Eric Gales forms a family band, gets a re-education from Lauryn Hill

by Ryan Snyder

Follow Ryan on Twitter @YESRyan

Next month will mark 15 years since the release of Lauryn Hill’s The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, the standard of ’90s R&B that would go on to win five Grammys and sell an estimated 15 million copies worldwide. It would also go on to become the most significant album by a living artist that is still awaiting a proper studio follow-up, but the wait for Hill’s second solo record is coming to an end and when it does, it will bear the fingerprints of guitarist and Greensboro newcomer Eric Gales.

Gales, who settled in Greensboro last year after meeting his eventual wife LaDonna during a local performance, will play his last show in his new hometown in 2013 this Friday (one day before his one-year wedding anniversary) at the Blind Tiger before embarking on a series of tours that will take him deep into 2014. Among them, he’ll tour on a forthcoming release by the Eric Gales Trio, play dates supporting the second album by his prog-blues side project Pinnick Gales Pridgen (featuring dUg Pinnick of King’s X and Thomas Pridgen of the Mars Volta), debut a collaboration with Eric Czar (Joe Bonamassa) and TC Tolliver (Plasmatics, KISS, and finally, hold down the lead guitar spot on tour with Lauryn Hill and her second album — as soon as her prison sentence for tax evasion is complete.

Y!W: Does it seem odd in retrospect that when you played the Experience Hendrix show here in 2012, you were only a month away from making it your home?

EG: You have no idea. There I was at the back door (of the War Memorial Auditorium) smoking a cigarette before that show, and who would have thought that my family would be right there. I could almost throw a rock and hit their house.

Y!W: Now you’ve formed your new band out of all Greensboro musicians. How does the music you play with them compare to your more aggressive music with Pinnick Gales Pridgen?

EG: EG3 is a little more reigned in, it’s a little more blues and funk-rock oriented. I can get as progressive as PGP, but not quite as hard. The album we’re putting out this fall is all-instrumental, but Friday we’re going to be drawing a lot from the last two or three albums for sure. The band is Orlando Thompson on bass, Nick Hayes on drums and Craig Ellis and LaDonna on background vocals.

Y!W: When did your association with Lauryn Hill begin?

EG: Doug Wimbish (Living Colour) is her bass player and we played a lot together. He put in a call and we met and she was amazed. She said that she knew I was passionate about what I do and said that I reminded her a lot of herself. That was really a high compliment. I was hardly familiar with Miseducation when I met her, but I got hit with it right away before we started touring. I’m playing with her and I’m like, “This lady is really a genius man. Sometimes in an overboard way, but she’s really a genius.”

Y!W: I’ve heard she’s a James Brown-level taskmaster.

EG: Oh, she’s tough, but she knows exactly what she wants, too. She’s one of the most talented artists I’ve ever worked with. She pretty much dictates what she wants and I play it. There’s not an avenue for me to get to be who Eric Gales is unless she just says go off, but it makes me a better guitar player to play with someone like that and she’s made it clear to me that I’m her guitar player. She hates when I’m doing something else and she has to get a sub for it.

Y!W: How deeply were you involved in the creation?

EG: I know I’m going to be on at least six songs, which is over half the record, plus I played some bass. She gets out in three months, so it will probably come out at the beginning of the year. I know it’s in high anticipation. I have some more touches to put on it when she gets out. It’s different though. I still haven’t heard all of the record, but it’s definitely going to be edgier than Miseducation.

Y!W: Think you might sneak in a few guitar phrases from it at this Friday night’s show?

EG: Maybe. Definitely. You just gotta listen hard.

The Eric Gales Trio will perform their final Greensboro show of 2013 at the Blind Tiger on Friday.