How does a medical school
dropout from Blacktown become sponsored by
the world’s leading guitar brand? Eric Fortaleza tells Luke and Simran exactly how it happened for him.
When I got that [Fender] bass, immediately I wrote ‘get Fender endorsement,” Eric
Fortaleza says, as he reminisces on his early experiences as a musician.
Eric, a local from Blacktown, has made his mark in the music world by establishing himself as one of Sydney’s most renowned bassists, despite flying under the radar.
Fortaleza’s successes from being endorsed by Fender, the world’s leading guitar manufacturer, have brought him more than just bragging rights –
“They [Fender]are making an Eric signature bass, Fortaleza says.
“They’re going to replicate everything, from the scratches to the little dings. Obviously, the demand won’t be high because no one knows me, but soon enough…”
Eric’s own signature bass
comes years after the Blacktown musician first reached out to the company in
It takes artists years, almost decades, before they become recognised by world renowned companies, like Fender – but Eric’s link to the company happened very quickly – a strong indication of his talent and hard-work.
Now, he spends his days performing and writing, as well as hanging out with many notable musicians, including David Ryan Harris (John Mayer’s guitarist), Guy Sebastian and even Stevie Wonder, just to name a few.
However, despite his marvellous success, Eric tells us that he wasn’t always destined to be a musician.
“I grew up playing footy, footy was my thing and for years, most of my high school life I was playing. It got to this point where I wanted to pursue it professionally.
“But I got injured. I injured my patella and I was really sad – if you get injured, it kind of breaks you. So, I had two choices; either get surgery and not play for a year and a half or, I can let it heal naturally – and that’s when I picked up the guitar.”
Eric was in Year 10 when he stumbled into the world of music. His first taste of performing came from wanting to be part of a school performance where only the ‘bass player’ position was vacant.
“I just fell into it because that
position wasn’t filled in the band,” Eric says.
“I was working at a steakhouse part-time, around Year 10. So I saved up, bought a bass and quit that job.”
Unlike many other Fender endorsed artists, who have had a lifelong passion for music and performing, Eric got his start a little late in the game. He never studied or pursued the profession when he was young, and only happened to pursue bass playing out of pure coincidence (we bet he thanks that Year 10 performance daily!).
“In my high school we had like 3 senior classes for PE and 0 music classes, so I didn’t get to do music in high school. There weren’t enough students.”
“But I think because there was no way to learn in high school, it sort of pushed me more. When something becomes out of reach, you strive for it more. When the world tells you no, you kind of want it more.”
Eric’s determination didn’t just stop there – he used it to land him an endorsement with Fender. However, despite his (basically) ‘rock-star’ lifestyle, Eric’s affiliation with Fender initially started out from a simple, harmless request.
“I got asked to do this music video for a guy named Nathaniel [Willemse], and he had a song, ‘Live Louder’, and I got asked to be in the video. And they said do you have a black bass? And I said no, but I’ll get one,
“So I emailed Fender, I wasn’t endorsed yet, and I said ‘Hey, I’m doing the Sony music video for Nathaniel Willemse and I need a black bass, is there a loan bass I can borrow?’ And they said, ‘we’d love to lend you one’.
“To them they…of course they wanted Fender on a music video. So that’s how I sort of started…I dropped a little hint of like ‘Hey would love to be endorsed sooner or later if the opportunity arises’,
“Their first response was ‘Unfortunately our artists rosters are all full at the moment, but you just keep doing your thing.”
From then on, Eric built the “portfolio” of his career through photos and videos on social media outlets including Instagram, Facebook and YouTube. Through this, he managed to discover his worth to the multi-million-dollar company and credits his accomplishments to his determination, even if it was a little irritating at first.
“When the whole social media thing started I just started posting my basses, my amps and a lot of people started saying how it was annoying but to me, it was strategy.”
“I know my reach of young bass players that watch me, and you offer that.”
Fast forward a few years, Eric woke up one morning to an email thatkick-started his life-changing career: ‘Hi Eric, we would love to welcome you to the Fender family!’
“I cried when I first read that email. I cried, I woke up and I saw it and was like ‘oh my God’.
“Everyone always asks me ‘how I got it’, and you can’t just tell them ‘do this and it’ll happen’…you have to show your worth, you know? Show your worth to the brand to allow them to connect your name with them.
“So every decision that I made, from every gig I played, to every artist I played for, had to coincide with them accepting me.”
Being an endorsed artist usually means that a particular brand sees something in an artist that they are willing to use, for their own benefit. For a global company like Fender, endorsing someone like Eric meant that there were things he could offer in return, keeping business running smoothly.
“When you get an endorsement, [artists] think ‘what can you do for me?’ but it’s a two-way street…a company who’s been making millions of dollars does not need anything from this one person, but the idea of what you can do for them? That’s really it.” Eric says.
Though he may be unknown to most, Eric’s impact on the music industry is well and truly significant due to his work with ‘free gigs’ and donating all the proceeds to charitable works such as Beyond Blue.
Now, Eric is working towards finishing his custom-made Fender Bass; a copy of his 1964 Fender Precision Bass, complemented with every last detail including the scratches and bumps.
Coming from such a sport-orientated culture in Blacktown, Western Sydney, to now, a renowned bass player, Eric’s newest goal is to be a part of a Grammy nominated project and to one day work alongside some of his idols, such as John Mayer and Stevie Wonder.
Until then, Eric Fortaleza will be “tackling things weekly” and looking forward to becoming “known for some bullshit reason”.