Cole Gallagher likes to emphasize how thankful he is for the many opportunities he’s had and the people who have made them possible. With one look at the 19-year-old’s music career, anyone can understand why he is so grateful.
At 18, the South Pasadena singer, songwriter and guitarist — who learned his craft playing at local venues like the Old Town Pub and the Mixx — took a trip to Nashville to check out the music scene. There, he played with seasoned musicians on the stages of famous venues such as Tootsies Orchid Lounge, Redneck Riviera Bar & BBQ, Legends Corner, Honky Tonk Central and B.B. King’s Blues Club. His experience there was chronicled by the Review in December 2019. The trip allowed Gallagher and his band, Cole Gallagher & the Lesser Saints, to network with producers interested in recording their music.
Despite his age, Gallagher’s deep, soulful tone and classic rock influences helped him stand out.
“A lot of my influences are from a genre known as AAA. It’s mainly rock and roll-oriented songwriting — Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan. Those are songwriters with a lot of versatility,” Gallagher explained.
“I was about 15 when I started going to the Mixx,” he continued. “Every Tuesday night was blues night, and I would go up there and get [schooled] by these old blues cats. It’s really cool they always let me come back, even when I [stank]. And I really got to learn how to improvise on stage, to play live and jam. It was a great place to hone my craft.”
The Nashville trip was a success and the band’s profile started growing. Gallagher met engineer and producer Vance Powell, a six-time Grammy winner who has worked with the likes of Phish, Jack White and the White Stripes and has recorded and mixed a song from a James Bond movie. Touring and recording plans were made.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and the band’s future became uncertain.
“When the lockdown started, I had gigs lined up. I was selling tickets for the road show,” Gallagher recalled.
“I had it all rolling for me and suddenly people are dying, and you’re not allowed to go outside without a mask on.”
Then his father, Dan Gallagher, pushed him to get out of his funk and start making music. And music is what he did during the pandemic, recording dozens of tracks both in person with musicians in Nashville and in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, and over the computer in overdub sessions.
Originally, Powell was only going to mix a few tracks, but it ultimately turned into a full-on recording and production session.
“It was definitely more challenging, as a producer, to get what you are hearing translated into what the musicians are playing,” said Powell of the overdub sessions. “It’s a little harder when you can’t see or speak to them.”
The single “Smoking Gun” was one of a dozen tracks Gallagher and Powell created at Sputnik Sound Studio in Nashville during the pandemic. The tune is available now on various streaming services linked at colegallagher.com.
“Cole is a really good up-and-coming young artist and I am looking forward to people hearing what he’s done, what he’s recorded,” added Powell.
The new Delta and other coronavirus variants that are pushing a fourth surge in Southern California and other parts of the country are threatening a repeat of 2020 that neither Powell nor the entertainment industry wants to see.
“We’re so close to this being over! If people would just take [the vaccine], you know? I think there’s a lot of hope,” Powell said. “People want to get out, people want to listen to [live] music. So get out there and get vaccinated.”