As a teen phenom growing up in a city many consider the Mecca of blues and soul music, Eric Gales didn't quite understand what he was absorbing.
"Growing up in Memphis had an impact on me in ways I didn't realize until later in life," said Gales. "It was a big part of growing up there. A lot of blues and other styles were there. And now it's grown into a whole lot of other styles. I am very proud to have come from Memphis, but there are many other styles attributed to the city."
While a teen, Gales was drawn not to the now legendary names that came out of his hometown, but rather to the guitar sounds coming from across the Atlantic by Brits including Robin Trower and Jeff Beck.
"My brother was turning me on to these new cats while growing up. So I had a nice melting pot of all kinds of styles of different people. So I attribute that to my older brother Eugene," said Gales.
Brother Eugene is one of the guests on Gales' just released "Middle of the Road" album, one he considers autobiographical.
"I just dove in and talked about experiences I've been through, and try to not just give problems, but offer solutions to come out of those problems, and be an influence and inspiration to someone else, just to show their is a brighter side of the road," said Gales.
The song "Good Time" opens the album and delivers Gales intention to make it a positive experience. After the opening riff, Gales stops to to remark "Now that's how your start a record" before segueing into what evolved into an up-tempo gospel release.
"This opens the door for having a good time, and letting you know it's going to be a great time on this record," said Gales. "For someone just putting the record on, they have no premise of what's about to happen. They may have an idea this may be a blues record, but when you listen all the way through, it gives you different nuances, but it all fits into the same packaging."
Rising star Gary Clark Jr. joins Gales on "Boogie Man." Gales said he met Clark about five years when the two played the same show.
"We jammed at the end of my show, and we rekindled with each other again about five or six months ago at a show in Raleigh. At that point I began to talk to him about this new record I was doing, and told him I was doing a rendition of 'Boogie Man,' and that I was going to flip it up a little bit. He was down for it. So the next day he got off tour in California he came right to me and he did a great job. The rest is history," said Gales.
Today Gales feels renewed after shaking off of a difficult few years compounded by substance abuse. He said the situation was serious enough that it could have killed him. As he drove down I-85 through North Carolina with his wife at his side, he said it was her belief in him that made the difference.
"And I'm saying what I'm about to say not just because she is here, but because it's the truth," said Gales. "From day one, she imputed into my head and soul that even if the music was gone, she believed in me as a human being."
With increased intensity, he recalld her telling him that he was battling something she didn't understand, and reminded him the people in his life cared about him more than he realized.
"It wasn't always 'yes' people, it wasn't always sitting back watching me say the wrong thing. I have some people who are by my side that won't let that happen. Even if I fought tooth and nail to let it happen, they would help me help myself. It's always about who you have around you that can help you in a lot of circumstances. It's the best decision I've made. Right now I'm about about a week and half away from being eight months clean and sober. That's why the album is summed up by songs like 'Middle of the Road,' and 'New Fresh Eyes.' And I think this is why the accolades and achievements are coming, because now I'm ready to receive it all. Some people ask 'why hadn't I soared more than it has.' I think it's because God knew I wasn't ready yet," said Gales.