/rock sound that also draws upon influences as diverse as Albert King and Eric Johnson. A unique amalgam of styles, Eric Gales stands head and shoulders among other guitarists in his genre. Blues rock phenom Eric Gales brings his fiery six-string pyrotechnics deep into the heart of Hollywood’s famed music scene on spectacular concert CD/DVD package “Eric Gales – A Night On The Sunset Strip (2016) on Cleopatra Records. His brand new album titled "Middle Of The Road" (2018) with special guests!

Interview by Michael Limnios         Transcription by Katerina Lefkidou

Photos courtesy by Eric Gales archive, Nicole Weingart, Shirleyde Santos & Poza Okiem /All rights reserved - Special Thanks: William James/Glass Onion PR

What do you miss most nowadays from the blues and music of past?

EG: Um, I miss being able to… Necessarily, you know, the authenticity of the old days. Just raw sound, slow emotion that happened back in the days. You know what I mean? I think it’s coming back some, but… Basically that. It’s coming back though.

How do you describe and what characterizes your sound and your songbook?

EG: My sound is pure, free and original, it’s fresh, it’s new and for me it’s just being in the moment man, it’s very instantaneous, it’s very spontaneous and that’s pretty much how I describe it. Just new, original, somewhat old, old foundation and you know, it’s just there. I’m basically talking about my life experience. So a lot of my lyrics are about my life. Everything that I’ve been through, everything that I’ve seen.

What does the blues mean to you?

EG: The blues means a whole lot; it’s the core of where I come from. Along with gospel, blues is my background. Gospel and blues is my background. So you’re gonna hear influences of those throughout every bit of everything that I do. It’s part of who I am, when it comes to Eric Gales, even with just a ting of somebody else’s stuff, this is the core of what I am. I am genuinely drawn to that as my foundation.

What are the lines that connect the legacy of blues with soul, r&b, gospel and continue to hip hop and rap?

EG: Well what I think, the lines that connect them is the core, the soul, having it deep within you. That’s what connects them all. When you have that deep within you, then there’s a connection to every single style of music that’s out there. Rock, classical and so every form of fashion is having it in that soul. And if it’s in that soul then that’s what makes a heartbeat and there’s no way possible that you can avoid that.

"My sound is pure, free and original, it’s fresh, it’s new and for me it’s just being in the moment man, it’s very instantaneous, it’s very spontaneous and that’s pretty much how I describe it. Just new, original, somewhat old, old foundation and you know, it’s just there. I’m basically talking about my life experience." (Photo by Shirleyde Santos)

How do you describe "Middle Of The Road" songbook and sound? What characterize album's philosophy?

EG: I describe Middle of the Road as an auto biography of my life as it is now and speaking and playing to the things I have experienced. Being in the Middle of the Road is the best vantage pound to be able to clearly see everything.

Are there any memories from your last tour days which you’d like to share with us and makes you smile?

EG: All the tour days have been amazing and has captured sheer emotion energy and passion.

Eric, do you fine any difference between Europeans and Americans?

EG: Not really. Just as long as they’re there to listen at the music man, that’s all I ask.

What were the reasons that your generation started the Blues Rock researches and experiments?

EG: I honestly don’t know why my generations started the blues rock thing. I didn’t know that we did honestly. But I did because I have always liked both so it was very natural for me to be drawn to the blend of styles along with others but definitely those.

How has the Blues and Rock music influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

EG: Honestly it has really had any effect on my views of the world other than me having a refuge to go to when I want to express myself without having to say a word.

What touched (emotionally) you from your Greek custom guitar "Olympus"? What would you like to say to Greek fans?

EG: The guitar itself is so beautiful and I am truly honored to have it made for me. And I am truly sorry that I didn’t bring it with me on this tour. But I am currently having some tweaks done to it and it wasn’t going to be ready before I left for this tour.

Photo: Eric Gales & his Olympus Custom Guitar by Johnny Prapas

What is happiness for Eric? What is happiness for you?

EG: Being clean and sober it’s happiness for me, because it creates other ten happy.

What is the impact and how important was the Afro-American music to the racial and sociocultural implications?

EG: I think it was very important because from black heritage and now black culture there were things that were being expressed through oppression and things that my ancestors were going through that they, all they later had to speak about it, was through soul. So, this in itself creates such a powerful movement and you know that in itself is a generational expression that I don’t think will ever go anywhere. Nowadays it’s being transferred into rap. And they’re expressing themselves that way but the black culture definitely has a deep rooted rhythm, a deep rooted soul that is expressed throughout pretty much everything in my opinion.

Really, what are your hopes and what are your fears for the future of music?

