Monday, December 18, 2017

The Story of Eric Gales

Eric Gales“The Story of My Life”. That’s the title of his 2008 album. Child prodigy Eric Gales could possibly fill dozens of albums with stories from his fascinating life, but has managed to  capture and tell spectacular musical tales in this particular one.  Eric recently visited Cabarete to support the charity fund raising event DREAMin Live, an event that will stay fresh in people’s minds for a long time to come.

The 2010 Blues Guitarist of the Year reunited after 16 years, on stage with Living Colour bass player Doug Wimbish, accompanied by local musicians Van Avakian and JP Polsoni. The dedicated crowd witnessed a two hour long spectacular show of pure good energy on a musical walk down Memory Lane. Last time Gales and Wimbish shared a stage was when Eric was discovered and recognized by the industry, playing at the China Club side by side with the already renowned Wimbish. Eric Gales expressed after the concert that he felt fortunate to have had the chance to participate in an event out of the ordinary, like the DREAMin Live. Gales extended his stay in Cabarete to become more familiar with Cabarete and the charities. During his stay, Eric shared personal stories.

On and off the record

Eric Gales visited Cabarete for the DREAMin Live concertEric is bad with time management. I understand that it’s pretty common amongst stars and creative genius’, so I figured I’d be patient and give him some time. I am sitting in the restaurant at Hotel Velero, where Eric has been assigned to the penthouse, and it hits me that I am about to experience what is very likely to become a once in a lifetime experience. I already feel privileged to have been present at the concert the night before. With my camera. Now, I am sitting here, a few meters from the shore break, where Doug Wimbish is relaxing on a beach bed. A waiter comes over and asks if the juice is good and if I want something else. My fresh mango juice is perfect, the sun is shining and I smile to myself thinking that right now I have the best job in the world. At a beach in the Caribbean. I don’t mind that Eric is 30 minutes late, but I decide to call and check if he remembers our appointment. The waiter calls and tells me Eric is having a massage, but will be down in 15 minutes. Ok, I can do another mango juice, while overlooking the entire bay of Cabarete. I can even see Kite Beach, and it is windy. But for once, I can accept not being able to get out there with the kite. There will be other windy days, most likely already the next day, so I will survive. I have to admit that I am a little bit less relaxed than I would normally be before an interview. I know I am about to hear some extraordinary stories. I have to ask the right questions.

Half way through my second mango juice, I see Eric coming smiling down the pathway. All worries are like vanished right away. It’s easy to be around Eric. He’s like a hurricane, but there’s hardly a second going by that he is not smiling or laughing his unmistakable laugh. It’s very contagious.

As we sit down and start talking, I realize it will be a tough task to determine what is suitable and not to be printed in words. Eric solves the problem for me.

Eric was voted Blues Guitarist of the year in 2010- You just can’t print his one, he says. More than once. And this one is definitely off the radar… The stories coming to life in front of me are everything from hilarious to somewhat disturbing, and it crosses my mind that Eric Gales is a blues playing rockstar. A typical rockstar. We quickly agree on one thing; Eric Gales is born to play music. And that’s what he’s done his whole life.
- I grew up with music all around me. As a child it was gospel all the way. I still love gospel. My family was a church going family, and music was a bigger part of life than anything else. Having the privilege of growing up in Memphis, Tennessee for sure put a little extra spice to it, and gave me the opportunity to explore the music more than most people could. I was introduced to all the great musicians from before I could speak. Carlos Santana is my godfather. I am lucky, Eric says with a humble look on his face. - But beat this, he suddenly bursts out, with his unmistakable laugh. I’ve never been to Elvis’ house!
Another outburst of his genuine laugh makes the other guests at the restaurant turn around with a crooked smile. I can tell, they are wondering who this strange character might be. Eric sends them an apologizing smile, and again I can see the effect he has on people around him. There’s no way anyone can get annoyed with Eric. He’s just pure good energy. Loud energy, but definitely good.
When Eric turns back to me and the notebook, his face is serious. - I want to tell you about the dark years. I wouldn’t be sitting here with you if it wasn’t for those years, he says as he lights a cigarette and leans back in his chair. It’s easy to tell he is emotional.

