“THROUGH KICKSTARTER, WE RAISED $22,000 IN 30 DAYS. I EVEN HAD TO TURN DOWN TWO RECORD DEALS!”
After excitedly opening the door to the backstage of the Sellersville Theater in Sellersville, Pennsylvania, Gary Hoey showed us a box containing something small and shiny. “Look at this! This little boy just gave this to me before the show.” He pulled out a gleaming metal guitar pick, saying excitedly to his band, “It has ‘Ho, Ho, Hoey’ engraved on it. Isn’t that the cutest thing?” I was pleasantly surprised and already excited for my interview with Gary.
Hoey’s story on how he became a star is a very interesting one. He did everything as a young teenager to get his hands on a guitar. He hung out at Berklee College of Music to make friends and ask to take music lessons. Hoey played and played his guitar, and even taught music lessons, until he got his big break in the late 1980s.
There was news that Ozzy (yes, Ozzy Osbourne) would soon be searching Boston for a new guitarist. Without a doubt Hoey easily made the list and was flown out to Los Angeles, California by Ozzy himself for a big audition. During the tryout, Hoey had the privilege to meet, talk and perform with Ozzy and his band. Though he didn’t make the guitarist position, Ozzy encouraged Hoey to move from Boston to Los Angeles due to his great talent that was clearly shown through his tryout. “Ozzy told me to believe in myself because I had something special.” And he did just that. He moved to L.A. and ended up landing a record deal within five years.
Hoey is known for his unique sound which is a mixture of blues, rock, and surf music. As a whole, his music is a melodic combination of these styles, majorly influenced by big names like Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Stevie Ray Vaughan. But, Hoey told me, his biggest influence of all is his mother.
“My mother taught me to, above all, respect people and work hard. She told me, ‘If you’re good at something, it doesn’t mean you’re better than anyone. It just means you worked hard at what you do.’ You have to respect others, because the same people you see on your way up are the same people you’re going to deal with on your way down.”
I asked Gary how recording a blues album was different than his typical rock and roll album (actually, he’s had 18 albums out since 1993, so he’s had lots and lots of experience recording). He told me that a blues album is the hardest type to record because of all the emotion required for each and every song. The blues genre was derived from spiritual music and work songs, and generally has an entrancing, “groovy” feel to the rhythm. The blues are known for their evocations of deep emotional feelings and their narrative quality; a blues song tells a story.
When Gary records a rock and roll album, he puts his heart and soul into the melody, the rhythm, and the lyrics. Each song can be played generally the same way every single time, but there’s something to be admired about recording a blues album. Gary explained, “Rock is perfectly harmonious. The blues have an edge and spontaneity to them. Your performance has to be given everything you have. Every performance is slightly different because you can add your true emotions into it.”
Most successful musicians strive to please their fans. Hoey, on the other hand, has the mindset that he works for his fans. Upon deciding to record his newest album, Deja Blues, Hoey enrolled in Kickstarter to raise the necessary money needed to record an album.
“Through Kickstarter, we raised $22,000 in 30 days. I even had to turn down two record deals!” His many fans literally paid for his album to be made. Gary Hoey is well-loved for a reason. Not only is he easy to talk to and a great conversationalist, he also appreciates and respects his fans. Many musicians at his level finish their last song and disappear backstage as the crowd screams for one more song, never appearing to satisfy them one last time. After every show, Gary comes into the crowd of waiting people to chat, say his thank you’s and sign autographs.
I couldn’t help but notice throughout our interview what a nice, genuine person Hoey was. He has recorded almost two dozen albums, gone on tour, created a backup band, and throughout all of this has maintained a sincere character and true charisma. His path to success, he said, was staying true to himself and creating the type of music he loved. Gary’s advice is: “Don’t follow trends! And it’s tough to make money in the beginning, you know? You need to have a true love of music.” He also advises his fans to stay away from drugs and drinking. He doesn’t have a drop of alcohol before his shows because consistency and a good performance are important to him.
I am a huge fan of Gary Hoey, not just based on his amazing guitar riffs and unique sound, but because he is a true and genuine human being. He cares about his fans, about his music, his performances, and loves the life that he has worked so hard for.