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The first thing you’ll notice about Ron Gallo is a giant, jealous-worthy ball of curls sitting atop his head, but the second thing you’ll observe is a guitar in one hand, and intense eyes.
This Nashville-based musician plays a mean guitar, accompanied by cynical lyrics that are currently flooding the underground rock and roll scene–which seem to be overlooked by the country music crowd populating most of Tennessee.
His sound is a brilliant mixture of blues, country, early punk, and, of course, rock and roll. The Abigails, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, and Hank Williams III are just a few acts that come to mind as likely inspiration.
He has just finished up a brand new album entitled “Heavy Meta” that is slowly rolling out one song at a time. “Young Lady, You’re Scaring Me” was recently released from the album along with a music video. It features a stern looking Gallo, fervently singing the lyrics in front of images projecting behind him. It’s simple, yet also aesthetically pleasing and strangely emotional.
“I’m a pretty cynical person,” Gallo tells BTR. “Not in daily life always, but in the music I make. It’s kind of my outlet for that.”
Many of his lyrics point out everyday issues that people tend to ignore. For example, his song “Why Do You Have Kids” is about folks who are clearly terrible parents, abusive or borderline abusive, and how they create a vicious cycle of raising children who will most likely also end up treating others unkindly.
However, the unique aspect about Gallo’s lyrics is that even when they’re about a heavy topic, they still inexplicably make you want to laugh.
“Every time I sing the first line at a show,” Gallo tells BTR about his live performances of the song “Why Do You Have Kids,” “people will kind of giggle, ‘that’s funny because it’s weird and kind of true.’”
He tells BTR that his lyrics are meant to play with the idea of light and dark, employing black humor in a manner that still manages to be both honest and startling.
Gallo lives for strange activity. He recounts a story about his first tour, back in 2010, and how him and his band almost stayed in a shack of people who worshipped reptilian overlords.
He claims his tour horror stories, or “tour-or stories,” is a right of passage for any musician who’s experiencing it for the first time. “This was our first tour,” Gallo explains, “so it was just a beautiful thing.”
He was with his first band, Toy Soldiers, who have shared the stage with such musical masterminds as Wanda Jackson, Dr. Dog, and Deer Tick.
He wanted everything to go smoothly on their travels, so he used the then-popular website Couch Surfing to find places for the band to stay in each city they played. The place he discovered in Memphis ended in an unforgettably peculiar story.
They had difficulty finding the place at first because, as it turned out, it was a shack hiding behind other homes. “We pull up to it,” Gallo narrates, “and there’s all this trash piled up in the front, and there’s a big peace sign spray-painted on the front of it.”
That was the first red flag. What finally did it for the band was when the hosts, who appeared to be teenagers, started passing around a laptop with research on how to extract DMT, the chemical that the brain releases after death. Oh, and they also worshiped reptilian overlords.
Gallo made an excuse to leave the shack. The band found a place to play some songs, and then hauled it to Nashville–a three-hour drive from Memphis.
“So that was my first time in Nashville,” Gallo laughs. “It was like at six o’clock in the morning and now I live here and it’s weird.”
Besides the unusual activity Gallo experiences on tour, he explains that it’s the place where he feels the happiest.
“I get a little crazy when I’m sitting still and not doing stuff,” Gallo says about life on the road. “So it’s really something I love to do and I would do it all the time.”
Besides touring and working on his solo career, Gallo runs his own record label called American Diamond Recordings. Founded in Philadelphia in 2014, it started as a collective effort with Gallo and several other Philadelphia-based bands. It became such a large project that Gallo decided to take it with him to Nashville.
So far, the bands on the label are based out of several music-booming cities, such as New York, Nashville, Philadelphia, and Chicago. They are also very credible in the rock and roll world. For instance, the band Happiness is a side-project of the extremely trendy Deer Tick. Brooklyn-based musician Tall Juan is also on the label and is the roommate of the popular indie musician Mac DeMarco.
Currently, Gallo is working on creating a compilation-album for American Diamond Recordings that includes music from all of the talented musicians on the label. It’s slated to be released sometime this April.
However, before then, Gallo is doing a small tour where he’ll be making stops in Philadelphia, New York, New Hope, Chicago, Nashville, and ending at SXSW in Austin. From there, he’ll be making a few more pit stops playing shows on his drive back to Nashville.
Dates that are quickly approaching are in New York City on February 18th at Baby’s Alright, in Brooklyn, and then the next day at Mercury Lounge, in Manhattan.
Keep an ear out for his new album “Heavy Meta,” which will be out soon. He describes the music as deep story telling that is applicable to everyone, topped off with dark humor.
To hear the rest of the interview, tune into this week’s episode of The Discovery Corner.