The turning point
- I look back at my life and realize I have had a different one than what most people would call average or normal.  To me it’s been the only thing I can relate to as normal and I would never wish for a different one, he reflects.
Eric was taught to play the guitar at age four by his older brothers Eugene and Manuel. Their style of left-handed upside-down guitar playing was passed down from their grandfather Dempsey Garret Sr. Eric is right handed, but could never imagine playing any other way.
- When learning I never even gave it a second thought. I don’t care if the guitar is upside down, left, right or backwards. As long as I can make music happen, it’s all good. Today I see my talent and knowledge in a different light than what I did when growing up. I am older and more experienced and understand I have received a gift at birth that I am so fortunate and grateful to be living. This is the only way I can be happy, and the only way I can contribute to something good in the world, he says.
Eric Gales shared the stage in Cabarete with Living Color bassist Doug Wimbish and local musicians Van Avakian and JP PolsoniWhat he calls the dark years has changed him, his music and his perspective on life.
- I’ve done some things I am not proud of, and I have had my dedication to the music put to the test. The dark years brought me through substance abuse and incarceration, which made me open my eyes. While in jail I put together a band. That way I could get through it. At one point things changed and I opened my eyes. I asked myself who am I, to throw away a gift so rare… Since then I have taken my music to the next level, and now I see opportunities to use it for good things. Like charity. Being in prison was a turning point and I will never forget that, he shares with a serious look in his eyes.
Only few days before Eric landed in the DR, tragedy crossed his newfound path. The car he  was a passenger in collides with another car and kills the girl driving it. During the show, Eric shared the emotional story with his fans and made a promise to do what he can to give back. The car accident happened because of a missing street light. This street light is Eric’s first mission on his list of things to fix. DREAMin Live and the DR children the second.

Visiting charities
DREAMin Live is an event raising funds for education and children on the north coast of the Dominican Republic. During the 36 year old blues phantom’s stay, the children in the DREAM Project school invited both Gales and Wimbish to visit. When bringing the subject to the table, Eric bursts out in laughter again.
- At first when entering the school I didn’t know how to entertain the kids, but that one just solved itself. These children are so open and fun. I Haven’t done the Hokey Pokey in years, and for Doug even longer, but I think we pulled it off pretty well. It was worth it just seeing Doug pulling out old Hokey Pokey moves from his 55 year old pocket, Gales laughs. What blew my mind was the little guy who grabbed the guitar and started playing on it. It moved me, he says with a smile. To be able to put the little guy’s fingers on the right string and see him disappearing into the world of music was intense. He didn’t notice anything around him, although there were about 30 kids jumping and singing around him. Some even playing the strings with him. He might be the next Jimmy Hendrix, for all we know. Music is universal. Forget language barriers and cultural differences. In music that doesn’t exist. I’d do it again in a heart beat. I WANT to do it again in a heart beat. I want to come back already next week, Eric Gales assures.  And we believe he will. Maybe not next week, but Eric Gales will be back.

Eric and Doug visited charities while in Cabarete. Here at the DREAM Project in Callejon de la Loma, with the DREAM staffAs the mango juice is gone and my notebook has more notes in it than I know how to sort ut, Eric’s famous lack of patience kicks in and he claps his hands together with big eyes and a big smile.
- Are we going kiteboarding now? He asks. I want to do it all! I don’t want to stop for a second.
My first thought was “oh my…”. I was trying to figure out which instructor I know that can control this guy and his energy. Eric is already on his feet, halfway across the grass towards a bikini model posing on a palm tree down by the beach. Nothing is to be ignored in Eric’s life.
- I love Cabarete, he laughs again. I better take my camera out of the bag… With Eric Gales around, life does not stand still. We’ll have enough energy to last us until the next time the tunes of Eric Gales reach Cabarete. We’ll be ready.

A big thank you to Eric Gales, Doug Wimbish, Van Avakian, Vatche Avakian, JP Polsoni, Jonathan Wunderlich, Robert Ottis, Anaheid Avakian and all the crew who made the DREAMin Live experience such a special one.
A special thank you to Gordon Segal for connecting these artists with Cabarete.

Visit Eric's Facebook to learn more about this intriguing artist


Hot Deal in Cabarete!