Gales Force Warning: Here He Comes...
Guitar Connoisseur|Guitar Connoisseur John 5 Spring 2018

Read any of my other pieces on GC and you’ll know that I usually open with some sort of elaborate description of the artist I’m writing about – and often end up struggling to reduce their essence into a paragraph or two.

Aman Khosla

READ ANY OF MY OTHER PIECES ON GC AND YOU’LL KNOW THAT I USUALLY OPEN WITH SOME SORT OF ELABORATE DESCRIPTION OF THE ARTIST I’M WRITING ABOUT – AND OFTEN END UP STRUGGLING TO REDUCE THEIR ESSENCE INTO A PARAGRAPH OR TWO. I HAVE, AFTER ALL, HAD THE GOOD FORTUNE OF BEING IN CONVERSATION WITH SOME ICONIC GUITAR PLAYERS, AND IT’S HARD TO CONDENSE SUCH GREAT PEOPLE AND THEIR ILLUSTRIOUS CAREERS INTO A FEW LINES FOR SOMEONE TO SKIM THROUGH QUICKLY BEFORE THEY GET TO THE BIT THEY’RE REALLY LOOKING FOR. BUT HARD ISN’T IMPOSSIBLE, AND I WOULD LIKE TO THINK I’VE MANAGED TO DO A DECENT JOB THUS FAR (LET’S HOPE YOU READERS OUT THERE THINK SO TOO). WELL…ENTER ERIC GALES – AND I’M STUMPED.

IT’S NOT THAT ERIC IS A COMPLICATED GUY, OR THAT HE HAS INDESCRIBABLE QUALITIES – IT’S MORE THAT WHEN HE STARTS PLAYING THE GUITAR YOU FEEL IT IN YOUR BONES, AND THERE ARE NO WORDS TO DESCRIBE HOW YOUR BONES FEEL WHEN THIS HAPPENS. TO TELL YOU WHAT I THINK OF ERIC, OR DESCRIBE HIM BASED ON HIS ACHIEVEMENTS AND CAREER, OR EVEN GIVE YOU A NOTE FOR NOTE BREAKDOWN OF A PERFORMANCE OF HIS (THERE WOULD BE A WHOLE LOTTA NOTES TO WRITE ABOUT THERE) – THESE WOULD ALL DILUTE THE ESSENCE THAT MAKES HIM WHO HE IS. THE BEST I CAN DO IS TO TELL YOU THAT WHEN I LISTEN TO HIM PLAY, ALL MY THOUGHTS DISAPPEAR AND I AM FULLY PRESENT TO THE PURITY OF THE MUSIC FLOWING THROUGH HIS SOUL. HE IS NOT WITHOUT INFLUENCE, AND HE MOST CERTAINLY PLAYS THE PART OF A BLUESMAN PRETTY WELL, BUT ERIC HAS A TASTE FOR MUCH, MUCH MORE, AND IS AS AUTHENTIC AS IT GETS.

I WENT TO SEE HIM PLAY AT THE IRIDIUM IN NEW YORK A COUPLE WEEKS AFTER THE INTERVIEW, AND I DECIDED AFTER DOING SO THAT I’D APPROACH THIS PIECE A LITTLE DIFFERENTLY THAN THE REST, OR REALLY ANYTHING ELSE THAT’S BEING WRITTEN OUT THERE. MUCH OF ERIC’S ENERGY CAN ONLY BE EXPERIENCED AT HIS SHOWS, AND I WANTED THAT TO BE A PART OF THIS PIECE. SO, CALL THIS AN INTERVIEW, CALL IT A PART REVIEW OR A COMMENTARY, CALL IT AN OPINION PIECE OR CALL IT A BADLY PUT TOGETHER ARTICLE – ONE THING’S FOR CERTAIN HERE – I WANT YOU TO GO OUT THERE AND CHECK HIM OUT IF YOU HAVEN’T ALREADY.

