BWW Interview: Brian Gallagher - So Lucky To Make Music Around Family
Musician/songwriter/actor/family man Brian Gallagher will west coast premiere live his latest concept album BROADWAY STARS SING THE MUSIC OF Brian Gallagher at the Colony Theatre for one night only October 19, 2019. Performing his songs will be Carly Hughes, Matt Cusson, Carrie Manolakos and, a star in her own right, Brian's wife Megan Hilty (and others, still yet to be announced). I had the chance to pepper Brian Gallagher about his creative process and his not-so-secret weapon.
Thank you for taking the time for this interview, Brian!
This one-nighter at the Colony Theatre will be the live west coast premiere of your concept album Brownstone. Will you tell us what initial incident sparked the beginnings of Brownstone?
I love horror movies, I love heavy, bluesy rock n' roll, and I love musical theatre. I wanted to create a singular, completely original theatrical experience that succeeds in combining all three. That's why I wrote Brownstone, which is intended to be staged as an interactive, walk-through haunted house with a score and a narrative. Think Sleep No More meets a White Stripes concert.
You are married to a very popular, working performing artist. Do you bring your creative work home for her feedback?
I run most of my ideas by Meg before I put pen to paper or pick up a guitar. She was certainly instrumental in the development of Brownstone. I love talking stuff out with Meg. First of all, she always asks the right questions. Through these conversations, an idea inevitably evolves to a point where I generally know what themes I'd like to explore, I know who I'm writing about, I know where those people are headed, and I'm excited to get to work filling in the blanks.
What was the gestation period of Brownstone? Longer or quicker than your creation of All That's Ahead?
All That's Ahead is a collection of individual songs that were written and played in front of live audiences over the course of several years. The recording process for that was actually very quick, probably because the songs had been workshopped on stage in so many clubs. Brownstone was the opposite. I wrote all of Brownstone in about two months, but because the musicians and engineers I wanted to work with were not only all very busy, they were also spread out across the country (the drummer lives in Iowa, the bass player lives in Los Angeles, the producer/pianist lives in Connecticut, the guy who mixed and mastered the record lives in Brooklyn, and I'm back and forth between NYC and L.A.), Brownstone took a lot longer to record.
Did you write the three songs that Megan sings on Brownstone with her in mind to sing?
I did write those three songs with Megan in mind ("The Other Side of the Wall," "Daisy Dearest," and "We Are Found"). I'm absurdly spoiled because Megan can legitimately sing ANYTHING in ANY style. There's nothing I can't throw at her. She's also probably the most honest interpreter of a lyric or a melody I've ever heard. I. Am. SPOILED.
Will you be including any songs from All That's Ahead or the concept album you're working on, The Grind Show?
I AM going to include two songs from All That's Ahead at The Colony Theatre on October 19th. I'm also going to debut two or three songs from my newest project, The Grind Show. Like Brownstone, The Grind Show is intended to be a site-specific, immersive theatrical experience. I'll release that concept album early next year. Most of it is already recorded. There will surely be a few other surprises at this show as well.
With Megan popping in: Megan, will you be singing the three songs that you sang on the Brownstone album? Or will they be divvied up with some of the other performers?
I believe I AM singing all three of the songs I did on the Brownstone record that night.
Megan, what's your favorite song on Brownstone?
My favorite song from Brownstone is probably the "Daisy Dearest" song. I think it's heartbreakingly beautiful.
Brian, what's your favorite song from Megan's It Happens All The Time?
My favorite tune on It Happens All The Time? I think it's a tie between "The Heart of the Matter" and "Safe and Sound." "The Heart of the Matter" is definitely my favorite to play live with Meg. It's ALWAYS honest, and grounded, and moving, and her vocal is always stunning. I LOVE accompanying her on that song.
My favorite song from Smash? I think it's another tie between "They Just Keep Moving the Line" and "Second Hand White Baby Grand." Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman wrote such beautiful music for that TV show. We do those two at basically every single one of Megan's live concerts, and they are always a thrill to play in front of an audience.
I'm sure you support each others' live performances whenever you can. Do you also give each other acting notes?
Acting notes, no. Don't think so. We certainly make recommendations to each other in regards to things like set lists, or sound mixes, or musical arrangements, or other technical pieces of the puzzle. Never performance notes though.
You have performed internationally. How would you describe or differentiate different audiences from different countries?
One thing I have noticed in other countries is a lack of smart phone usage during a performance. In general, audiences abroad seem to be more willing to live in the moment and to pocket their phones. Rarely have I ever noticed someone recording one of our shows while in another country. It happens constantly in the U.S. That's not to say we haven't performed for engaged audiences in the U.S. Of course, we have. Just fewer phones in other countries.
Which do you prefer, performing in scripted musicals (JEKYLL & HYDE, THE WHO'S TOMMY, SOUTH PACIFIC, CATS, THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL) as a character? Or performing as yourself in concerts?
I love both for very different reasons. Performing as yourself in concert, particularly when playing your own songs, is probably scarier in many ways. At least to me. There's nothing to hide behind. There's an extreme vulnerability in putting yourself out there like that as both a writer AND as a singer. As a result, however, when it works, it's all the more thrilling.
Do you look forward to opportunities, like the October 19th stint at the Colony, to work together?
We're incredibly fortunate in that we're able to work together and travel the world with our two kids. Many couples in our business are not so lucky, and they inevitably have to spend quite a bit of time apart. Playing these shows is always fun, and easy, and artistically/creatively satisfying. Being onstage with each other feels like home... with fancier clothes on.
What Colony audience reaction to your BROADWAY STARS SING THE MUSIC OF Brian Gallagher would most please you? Smiles? Laughter? Ugly tears?
All of the above! Smiles! Laughter! Ugly tears! All of it! While a lot of my material deals with pretty dark subject matter, there's still a lot of humor, and love, and joy to be found in there as well. I hope people connect to all of it!
Thank you again, Brian! I so look forward to experiencing your Brownstone.