Hotstar: Gary Hoey

Sure, Gary Hoey’s been rockin’ and rollin’ for a couple of decades, but there’s always time to start anew.

Hoey’s a guitar shredder, now touring with Jeff Beck. And Hoey’s a composer, writing music for movies and television. And Hoey’s kind of a rocking Santa Claus, carving out a niche with his “Ho Ho Hoey” holiday shows.

But now it’s time to move forward.

“I’ve been in the business a long time, and I have 16 albums,” Hoey told Pollstar. “So every year you want to keep evolving and reinventing.”

This summer, Hoey is going to drop Utopia, an album with vocals. Yes, he’s sang before, especially on the last album but, for the most part, Hoey is a one-man G3. His career has been about being a kickass ax man, designed for the guys who like saying words like “Strat,” “Digitech” and “Guitar Center.” But not anymore.

“I grew up singing in bands when I was 15 years old until I was 28,” the 50-year-old (who looks 30) said. “So I have a lot of experience as a singer. I just got back on the horse with really strong songs that everybody’s been reacting to really well.”

Hoey has a new manager in Jeff Apregan, who’s known for putting together tours for Neil Diamond. He’s also working with agencies Buddy Lee Attractions and Paquin Entertainment. And he’s about to build his presence in Europe.

In other words, it’s a time of transformation.

“I’m still letting the guitar do the talking, and I’m still keeping it rock ’n’ roll with a mixture of classic rock, blues and a little bit of a contemporary feel,” Hoey said. “But I’m not becoming this whining singer-songwriter who wants to tell you about all my pain. My guideline is what Jimi Hendrix did, what Eric Clapton did: They played great guitar but they also told you a story.”

The end result is that he’s “moving forward,” and not just musically.

“We have found an increase in our audience. We have found more females at the shows, which is not a bad thing for the guys.”

Apregan and Hoey have known each other for a long time, introduced through Alan Rommelfanger of Daybreak Entertainment. Every winter, when Apregan decorated his Christmas tree, Apregan would plug in Ho Ho Hoey to get him in the spirit. A few years back, they reconnected when Hoey was presenting at the Pollstar awards show.

“We started talking; I started helping him with a few things,” Apregan said. “I decided as we started working together that he was somebody I really wanted to work with. We shared the same work ethic.”

Unlike some artists who can’t take a press call before noon, Hoey will visit and play for the morning radio disc jockeys in almost every city he visits.

“The name of the game is survival, isn’t it?” Hoey asked. “It’s about reinventing yourself enough every year to keep going. It’s easy to have one big hit. It’s hard to last 10, 15 years in this business. And I think we’ve managed to do it by touring a lot and staying on the radio. I think artists have to empower themselves by their hard work and due diligence and not think it’s just the old days where somebody else is going to take care of it.”

Unlike the old days, when Hoey was signed to Warner Bros. and would get bags of fan mail, he’s using Facebook and Twitter to keep the fans happy. Not only do they know when their guitar hero is coming to town, they will get invites to soundcheck.

“Now with the connection from the Internet, we’re communicating with fans up to the afternoon of the show,” he said.

Another thing that’s changed is his understanding of the business. A few years ago, Hoey was in between agents and drew upon Pollstar’s resources. With the help of a Talent Buyer Directory, a few other tools and some free advice, he kept himself on the road.

“Pollstar made me realize I could empower myself. At the end of the road, I proved to some of these agents I am a viable touring artist. I’m going to work hard, I’m going to show up and I’m going to do a great job. And I think that’s a process some bands need to learn before you get a great agent.”

Now, with Apregan’s help, Hoey is trying to build his fan base overseas. But not just there. Even after two decades of touring, there are still some places in the U.S. that need to be introduced to Hoey.

“I know this sounds silly, but Florida,” he said. “I’ve been to Florida over the years but, being the guy who scored the movie ‘Endless Summer II,’ you’d think I’d be playing the beach there. So we’re trying to go to some of the coastal towns with my surf music. And, if you come out and there’s only 80 people, you’ve got to rock ‘em like there’s 8,000. Sometimes it’s about rebuilding the market; sometimes it’s about paying your dues.”