Guitar Connoisseur: The man who walked out on that stage at the Iridium on a cold, frosty January night in New York City was equal parts confident and humble, and was overcome with pride, as he should’ve been. Clear-minded and sober for well past a year for the first time in a couple decades, Eric has journeyed into the abyss and back. I asked him whether he felt that he’d learnt a lot and was better off for it, or if he was just happy he’d survived it all.

Eric Gales: Well, both! Honestly I do think the things I went through have wound up making me a better person. I’m lucky that I did survive – everybody doesn’t get the opportunity to live and tell about what they’ve been through. They’re, for one, dead, or living miserably somewhere. And the other thing is, yeah – I think it’s a combination of both man, y’know? There was more that needed to be added to my story I guess, and my finding the good side of life and being able to show people that you can make it out is now a part of it. I want people to know that you can make it through and come back stronger than ever.

GC: That’s really powerful, and I think you should be proud of what you’ve accomplished. What was it like to live through all those years, now that you have a clear head?

EG: Man, it was basically the difference between night and day. I was just existing. Fading away, I began to not care about my body, I didn’t care about my health. Playing out – if I wound up somewhere and somebody asked me to sit in, then so be it. But it got to the point where I was barely showing up for shows and when I did, I showed up 2-3 hours late as high as I could be. And that was cool to me. It was a whole different mindset, but at one point it was so bad that people would say things like ‘this guy is just a waste of a talent’. I recall hearing things like that from people that didn’t know I’d heard them talking. People were literally waiting by the phone, at any moment, to hear that I’d passed away and I was cool with that. That’s just where my head was – I had become so engrossed with the addiction that it was ridiculous. I would try to justify it as a way to make myself look cool, and it just wasn’t, y’know? Going to jail, and that whole lifestyle that I really wasn’t born into but wound up getting involved in – I was definitely just in the wrong place, carrying myself through stuff that I think wasn’t intended for me to go through. But like I said before, at the end of the day I guess it was – so that my story could be more impactful to someone who will benefit from it. God saw fit to let me survive and not die on one of the many nights that I spent damn near trying. Whether I want to believe it or not, that’s what it basically was.

GC: What made you want to do that? Was it circumstantial, or someone you met when you were younger?

EG: The whole street life is what I thought was cool. I glamorized it – it was just dope to me! And I didn’t grow up in that, it came a little later on. I was in my mid to late teens and I just got intrigued by it all – trying stuff that I’d never done before and lying, saying that I had – it was crazy. That wasn’t even my schtick, but then there I was. And then life really just started kicking my ass, bad – and it did for two decades!

GC: Why stick on for that long? What was the motivation?

EG: Man I have no idea! In my head, my intention was to stick on longer than I did! I was very stubborn, and people would try to tell me ‘Eric, you’re better than that’ and I just didn’t want to hear it. I was pushing the throttle – and for 20-something years, I just kept doing it.

GC: What brought you out then?

EG: I guess at some point, finally – enough was enough. A big part of that was my wife who was there for me and she helped me to learn and to help myself out of it. Then it just finally stuck, almost a year and a half ago, and I listened this time. I can’t tell you why, but I just listened. In about a week and a half I’ll be 18 months clean and sober.

GC: That’s incredible man, congratulations!

EG: Man, the moment I made that decision my life just turned all the way around. There was stuff that was just waiting on me to get me together. I realized that there’s a lot here that rides on me, on me being okay. I carry a lot of people’s livelihoods in my hands – band mates and booking agents and my family, and I really didn’t care about any of that for quite a while. My age, my mortality or any of that stuff wasn’t a factor – I was actually totally content with dying as high as I could, so that wasn’t it. It was just something, and I finally said ‘I gotta go do something’ y’know? I gotta go do something. Just reflecting on it all now – I was just existing with all these crazy ups and downs. I did 3 years in prison, and that was a direct product of how I was living – that wouldn’t have happened if I wasn’t pining after that life!

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