Salvatore Paul "Sully" Erna Jr. (born February 7, 1968) is the American vocalist and guitarist for the American heavy metal band Godsmack. He is also a harmonica player, percussionist and pianist, performing these on albums and at live shows. He was ranked 47th in the Top 100 Heavy Metal Vocalists by Hit Parader.
Sully was born in Lawrence, Massachusetts. He began playing drums at the age of three. His father, Salvatore Erna, was a trumpet player and would rehearse in the basement where Sully would watch and fall asleep in an empty guitar case. His great-uncle was a famous composer in Sicily, where every year they honor his music and his pictures are hung in a museum. At the age of 11, he discovered that it was easier for him to listen to something and play it than read sheet music. He stopped taking lessons and practiced at home, rehearsing to records by Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin, Motörhead and Rush.
At 14, Dave Vose became his new instructor. He signed his first record deal in 1993 with a band called Strip Mind. Their debut album What's in Your Mouth sold fewer than 50,000 units. Then some of the band members (mainly the singer) and Erna didn't get along, and he was booted out. They split-up shortly after. In Godsmack concerts he plays the bongos and a large drum set, staging a drumming duel known as Batalla de los Tambores with drummer Shannon Larkin. This battle has become a staple of the band's live show. He is also a harmonica player as present on the Godsmack song "Shine Down." In 2010, Sully released his first solo album Avalon. The album took seven years to complete and differed stylistically from Godsmack. Sully wrapped up his acoustic tour with one final show at The House of Blues in Las Vegas, Nevada on June 28.
Erna has also worked with his local music scene. In April 2005, Sully participated in New Hampshire's Battle of the Bands Competition. The winner (a band called Zion who hails from Salem) had the opportunity to record a demo at Sully's California studio.
Erna told Glam-Metal.com that doing his first solo shows were "extremely nerve-wracking," adding, "My first show, I was really, really nervous. Honestly, I haven't been that nervous since I was, I don't know, maybe 10 years old at a talent show or something." Erna kicked off his first solo acoustic trek on 1 May in Niagara Falls, New York and closed it out on May 31 in Las Vegas. The shows have combined Godsmack songs with a few new originals and covers ranging from The Beatles to Alice in Chains to the theme from Love Story.
Regarding how he went about selecting the material used for his solo show, Erna said, "I wanted to stick a couple of originals in and try them out because there was a couple of songs that were done on the piano or the guitar that I wrote that I don't think I would use on a GODSMACK record," he said. "For example, 'Eyes of a Child' and 'Until Then'. It was a great opportunity to showcase that and see if I can hit home with the people on those two pieces. Those songs are the most emotional pieces of the evening. One song is about children born with or dying from AIDS and the other is about a tribute to the troops of the United States Armed Forces."
Erna told The Pulse of Radio that playing some new material live is a good way for him to test out songs that might not work for Godsmack. "We're all musicians and we like to write music and not necessarily rock all the time," he said. "So, you know, if I sit home and I'm writing on the piano and sometimes just cool songs are written that don't necessarily fit maybe what you do with Godsmack, but you don't wanna not record them."
Erna stated at the time that he planned to work on his first solo album.
On March 4, 2009, Blabbermouth.net reported that Erna had completed work on his first solo album, Avalon, released September 14, 2010. Although, the single Sinner's Prayer will be on radio stations and on sale everywhere August 3, 2010. Erna described the album as being "a very different kind of sounding record," and "a huge departure from anything I've ever done." The album includes Lisa Guyer on vocals, Tim Theriault on guitars and vocals, Chris Decato on keyboards, midi and vocals, Chris Lester on acoustic guitars and bass, classically trained Irina Chirkova of Bulgaria on Cello, Niall Gregory of Ireland Dead Can Dance on drums and percussion and David Stephanelli on drums and percussion.
Three days later, Rockerrazzi.com posted an interview with Erna in which he said that the record "should be out in the next two months." In further describing the album's sound, Erna said that "it's very eclectic," and "tribal" with "a lot of hand drumming" and "beautiful piano compositions." He also stated that he "worked with a percussion session for Dead Can Dance" and that the album will feature Lisa Guyer, who had performed backing vocals for the song "Hollow" on Godsmack's previous album.
Erna's debut solo album is titled Avalon, and it was released on September 14, 2010. According to The Pulse of Radio, Sully Erna is planning his debut solo tour for sometime in early 2011, possibly in spring.
Erna released a live DVD, Avalon Live, in fall of 2012.
Sully Erna released a very special limited-edition Avalon box set in November as well as a DVD of the Sully Erna performing songs from his debut solo album, Avalon, on December 16, 2011 at The Wilbur Theatre in Boston, Massachusetts. The collection includes the double-disc Avalon Live, The Making of Avalon Live documentary, The Journey to Avalon documentary, and a DVD of bloopers and outtakes. The box set also contains a pair of CDs – the original Avalon album and the Avalon Live show recording. Other items that are part of the collection include two CDs, a book, T-shirt, guitar pick, poster, incense, etc., and a custom metal Sully Erna engraved metal box with a suede lining. Only 5,000 copies were available. A single disc standard and Blu-ray version of the show was released on December 18, 2012.
In an interview with HardDrive, Sully Erna mentioned that he will do another solo album; although, details have not been revealed yet. On July 2016, it was announced that Sully Erna will release his second solo album Hometown Life in September 30, 2016. The album has since been released.
