Comfest Performer Out To Redefine ‘Making It’
By Eric Lyttle
Andy Gallagher gave up his day job to give his music a chance. Certainly, that doesn’t make Gallagher unique—plenty of musicians have done the same.
Gallagher, however, wasn’t just flipping burgers at the local greasy spoon. After graduating from Ohio State in December 2006 with a degree in material science engineering, Gallagher landed a lucrative job inspecting gas and oil pipelines.
“Ugh. Do we really have to get into all of this,” Gallagher bemoaned. “The idea of an engineer playing music just sounds atrocious.”
To Gallagher, though, the idea of a musician becoming an engineer sounded even worse—at this point in his life, at least.
“Every time I’d hear or read about someone doing something successful with their band, it would always get to me,” Gallagher said. “I’d think, ‘Man, if I was not locked in here for 45 hours a week, I know I could do that, too.’”
What Gallagher really wanted was to be a musician playing music. So in February, he “retired” in an attempt to discover—as he explains on his website, trainsacrossthesea.com—“what happens when you trade the job of their dreams for the life of yours?”
Since then, Gallagher said, he’s been treating his music as a fulltime job. He’s found a handful of regular players to accompany him, built a website and released six new songs, which hit the web in May. The songs subsequently were collected in a CD, titled Greetings From the Peach District, that was released this week.
He’s performed locally at Bernie’s Bagels, at Larry’s (until it closed) and at the Short North Gallery Hop under the moniker Trains Across the Sea. The name, he says, comes from the second track off the Silver Jews’ first album.
“There’s plenty of other heady made-up shit about what it really means—as though everything that exists in a band has to exist on multiple planes and be way deep—but I made that all up after just picking the name because I liked that song and those words so much,” said Gallagher.
The next step in Gallagher’s quest to become a serious musician comes Friday night, when Trains Across the Sea makes its Comfest debut at 10:20 p.m.—the headlining slot—on the Solar Stage.
“This is the next level,” said Gallagher. “It’s not telling your friends, ‘Come to our show.’ This is 150 bands, more or less, and thousands of people watching.”
Getting into Comfest is no easy task for a band, and many might envy the fact that Gallagher accomplished it on his first try. Even so, he downplayed the competitive aspect of the situation.
“There really aren’t any losers, there are just more defined winners,” he said. “And for the bands that are in, now we’re all on the same page. Now we simply have to put on a better show than anyone else on that day. And I like that.”
In an age when MySpace and Facebook and digital technology make recording and distributing music to the masses easier than it’s ever been, Gallagher said, the world has become smaller, not larger—which is the very essence of Comfest.
“With more music, we have more opportunity to support local music,” Gallagher said. “Everything just goes hyper-local, creating a better sense of community. I want to be a part of this local music community. Imagine—what if you knew everyone on your iPod?”
As for his own decision to set aside a lucrative career for his music, Gallagher said, “We just have to redefine what ‘making it’ means.”
“When people ask, ‘What do you do?’ it means, basically, ‘What services do you trade for money?’ All I want to do is wake up and play music. If it ends up feeding me and paying the rent, and I’m living by my own terms, I’m happy (doing) it for as long as I can.”