Eric Gales is considered one of the world’s greatest guitar players. Gales has been recording music for over 30 years and released his first album when he was just 16. It’s only been in recent years though that Gales is finally getting his due with a larger audience.
Gales released Crown in 2022, which was voted to Blues Rock Review’s Top 20 Albums of 2022. Gales received his first Grammy nomination with the album for “Best Contemporary Blues Album.” The Grammy Awards take place Sunday, February 5th in Los Angeles.
Blues Rock Review Editor-in-Chief caught up with Gales over the phone to discuss this crowning achievement and what’s ahead.
Congratulations on the Grammy nomination. What was your initial reaction when you heard you were nominated?
Wow! Amazingly wow! You know, everybody else around me was like, it’s about time, and yawl just catching up to where we’ve already knew that this was supposed to be it. And for me, it was severely emotional every day that, you know, hard work of all the years I’ve been in it, you know, everything I’ve been through, ups and downs and all of this to be in a nomination category. And whether I get no farther than where I am right now, you know, somebody’ seeing it somewhere, somebody is acknowledging it and something that Eric Gales has done. And that was a huge accomplishment.
You’ve been releasing music for over 30 years now and you’ve been very open about your ups and downs, your battles with addiction. Did you ever envision this moment happening?
I’ve always wanted it to happen. Did I ever see it happening? I believed that it could happen but would it? I’d always hoped, I mean, now I don’t have to hope no more. It finally has come, the opportunity has come before I wound up dead, and the process happened like it has happened. Sadly enough, to a lot of artists that recognition comes when they pass away.
So that in itself is, just sort of sit back and realize that it’s pretty astonishing to finally have (received the nomination), especially when at a point in my life I was at the doorstep of death for quite some time, you know, this many years later to be back around surfacing and and having good things happen is just an awesome feeling.
Do you plan on attending the Grammys then?
Oh, yeah. I’m actually in route to go find something to wear. I’m piecing it all together. I’m in the process. Me and my wife are traveling to Charlotte right now. We intend to make it.
Have you ever attended the Grammys before?
Never ever attended a Grammys. This is all a first.
Joe Bonamassa and Josh Smith produced Crown. You go way back with those guys. Do you recall your first interactions you ever had with those guys?
Yeah, with Joe almost 30 years ago. We met, I was maybe 17-18. He was maybe a year or so younger than me. He was in Bloodline and I was in the Eric Gales Band and he opened up for me in Huntsville, Alabama, and that’s how we met.
Josh I met within the last ten years, you know, he was playing with Raphael Saadiq I believe and and we kind of met through that medium, but my impression of them both is they’re monstrous guitar players.
Recently I was interviewing Joe and asked him, what makes you (Eric Gales) such a great guitar player? He said, “he can lay waste to anyone at any time.” When someone like Joe, who many consider to be one of the world’s greatest guitar players, speaks so highly about your ability on the guitar, what does that mean to you when you hear that?
It’s very exhilarating to hear. I feel the same about him. To hear recognition coming from peers in the world and things of that nature. It’s quite gratifying to hear.
In your opinion, what do you think makes a great guitar player?
I don’t know, man. You know, for me, I can only express for myself. A great guitar player is someone, for my opinion that can mentally, physically and spiritually and emotionally express themselves on the instrument where an audience or a listener can understand everything that they’re saying without them having to say a word.
I think that’s a good way of putting it. Going back to Crown, in what ways do you feel recording this album was was maybe different than other albums you’ve recorded in the past?
I kind of took my hands off the wheel on a lot of things that I would normally be very hands on about and try something different. Prior to even getting with Joe and them a conversation with my wife was, babe, just be open and let’s just see and let’s try something different, and that’s what I did.
When you look at Crown, the whole body of work, what makes you most proud?
Just the whole thing, man. My vocal work and the messages and the lyric content and just standing for something, and the potential to try to help make the world a better place through my music. That’s one of the highest gratifications that I have about this record.
And with the Grammys coming up, what are you looking forward to most about this opportunity and getting to have this experience?
The Grammys is supposed to be the pinnacle of a point in an artist’s career even just being nominated and for me, I think even more so than seeing myself is the excitement of seeing my wife being there for the better part of ten years there with me and we’ve been through a lot that the world don’t know about. Just having that glance at her on that red carpet and that for me is going to be worth the admission to go, so being there hobnobbing and seeing other people in the industry is going to be a huge thing as well, but I just know from coming from the mud if you will, and certain instances and certain scenarios, things in life for me and my wife particularly, like I say, that no one else but me and her know about is going to be such a moment that everything ain’t for nothing.
Recently, Buddy Guy’s farewell tour was announced and you’re going to be taking part in that. What does that mean to you to be a part of that?
First of all, Buddy Guy is one of the last living original legends and to be a part of the tour that is his farewell tour is a huge honor that is bestowed upon me and a few others that are part of that tour that, you know, to be able to be chosen as one of the artists to be along on this tour is a huge accomplishment and I’m very proud of that.
What has he meant to you and his music over the years?
Just legendary, man. Everything he’s been through, he’s still standing tall. He’s still giving it everything he’s got and just an inspiration, staying in the fight.
Anything else you’d like to add?
2023 is going to be amazing. Keep your eyes open because there’s going to be more from Eric Gales.