Film and music video appearances
Sully Erna is good friends with Criss Angel and has participated in several episodes of the Criss Angel Mindfreak TV show. Sully's contributions to the discography of Criss Angel include co-writing and performing Mindfreak's new theme song "MF2." Sully appears in the music video along with Criss Angel and Godsmack drummer Shannon Larkin.
Sully Erna is also featured in Mötley Crüe music video "White Trash Circus" released on February 25, 2009. He also appeared in episode 7 of the 2007 TV series Dirt. Sully Erna has been named to the cast of Woodhaven Pictures upcoming Army of the Damned. In 2016, he appeared as Caesar's Blackjack Dealer in the Martin Scorsese film 'Bleed for This.' Sully Erna have reportedly signed on to appear in the movie Street Level. He also stars in a new independent action-thriller called Black Files.
In 2017, Sully Erna played in Bulgarian film Benzin (Director: Asen Blatechki)
Erna released a memoir entitled The Paths We Choose on his birthday, February 7, 2007. The book details his struggles during the first 30 years of his life, up until the time Godsmack landed a record deal.
"The book is basically just my life from the time I was born until Godsmack started," Erna said. "I wanted to write about the whole experience of trying to get there, and hopefully that will inspire some people that maybe are still in the ghettos or trying to dig their way out of a hole. I mean, we're all human and we weren't born rock stars. So I think there's an interesting story to tell of the pain and struggling. You know, being middle classed and being raised in crazy neighborhoods. If kids can see that they'll be able to relate to anything they have a dream for."
The book sold 100,000 copies in its first month of release, and to date has shipped 1,000,000 copies worldwide.
Sully Erna participated in the 2006 World Series of Poker main event in which he made a brief appearance on the ESPN broadcast of the event; it was mentioned that he was the last of the celebrity entries. He finished in 713th out of 8,773 earning him $17,730.
Erna also played in the 2007 World Series of Poker main event. After the elimination of Tobey Maguire, Erna was the final celebrity remaining. He placed in 237th out of a field of 6,358, earning $45,422. To complement his placing at the World Series of Poker, he placed 2nd in a preliminary event at Bellagio's 5 Diamond World Poker Classic, where he lost to J.C Tran but earned $307,325 as a consolation.
Erna said he's back and ready to play the circuit with the shot to return to 2013 summer's World Series of Poker. "I'm making my comeback! I've studied the game. I'm getting the itch to play poker again," Erna said during an interview with Playbook.
2010 Haiti earthquake
Godsmack, Creed and Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello are some of the musicians who partnered with multimedia company DC3 Music Group to fundraise and pack an MD-80 airplane with supplies and medical personnel to help in the 2010 Haiti earthquake. According to a press release, the plane was scheduled to leave from Long Beach, California on January 27, 2010 and bring 10,000 pounds of medical supplies, along with doctors and medical staff, to Port-au-Prince.
Erna said in a statement, "Since I can't be there to help in person, I want to make my contribution as a fellow human being to give what I can while I'm in the fortunate situation that I am to help those that are so unfortunate in this time of tragedy."
On October 9, 2010, Godsmack was performing at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut, when during the song "Whatever", Erna spewed a lengthy diatribe at the audience, and when a fan, who wasn't enjoying the show after mentioning Erna's distaste for Creed, flipped him off, Erna said: "You like Creed? You like Scott Stapp? He's a faggot! Faggot!" Erna later issued an apology to Stapp and the members of Creed for his derogatory remarks, and explained that there had been several years of bad blood between himself and Stapp, following an incident in which Stapp refused an autograph request from a fan, which was witnessed by Erna. Stapp responded to Erna's apology on Twitter and said he forgave him.
Erna has a daughter named Skylar Brooke Erna. He also has a brother named Carlo and an older sister named Maria.
Erna was quite shaken up from the three-car chain-reaction accident in Methuen, Massachusetts he was involved in when his vehicle and two others collided at an intersection. "He's deeply concerned for the girl who was hurt in this unfortunate accident," said his manager, Paul Geary, in reference to 25-year-old Chelmsford resident Lindsay Taylor. "Sully's thankful he got out with a split lip and some aches and pains, but he's traumatized about the girl," according to April 17, 2007 Boston Herald.
Taylor was sitting in the back seat of a dark blue Toyota Camry that collided with the H3 driven by Erna. The crash occurred on a dark night, around 7 p.m. on the ramp leading from I-93 south to Route 213.
Taylor suffered a severe, traumatic brain injury and was in a coma after the crash. She suffered lasting effects, and would later sue. A settlement was reached in 2010.
Erna was a practicing Wiccan early in his career. His spirituality influences some of his songwriting to include the song "Spiral" from Godsmack's second album Awake and "Releasing the Demons" from their third album Faceless. He has stated publicly, however, that he "didn't want to be the poster boy for witchcraft", and does not necessarily capitalize on his religion for providing fame to the band. In fact, the issue of his religious beliefs never comes up unless he is asked in an interview. However recently he mentioned that he does not follow any specific religion. "I'm just a spiritual person; I believe in karma and things like that. But religion is an ugly word to me." Erna explained It is commonly believed that the Godsmack song "Voodoo" is about heroin addiction, but is instead a reference to the story of The Serpent and the Rainbow.