Singer-songwriter Cole Gallagher thankful for his mentors
By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski
Singer-songwriter Cole Gallagher is an old soul.
His lyrics are wise beyond his years and his understanding of music and the surrounding business is as advanced as adults.
The 20-year-old South Pasadena resident appreciates his fans, his family and the rest of his team.
“I’m extremely grateful for all the support I’ve received along this road,” he says. “I couldn’t have done it without an army behind me.”
He is the new voice of music coming out of the San Gabriel Valley. His latest single, “Chatting Through Steel,” features David Hidalgo from Los Lobos. Each Tuesday, Cole Gallagher & the Lesser Saints serve as the house band for The Mixx’s Tuesday Night Open Jam.
At regular gigs, like his Friday, June 24, show at Griffins of Kinsale, fans can anticipate hearing originals.
“They can expect songs from the record that’s coming out soon and stuff that I don’t know if I’ll ever release,” he says.
“I have about damn near 30 songs recorded, and I love them all. I feel like putting them all out, but that’s a tough move. I’d love to have all the music out, but we’re releasing the songs in small chunks. That’s the way to do it.”
Inspired by Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA,” he is the first person in his family to pursue music. His father, Dan Gallagher, introduced his son to bootleg concerts and Bob Seger.
“I’m into classic rock artists like Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones, CCR and, my go-to, Pink Floyd,” Cole says. “I’ve had (CCR’s) ‘The Midnight Special’ stuck in my head for three months now.”
At age 11, he started guitar lessons with John Klof, who continues to mentor him.
“He taught me how to play guitar and has been writing with me since I was a little kid,” says Cole, whose mom is Paula Gibson.
“He’s basically the one who helped me lay the foundation for everything. I went from putting a record together in LA, to going to Nashville, to mixing the album with Vance. If it wasn’t for John, I don’t know where I would be.”
“Vance” is Vance Powell, whom Cole met in the summer of 2020 during the mixing sessions for his first record. For the 16 tracks, the two spent 15 days together.
His live experience started with The Mixx in Pasadena, courtesy of Ed Minassian, in 2016, at 15.
“He’s been a saint to me,” Cole says. “He’s put up with my band for almost three years now. Every Tuesday night we play there. I went from going there and getting yelled at and put down by old-time blues players to being the house band for the joint and working hard to keep the tradition going.
“That’s really where I got my start — onstage at his bar. A couple of kids came up who had never played before onstage recently. It’s great to give that chance to other people.”
Cole says Pasadena has a special place in his heart, as his musical experience stemmed from the city’s venues. He attended South Pasadena Music Center & Conservatory and, in 2020, graduated from South Pasadena High School.
As a student, Cole met videographer Marc Levine in 2017. The family friend has provided the connections for the musician to move forward, setting him up with his first studio sessions in 2020 and an entertainment attorney.
“My dad and I refer to him as the glue,” Cole says.
“He helped me after I did a show in Pasadena at The Rose. After that, Marc helped me land at NAMM after-jam artist showcase at Bobby McGee’s in Orange County.
“Marc Levine got the ball rolling on everything that is going on,” he says.
Levine says he has watched Cole perform since his library gigs. He describes his music as “cool” at the time, but unsophisticated.
“However, his lyrics were something to sit up and take notice of” Levine adds.
“Here was his precocious little kid speaking in a language much older than himself. He’s an observational songwriter. That was something special. In talking to Cole and others, it’s come up that he is what people call an ‘old soul.’ I was intrigued by it.”
From there, Cole’s team continued to grow. The lead engineer at Tustin’s Voyager Studio, Chris Sikora, came into Cole’s life in February 2020. He produced and engineered Cole’s first recordings.
“He reached out to his friends in Nashville, session players to help create this music,” Dan says. “Chris was going to mix the project’s songs but instead handed it to Vance Powell.”
The six-time Grammy Award-writing record producer, engineer and mixer’s credits include Phish, Chris Stapleton, Jack White, Tyler Bryant & the Shakedown, the Raconteurs, the Dead Weather, the White Stripes, Arctic Monkeys, Wolfmother, Deadly Apples, Seasick Steve, Black Prairie, the Revivalists, Tinariwen, Jeff the Brotherhood, Daniel Ellsworth & the Great Lakes, and Martina McBride.
Powell was assisted by Michael Fahey, whom Dan calls “the absolute key person who helped Cole take the major steps toward being able to record with amazing musicians.”
Fahey is Powell’s first assistant at Sputnik Sound. He tracked half of the first recording sessions for Cole.
Nashville session keyboardist John Eldridge hooked Cole up with Jimbo Hart and Sadler Vaden of Jason Isbell’s band, the 400 Unit, for overdubbing bass and lead guitar on this project. Eldridge helped Cole find Powell’s Sputnik Studio in Nashville.
“Jimbo Hart and Cole have become very good friends,” Dan says. “Jimbo has recorded on both of Cole’s recording sessions.”
Cole considers Hart a mentor.
“When I go to Nashville, the first thing I do is call Jimbo,” he says. “We hang out and play music. He’s a great guy. Working with Jason’s band, I realized the caliber of musicianship in which I had been playing at. It’s pretty far off from what I was seeing happen in the studio.”
In the summer of 2020, Cole took a side trip to Muscle Shoals, Alabama, to relax during a three-day break from recording in Nashville. Once again, being in the right place at the right time paid off for Cole. He ran into Barry Billings in a Marriott hotel lobby in Florence, Alabama.
“They found out they had common friends in the guys from the 400 Unit,” Dan says.
“They co-wrote a song together that was demoed by Barry and Cole at Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals. Then, Barry traveled to Buffalo to perform with Cole at his first nationally recognized music festival. He also invited Cole down to Florence, Alabama, again to perform with Jason Isbell.”
Cole continues to record with the likes of the 400 Unit’s Hart, Vaden and Chad Gamble, as well as Hidalgo.
“Things have really been a dream come true,” Cole says.
“I have so many people to thank, and I’ll be repaying them for the next God knows how many years. I’m super, super excited to see this music come out. I can’t even begin to express what the people involved mean to me.”
Cole Gallagher & the Lesser Saints
WHEN: 9 p.m. Friday, June 24
WHERE: Griffins of Kinsale, 1007 Mission Street, South Pasadena
COST: Call for ticket information
INFO: griffinsofkinsale.com, colegallagher.com