When Adrian Galysh conceptualized his new album, Into the Blue, it was supposed to be a creative respite from the rewarding but tortuous undertaking of his 2013 orchestral-prog epic, Tone Poet, which required the scrupulous fine-tuning of colossal layers of electric and acoustic guitars, strings, choirs, drums, percussion, and other instruments.
“After two years of hard work recording Tone Poet, it was daunting to consider repeating something that intense,” says Galysh. “So, as I hadn’t done a complete vocal album yet, I decided to explore more straightforward songs in a blues-rock style.”
But while the production of Into the Blue was far less taxing than Tone Poet, it nonetheless produced its own sources of anxiety.
“I was scared to death of blues clichés,” Galysh admits. “The vocabulary I draw from is similar to everyone else’s who grew up in the ’70s—Robin Trower, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton—and I have nothing new or brilliant to bring to that conversation. So I knew I had to, at least, make whatever I played authentic for me. Everything had to come naturally. And, as I got deeper into the project, I realized each song was an amalgamation of all my influences, and, to me, that’s what the blues is about in this day and age—a melting pot of southern-style blues, rock and roll, and R&B.”
Galysh also recognized that keeping things real for Into the Blue—which includes performances by guest guitarists Carl Verheyen and Johnny Hiland—meant jettisoning a bit of ego.
“The blues is ‘home’ for many guitar players,” he says, “but, personally, I couldn’t have made a real blues album until very recently. I had too much stuff to get out of my system when I was younger. Now, I’m mature enough of a player to understand that I don’t need to show off anymore. I can just be a melody guy without having to play the crap out of the guitar—just to prove that I can. Every note should be deep and meaningful and all about the music.”
The Los Angeles-based guitarist was further aided in his quest to play honestly and expressively by a “stubborn” all-original ’69 or ’70 sunburst Strat he acquired at auction, and which Galysh ultimately sold to Joe Bonamassa.
“I have my own signature Brian Moore guitar, but that Strat had the perfect blues-rock sound—that quintessential Hendrix meets Ritchie Blackmore tone,” says Galysh. “I used it for 70 percent of the guitars on Into the Blue, and it was a real pain in the ass to play. I’m used to hot-rod guitars with slender necks and jumbo frets, but that Strat still had its original frets, and as you really had to dig into it to get the notes, I couldn’t do speedy, throwaway licks. I had to slow down. And that was great, because it forced me to do these cool, bluesy phrases that I probably would not have discovered if I were playing my Brian Moore.”