2015 saw the release of the Neal Morse Band’s The Grand Experiment. What was originally a solo project had now evolved into a full band. One of the revelations from that album was the emergence of lead guitarist Eric Gillette.
Anyone who heard the band on record or live in 2015 could immediately recognize the impressive talents of the young newcomer, who showcases not only his lightning speed guitar skills, but also his outstanding vocal ability. Now in 2016, he is branching out with a brand new solo album called The Great Unknown on which he sings lead. I caught up with Eric while he was writing for a new Neal Morse Band album with that band in Nashville.
Gillette was discovered by Neal when in 2012, Neal Morse held open auditions called, The Chance Of A Lifetime, for his then upcoming tour. “I sent in a couple YouTube audition videos, playing keys and guitar. I was picked and went to Nashville for an in-person audition and got the gig. After a couple years of playing with Neal, we formed the Neal Morse Band and it has been an amazing journey so far!”
His start in music goes back to a very young age. “I started playing piano at age 4, guitar at age 12 and other instruments along the way. I am mainly self-taught but took a few lessons when I was younger. As a kid, I would spend my summers playing guitar in my room for 8 hours a day.
Gillette released a solo album in 2013 called Afterthought, which was mostly an instrumental record but does feature a couple of vocal tracks. Shortly after the release of The Grand Experiment in 2015, he started working on the solo album “I started writing the album in March of 2015. I knew I wanted to do another solo album after getting such a great response from Afterthought. I sat down to start writing and it just started pouring out. The next thing I know, I had an 18-minute song. So I kept writing and ended up with a total of 7 songs that I felt made the album complete.” He credits the work with the Neal Morse band as the reason for making a full vocal album this time around. “I was really challenged on The Grand Experiment as a writer, musician and vocalist and feel like that really helped me find my own voice as an artist.”
The band on the new album is a strong one with the extraordinary Thomas Lang on drums as well as Haken members Diego Tejeida and Conner Green on Keys and Bass, respectively. “I was talking to my great friend and manager, Chris Thompson, while we were on tour in Germany with the Neal Morse Band. We were talking about my album that I was working on and if I was going to play all the instruments again or if I was going to have other musicians. I remember telling him, if I could pick any drummer to play on my next album, I would pick Thomas Lang. He is an insane drummer and I’ve always enjoyed his playing. Chris happened to have a connection with Thomas and next thing you know, he’s playing on my record! That same tour we played a few shows with Haken (who I am a huge fan of by the way. Those guys are killer). I got to know the guys that tour, so when I was thinking of a bass player, Conner Green was the first to come to mind. I thought his killer playing would suit this music really well, and it definitely did! Diego was a no-brainer as well when it came to keys. He has such a unique style and approach to his sounds and playing. They are all incredible musicians and it is an honor to get to work with some of the best in the world.”
“The Great Unknown is really an album that showcases all aspects of the music, from melodic harmonies to wall shaking solos of each instrument. Because of the depth and variety of the music, it begs to be performed live. There are definitely plans to tour the new album! It’s just a matter of getting shows and putting it all together, which I’m confident we can and will do!”