“I think country music connects with people regardless of what part of life’s journey they’re on because it’s real. It’s about highs and lows, love and loss, struggles and overcoming. Country music is the sound track to everyday life.”
– Ben Gallaher
If there’s one word that has always been synonymous with country music, that word is authentic; and country music doesn’t get more authentic than Stone Country Records’ Ben Gallaher.
With a realness in his songs and a distinctive cigarette and whiskey raspiness to his voice, Ben Gallaher is an insightful songwriter whose tales of life are often autobiographical chapters of his own. Paired with a strong reverence for guitar masters, Gallaher’s style radiates a passion for the lyric-driven country music that influenced his childhood.
Raised in the small town of Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, Gallaher grew up with a deep adoration for family, the outdoors and country music. Gallaher picked up his first guitar at the age of six, learning the instrument by playing along with the country songs blasting on his parents’ radio. An avid outdoorsman, Gallaher’s love for the outdoors runs deep resulting in both his marked achievement of Eagle Scout status as well as the custom buck skull, hunting & fishing tattoo that resides on his left forearm.
“The outdoors was a big part of my growing up and is a big part of me now. Hunting, fishing and camping. Hunting has been a tradition in my family for generations. It’s not just about the harvest, it’s the time spent with family and friends, time spent in God’s creation, and respect for wildlife and the outdoors.”
Moving to Nashville at 19 years old, Gallaher was intent on learning everything about his other love – music – as fast as he could. For the business side, he studied Entertainment Industry Studies at Belmont University in classes ranging from copyright law to creative entertainment technology. For his artist education, he attended the road. Putting a band together and heading out most weekends in whatever van he could rent, Gallaher burned the candle at both ends and anywhere else he could get fire to catch.
It was during that first year at Belmont when Gallaher first went to prison, albeit not as a felon but as an artist. A friend from back home who worked at a state correctional facility reached out to inquire if he had ever considered performing for inmates. While entering a prison in any way had never crossed Gallaher’s mind, the idea sounded very Johnny Cash, so he was in. The then-19-year-old Gallaher brought his acoustic guitar, a couple of speakers and played the gymnasium to 250 convicted felons staring back at him from the bleachers. Terrifying? Sure. Satisfying? More than he ever imagined. The inmate’s applause and thank you letters were so overwhelming that he has performed there every year since. Better yet, the Prison Tour as he calls it, has grown to encompass more than half of Pennsylvania’s state penitentiaries.
While singer and songwriter are both titles Gallaher wears proudly, his artistry is also deeply-rooted in his guitar prowess. Vince Gill, Keith Urban and Lynyrd Skynyrd are a few of the superstar acts that influenced Gallaher’s own playing style, along with a name that most fans don’t know, though he’s one of the most recorded guitarists of all time.
“Brent Mason played guitar on a lot of the songs I loved growing up. I didn’t know it at the time, but as I learned more about the songs and session musicians, I kept seeing his name so I dove into his stuff a lot.”
“If you listen to my solos or intro riffs, I incorporate some of that chicken pickin’ into my playing and Brent is also known for that. You can hear it come through in a lot of my solos but mine has a bit more of a distorted tone. It’s got some dirt on it, which is where the edgier feel comes in. My guitar is an extension of who I am as an artist, a hundred percent. When I write, I try to marry the lyric, melody and the guitar. I love making them all into one,” explains Gallaher.
Like most guitar slingers, axes hold a special place in his heart and, although he’s added to his arsenal since then, Gallaher still plays the first electric guitar he ever owned, a Fender Telecaster with three pickups and a seven-way switch he purchased at 16 years old. It’s the same guitar that helped craft the sound of Gallaher’s debut label EP, Every Small Town.
Gallaher’s Every Small Town is built on an indisputable window-down, radio-cranked country sound, undeniably influenced by touring through and spending time in small towns all across America. The EP showcases Gallaher’s heartfelt storytelling paired with the edgy, musical intensity that Gallaher brings to his live shows.
It’s the same songcraft and an intensity that led American Songwriter to declare that Gallaher’s “authenticity shines through” and that the budding star is “the type of artist country music has been missing for far too long.”
Gallaher is currently in the studio working with producers Mickey Jack Cones (Jason Aldean, Thomas Rhett) and Derek George (Randy Houser) on his debut EP for Quartz Hill Records.