The Notable Merrimack Valley Rocker Continues to Find Success by Mastering New Genres and Techniques.
Somewhere deep in the suburban woods of southern New Hampshire a real life rock ’n’ roll guitar hero is hard at work on the next chapter of his already illustrious career. Lowell native Gary Hoey moved back to the Merrimack Valley a decade ago to continue his life’s work away from the high energy and bright lights of Los Angeles, the place he called home for almost 20 years. It was during this time that the guitar slinger enjoyed success in a variety of forms by releasing a plethora of major-label rock albums, placing songs in various films, and even sharing the stage with world-class musicians such as Jeff Beck, Steve Vai, The Doobie Brothers, Foreigner, Styx, Peter Frampton, Joe Bonamassa, Ted Nugent and Brian May of Queen.
“If you have the drive, you can learn how to make it,” Hoey says with the certainty of a college professor or motivational life coach. His energy and passion are infectious, even via telephone. “I tell young kids all the time, ‘Don’t just be a guitarist … learn how to work a computer, learn some marketing … . The Internet is the window to the world.” It is this commitment and self-reliance that has resulted in decades of success in the constantly changing, often mystifying music business.
And sure, having killer guitar chops and expert knowledge of various musical languages helps, too.
Hoey’s story is something out of rock ’n’ roll urban legend. After attending Berklee College of Music and saving money from working as a guitar instructor, he moved to L.A. in 1987 on the advice of Ozzy Osbourne following a life-changing audition to perform as lead guitarist for the heavy metal icon (a position that ultimately was awarded to Zakk Wylde).
In 1992, Hoey was signed to Warner Brothers Records as a member of the band Heavy Bones. They released their first album, “Heavy Bones,” that year. In 1993 Hoey had his first Billboard Top 50 hit on the rock charts with the song “Hocus Pocus,” off the highly-acclaimed and completely instrumental album “Animal Instinct.” The following year he scored the music to the film “The Endless Summer II.” Hoey’s signature sound, combining hummable melodies with ferocious string-shredding technique, has helped him create a musical brand that is instantly recognizable.
Since growing his fan base and brand in the early ’90s, the 54-year-old musician has gone on to record albums in the blues and vocal-rock genres. When Hoey and his wife, Nicole, moved to New England 10 years ago, they teamed up as the primary promoters and marketers of his music. “She’s a California girl, and I didn’t know how she’d enjoy living in the country,” Hoey says. “[But] she loves everything about it, the people, the lifestyle …”
Hoey has an ability and willingness to show his growth as a person through his music. “When I’m having a down time as a musician and get depressed, I just work harder and try to make myself better; it’s the only way to avoid getting down,” Hoey says of the common fatigue an artist faces during the peaks and valleys of a career. “I honestly got bored playing two-hour-long concerts of instrumental music. I started singing again because it’s what I did growing up. I like to tell a little story with my words, then let the guitar do a little talking.”
Hoey showcased another realm of his artistry by producing Lita Ford’s June 2012 album, “Living Like a Runaway.” “Don’t practice a lot of different things, but try and master as many things as you can,” Hoey says. His mastery of diversity and commitment to taking chances has helped him nurture a storied career in the music industry. He shows no signs of slowing down and fading away anytime soon.
For more information, visit GaryHoey.com.
Main photo by Maia Kennedy.