5 minutes alone - Eric Gales: “I love what I do. The hardest thing about it is all the travelling and the easiest thing is the playing”

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(Image: © Olly Curtis / Future)

American blues maestro Eric Gales ponders inspiration, his first electric guitar and meeting Stevie Ray Vaughan...

I got my first real six-string…

“My first guitar was a Hagström. I must have been four years old when I started playing it. I can’t even remember which model, but it was this Strat-style thing that was lying around the house for the family. Everyone would pick it up and have fun with it. 

“My dream guitar was just a Strat of any kind. That was a big aspiration for me and it finally happened around the age of 13. My brother Eugene had one, so I could play his, but getting to have my own was pretty cool.”

Well, there’s floodin’ down in Texas...

If there’s one thing I’m good at, it would be thinking quick on my feet. Spontaneity is a strong point for me

“Stevie Ray Vaughan would have been one of the biggest influences in me wanting that Strat, for sure. I was lucky enough to see him and meet him when I was 15… We ended up hanging out for a little bit.

“He was doing tracks for the [Vaughan Brothers’] Family Style album and I was cutting demoes for my first record. So we sat down, talked and even played together on a couple of acoustics. That’s how we met, and it was very, very cool… An experience I’ll never forget!”

Got my mojo working...

“I love what I do. The hardest thing about it is all the travelling and the easiest thing is the playing. This might sound strange, but I honestly can’t think of any weaknesses I have as far as playing guitar. I can’t really think of any strengths either! I just try to be the best me I can be and stay comfortable in my own skin.

“If there’s one thing I’m good at, it would be thinking quick on my feet. Spontaneity is a strong point for me. Going off the top of my head creates this instantaneous power that comes out of nowhere, and I rarely find myself disappointed!

“All I need to play a good set is Red Bull. Does it make me play faster? I don’t know, but there’s just something in my head that says I have to have one on stage for some reason.”

I’m tired of wasting all my precious time...

“Things have happened gradually for me, so I feel like life is my biggest breakthrough. I managed to finally get clean; I’m working on three years now. That was the biggest breakthrough in many ways.

There’s nothing wrong with being obviously inspired by your heroes, but the objective is to show how it can inspire you to be yourself

“My toughest time as a musician was when I was in prison, for reasons which are fairly self-explanatory... I didn’t have a guitar for a long time, but eventually the warden got to know who I was, and made me start a prison band that ended up playing all over the place. It was cool at times, but in my head all I was thinking about was touring the world.”

There goes my hero...

“One of my biggest influences is Eric Johnson. First meeting him and getting to ask questions was one of the biggest days of my life. Venus Isle was a life-changing album for me, and his tone has always been great through the years.

“To be honest, everything about him has something I admire and want to absorb from. He’s someone I have tried to pattern myself from, though of course I try to add my own twists. 

“There’s nothing wrong with being obviously inspired by your heroes, but the objective is to show how it can inspire you to be yourself. Does it come from the tone, the person playing or the genres you like listening to?

“Find as much of that inspiration as you can: it’s key to developing and makes the practising not feel like homework.”

’Cause I gotta have faith...

“Going to church was something my mum and dad were into, so we had been exposed to all this gospel and blues growing up. From the first time I picked up that guitar, I just took to it and kept pursuing it. I never felt content with what I knew.

“It’s pretty natural for it to happen when you grow up in a family that’s heavily involved in music across the board. My first record was a big deal for me at the age of 15 - and even now, I’m learning every day.”

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