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Meet Gabe Rosales

Today we’d like to introduce you to Gabe Rosales.

Every artist has a unique story. Can you briefly walk us through yours?
I am a professional musician who has had the opportunity to tour internationally with high profile acts right out of high school. I turned 21 while on the road on a US tour with a hard rock band, and from that point on, I continued to leave my mark on the Los Angeles music scene touring with Jennifer Lopez, Christina Milian, and Sheena Easton.

Coming from an alcoholic family, I was susceptible to drug abuse and alcoholism. This became even more apparent after my first US tour, so I attended my first Vipassana meditation course in North Fork, CA in 2000 where I sat in silence meditating 16 hours a day for a straight ten days. Little did I know I had received a profound life blessing that would help me stay sober when I was ready. My substance abuse continued and progressed. By the time I reached 25, I had gotten a DUI and had health issues stemming from hard drug use and alcohol. In 2007, after a drunken violent stupor, I was incarcerated for months in county jail.

Once released, I took a vow of sobriety and recorded a solo album featuring top musicians. I dove into community activism and began a formal education. I have worked with the US State Department on cultural exchange programs to stop youth from joining terrorist organizations in the middle east; I have worked on an award-winning documentary on Native American genocide and US history; I have traveled to Africa to aid impoverished communities; I started my own secular sobriety community online while becoming SMART Recovery certified, and I have raised tens of thousands of dollars for children’s charities. Since getting sober, the musical collaborations truly blossomed, and I began working with some of my own personal heroes such as Tom Morello from Rage Against the Machine, Grammy award-winning Andy Summers of The Police, and Jose Pasillas II of Incubus.

I finally graduated from the University of California, Irvine, in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in Criminology, Law, and Society. In 2018 I became a “Jail Guitar Doors” artist facilitating rehabilitative songwriting in Donovan State Prison, and started law school. By the beginning of 2019, I realized my heart was not in law school, so I withdrew, became more active in CDCR programming and policy. Currently, I am applying to a Ph.D. program to study the recent developments I have been witnessing at Donovan state prison.

Please tell us about your art.
I am a musician first and foremost, and music has given me the opportunity to engage with every aspect of my interests from academia, social justice, to rehabilitation.

I create music through guitar, piano, bass guitar and vocals, for my own therapy and have been teaching for 18 years. I grew up with an extremely eclectic taste, and it reflects in how I express myself. Having heard a specific lyric from a hip hop artist I appreciated, caused me to seek out the meanings of terms, names, and historical significance. I was educated on civil rights through hip hop. I used to take out my aggression in a mosh pit in my teenage years listening to death metal. I learned the importance of evolving with life’s changes through learning jazz tunes. Music has been a vehicle for me to be a part of so many communities that are making the world a better place.

I strive to pass on my appreciation for all these diverse music artists through my own lyrics and musical inspiration, using my primary instrument, bass, as the catalyst, Lyrically, I try to combine life lessons I have learned with lyrics that are purely me processing emotional hurdles. Every song has a different message, whether it is urging the listener to avoid clinging to impermanent things or whether it is attempting to empathize with people who have addiction in their family. Listeners should know, I write lyrics and music that I think sounds cool, so I am way behind on current trends.

What do you think about the conditions for artists today? Has life become easier or harder for artists in recent years? What can cities like ours do to encourage and help art and artists thrive?
I would not put a specific value to artistic conditions today because I see both the negative sides of our progress and the positivity in our deterioration. Generally speaking, arts awareness has transferred from being part of the public school curriculum to something that is discovered at someone’s leisure. This funnels the majority of youth’s (future artists) exposure to the arts through social media and the internet. This reality has re-branded any kind of creative outlet into something that can be instantly monetized. Anyone can be “seen” and have the opportunity to gain a following/support if they promote themselves enough. That in itself is a commendable grind if the person has tapped into relatable or impressionable content. This creates a huge opportunity for all artists, but some substance is lost. As a musician, I easily listened to songs lasting 8 to 9 minutes. Because of the high pace of social media and people discovering most things online, there is a pressure to capture someone’s interest in little time. I feel like this affects younger artists, but for the 40+ like me, I just do what I do. Having played music professionally as my sole occupation for the past two decades, we all want to be able to live, eat, and pay rent with our art. I have learned to do what I love for the art on one hand while I also enjoy playing music to survive on the other.

We are in an age where almost any artist can have direct access to anyone with a cell phone. Every artistic scene is inundated with mediocrity, but I feel like that is because the actually talented artists that go viral are more accessible than they have ever been in the history of time and because of this, everyone wants to try it. Anyone can create a persona to portray through social media. The content can be shared a hundred thousand times, and then immediately that person legitimizes themselves as an “artist.” It has been frustrating at times to some artists because some of us have spent hours a day, for decades, practicing an instrument. A lot of work goes into making sure we perform at high-level, consistent professionalism. With current studio magic, we may hear a finished product that was a Frankenstein conglomeration of 90 different takes that was edited to sound “perfect.” This may result in many downloads or streams of songs, but on most music hosting sites, this results in very little pay off for an artist to continue on. If the artist cannot pull that off their recorded sound in the live show (where most working musical artists must make their income), and they promote themselves as that perfection, then they need to reevaluate what it means to be an artist. I am not interested in that specific kind of perfection. The humanity in music is what reminds us that we are alive and that we all have the capacity to create. I still love terrible recordings of garage punk bands playing three chords. I think most people love honesty in art, because being honest means that no one is perfect. Any artistic venture is fulfilling if you are honest with yourself as a creator.

I am around many many musicians and artists whose work I love. I am constantly in awe of their grind and dedication. There is so much talent out there. It is just a matter of being exposed to it. I encourage locals to go see live music to support their friends and fellow artists. Buy their clothing, music, and art and share it with your circles. People spend hundreds of dollars on festival shows when they have gold sitting in their back yards.

How or where can people see your work? How can people support your work?
I have a hand in many different organizations ranging from humanitarian aid orgs, drug policy reform, to social equity programs in the cannabis industry. My solo album “Vital Nonsense” can be accessed through iTunes (, Spotify, iHeartRadio. You can find the “Shadow Nation” documentary on Native American genocide on Amazon ( People can also donate to “Jail Guitar Doors” to aid myself and other artists who are teaching songwriting in state prison throughout the country ( If someone wants to donate to me directly to support my activist work, they can donate to my website (

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Jeremy Lucero, Peter Merts, Dallas Augustine, Blake Polfer

Getting in touch: SDVoyager is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition, please let us know here.

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