As two of the most prolific blues guitar players of the modern era, Joe Bonamassa and Eric Gales caused quite a stir when it was initially revealed that JoBo would be responsible for production duties for Gales’ new album, Crown.
Two singles have been released so far, proving – not that it was ever in doubt – that the buzz surrounding the project was wholly justified. But just how did this collaboration come about?
Bonamassa is becoming something of an in-demand producer these days – he also helmed the desk with Josh Smith for Joanne Shaw Taylor’s most recent album, The Blues Album – so what exactly did it cost Gales to get Bonamassa on board for his own record? A 50% cut of the profits? A new electric guitar? A five-figure sum?
Well, as it turns out, it was something far simpler – and far, far cheaper – than any of the above. All it took, apparently, was a can of Diet Coke. Well, two cans, actually. But still, pretty inexpensive.
Speaking in the latest issue of Guitar World, Gales took a deep-dive into the project’s conception, and detailed the remarkably easy lengths he had to go to in order to convince Bonamassa to join the credit list.
“On the blues cruise [Keeping the Blues Alive],” he began, “Joe and I did an interview together. Beforehand, I had said to my wife, ‘Babe, I’m just going to throw this at Joe: Will you produce my next record?’ The worst thing that could happen is that he’s going to tell me ‘no’ – but he’s going to have to say “no” in front of a thousand people!
“I sort of backed him into a corner,” Gales continued, “but the truth is I couldn’t have gotten him to do something he didn’t already want to do. He said to me, ‘You have no idea how long I’ve been waiting and watching. You are a badass guitarist; it would be more than an honor for me to help you get your rightfully deserved seat at the table.’”
It turned out to be an emotional prospect for the pair, who first met when they were both at the start of their careers. After shedding some tears over Bonamassa’s proclamation that “I am going to do my part to lift you up where you’re supposed to be”, the pair got right down to the nitty gritty.
Gales continued, “I asked, ‘What would it cost me to get you to produce my record?’ He said, ‘First of all, I’m not cheap.’ I said, ‘Okay, name the price.’
“He said, ‘All I require is two Diet Cokes.’ I went back to my suite and said, ‘Babe, let’s get two Diet Cokes right fast!’ I took them back to him and said, ‘Deal!’ We shook hands and that was it.”
The easiest, most amicable negotiation process in the history of modern blues? Quite possibly.
As well as producing the album, Bonamassa also ended up with a guest spot on Gales’ I Want My Crown – a dueling masterclass that saw the two slug it out over a bounty of blues licks.
Of the track, which was included as an editor’s pick in our list of the 10 best guitar solos of 2021, Bonamassa told Guitar World, “We pull no punches. That kind of battle just makes everyone better. I know going in that Eric has this “fifth gear,” so I have to live in the fifth gear, too!
“When Eric plays,” he added, “it’s on and there’s no halfpower switch; he is coming right at you.”
Head over to Magazines Direct to pick up the latest issue of Guitar World, which features two in-depth interviews with Joe Bonamassa and Eric Gales, as well as a mammoth run-down of 2021’s standout solos, riffs and albums.