EG: My hopes are to surge in the moon non-stop, with everything that I do. My fears are where the world is going, at this rate. And if the expectation can be provided from what it is that I do, that God has blessed me to be able to do, then there may be some hope. If I am the messenger that’s here to do my part and make this world turn around then I am a ready foot soldier to do that. And that’s pretty much my answer for that.

I know you play with your left hand, like your grandfather Dempsey Garrett. Do you find any difference between left hand and right hand?

EG: Well yeah, I have a different approach to the guitar, you know what I mean? It’s slightly, it’s different sound. It’s different ways of approaching chords and playing things from backwards upwards, you know what I mean? And that in itself causes an authenticity to it. But generally most of the stuff I learned were from people that play right-handed. So I just took it and put my own twist on it. You learn it from people that you can take what you take from them and make it your own.

What is the best advice anyone ever gave you, and what advice would you like to give to the new generations?

EG: What I was best advised was to always let the drive of the love of music continue to push you. And don’t let the snakes out there get too close to you. That’s the one most amazing part and that’s the exact same message that I have for people out there that they’re aspiring to be in the industry. Let the love of the music be what drives you.  And don’t let the snakes get too close to you, because they’re out there. When it gets to where that’s complicated, then you need to find something else.

"The blues means a whole lot; it’s the core of where I come from. Along with gospel, blues is my background. Gospel and blues is my background. So you’re gonna hear influences of those throughout every bit of everything that I do." (Eric & LaDonna Gales / Photo by Poza Okiem)

Eric, you have too many experiences on the road, too many experiences in the music industry, what do you learn about yourself from the blues and music?

EG: What I learned from the blues and from the music is that there’s a lot of pain that went through to playing the style of music that I like to play. And if God has made it that you survived, made you do it, then you got something serious to play about.

Which memory from (A Night On) The Sunset Strip makes you smile?

EG: The whole experience being up there with family, being up  there with people that I know that had my back, being up there with people that are one part of me, that whole thing, the people at The Sunset Strip we were enjoying ourselves, we had smiles on our faces, you know we weren’t trying to think about it too hard, thinking about it is getting in the way, you know just the whole experience of being live in the middle of the city of Los Angeles at a very famous club doing what we know to do. That was the best experience that I can think of.

Let’s take a trip with a time machine. Where and why would you want to go with a time machine?

EG: I would like to go back to the seventies, to be honestly. I would like to visit the seventies because it was the raw, genuine authentic music being played back then and I would like to have been around doing this.

Which meetings have been the most important experience for you, which meetings with other musicians?

EG: Lots of people, (Carlos) Santana, Stevie Ray (Vaughan), Stevie Wonder, Eric Johnson, just everybody man, it’s hard to name one without leaving out the other, my whole entire experience in life when we all encountered in a wonderful painting.

Really is it easier to write and play the blues as you get older? Is it easier?

EG: Yeah, absolutely because you have more material to write about.

Are there any memories from Carlos Santana that you would like to share with us?

EG: It is always expected to me to follow my heart and to listen a life-time from me, cause we’re the reflection of God’s light and all we gotta do is be there and be in position and God will take care of us.

"What I learned from the blues and from the music is that there’s a lot of pain that went through to playing the style of music that I like to play. And if God has made it that you survived, made you do it, then you got something serious to play about." (Photo by Nicole Weingart)

What have been the highlights of your career and what have been the worst times in your career?

EG: Well I’m gonna start with the worst. The worst is allowing drugs to take hold of me, but the good part about it is it didn’t take me out. The highlight in my life right now is being sober and being the best that I can be as a human being and the rest will fall into place.

If you could change one thing in the musical world and of course that would become a reality, what would that be?

EG: That more people had the opportunity to be recognized and known for what they do. Because there are a lot of people that are unknown and have talent way more than a lot of people that are here recognized. And I think I would like for an avenue to be made for people that don’t have the capability to be famously known or whatever, that they’d get that opportunity that’s what I would like to change.

What were the reasons that made the Southern States to be the center of Blues and Soul researches and experiments?

EG: I would say it was a lot pressure, a lot of suffering going on back in the southern state. There was this war to write about.

What touched (emotionally) you from the new blues generation?

EG: Nothing in particular, I try to have a connection with everything and everybody that’s out there, but you know like experiences that had way through a life abuse thing toughened me, toughened me up, just everything that I’ve been through man, just life, life can toughen you up. But I try to keep a connection with every style, genre or person that I can out there and anybody that knows me will tell you the same.

Why do you think that Jimi Hendrix’s music continues to generate such a devoted following? And what would you like to ask Jimi Hendrix?

EG: Because that it was way ahead of its time, it’s way ahead of nowadays time and what he did was so special and so innovative that will last ‘till the end of the earth.

Hey Jimi ... why do you want to go so fast?

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Photo by Shirleyde Santos

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