Over the years, there have been instances when one renowned blues-rock guitarist or another found sobriety in the nick of time and got their career back on track. Eric Clapton, Bonnie Raitt, and Stevie Ray Vaughan come to mind, and now we can add Eric Gales to the list. With the release of his latest album, Middle of the Road, the former prodigy certainly sounds like his playing has been refocused.
What’s the story with Middle of the Road?
Man, it’s the symbolization of a new lease on life that I’ve got. I changed my life around somewhat, so that kind of follows with why I called it Middle of the Road. It’s a quote my dad always used, and it’s basically representing being centered and grounded. Life is going good, and the ideas for this record came from experiences in life. Just putting my story to a music sort of presentation. It turned out really well, we had a lot of fun with the people involved – Lauryn Hill, “Kingfish” Ingram, my brother Eugene, Gary Clark… Having Gary be part of this record was amazing. And new gear that I’ve acquired – I’ve got a new amp coming out with DV Mark amps, it’s the signature Eric Gales model. Things are going really well, man.
You’ve referenced the album as “hands down, the best record that I’ve ever done.”
I focused on content – songs and lyrics. I wasn’t going for commercial, but it turned out that way. And I didn’t come off my roots – it still has a blues, rock, gospel-ish sort of foundation. It just sounds really new. I respect blues and traditional I-IV-V – it’s there – but I’m influenced by multiple styles of music. So this was my chance to let my guard down and do what I felt what has been inspiring me all these years. Maybe it’s my new style of music, I don’t know (laughs).
What changed your life around?
It’s no secret I had ventured into heavy drugs for quite a while. Fortunately, it didn’t kill me. It just helped create more of a positive story to tell. I went through some things. In July last year, I threw in the towel, and it was the best decision I’ve ever made. In about a week, I’m coming up on seven months clean. That’s another representation of Middle of the Road – a new side of life. Things that are happening right now are so amazing.
How was it playing with Gary Clark, Jr. on “Boogie Man”?
I introduced the song to him, and he said, “I really like that.” He’s like, “Eric, you’ve always been a big inspiration to me.” I live in Greensboro, North Carolina, and he had done a show in Raleigh, and he called me up, I told him I was cutting this new record, I let him hear the song on the tour bus, and he said, “Man, I would be honored to be a part of your record.” I cut it in LA, and he came down and said, “Let’s get it.” I played him the new, revised edition of it, and we just sat in there and vibed it out. It couldn’t have turned out better.
Do you prefer recording live or each instrument separate?
It all depends on moods. Either way works, but separately works good for me… but live is good, too. If I had to pick one, I would pick the latter – getting the drums focused. I still manage to wind up with that “We played together” intensity.
You play the guitar left-handed, with the low string on the bottom.
My brothers play that way, too. I picked it up at four years old and by the time I came to the conclusion it was “the wrong way,” it was too late – I was committed. It’s just comfortable for me. And who’s to say that everybody playing right-handed isn’t playing wrong (laughs)? But at the end of the day, it’s whatever works for you. I don’t think there is a right or wrong way to play.
Besides your signature amp, what else do you use?
Effects, I like to use this Mojo Hand FX Colossus Fuzz, a Brute Drive made by Xotic pedals, a Bob Bradshaw wah by Dunlop, and a Tech21 delay. Guitar-wise, there are a few – a Magneto, Xotic, St. Blues, John Page, Paul Reed Smith, and I have an Olympus custom guitar out of Italy. All are Strat-styled guitars. With the Magneto Sonnet, they made for me a limited edition Raw Dawg– which is my nickname – and it’s basically the Strat configuration with Lollar pickups. It’s my go-to.
What else is on the horizon?
I have aspirations to do symphony and orchestral stuff, mixed with guitar. And my sights are heavy on starting to score music for films.
This article originally appeared in VG June 2017 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.