There are certain weeks that I love writing for Weekly Music Commentary more than others. This week is one that I will remember for a long time. Sure, sometimes I feature a longtime favorite artist. There are times when I feature an artist with a great album that I love. This week I do like the featured artist Gallant, and his current album. However, this week provides an additional reason for my particular happiness. Singer/songwriter Gallant gives me a chance to point at an artist and say, “Here is an example of a very good new artist”. Also, “See, there is good new music produced today”. Most of you who have read some of the previous posts of Weekly Music Commentary understand that I defend young artists and their work. I want others to really listen to the art young musicians create, and not dismiss it before giving it a chance. Gallant might be an artist that many older fans will actually like, if they give his music a chance. Why should anyone listen to his music? If you are reading this particular post of WMC, I hope I can give you a few reasons.
Christopher Gallant was born November 14, 1991 in Washington, D.C. When he was in elementary school, he and his family moved to Columbia, Maryland where he attended Atholton High School. He started recording songs during middle school. After completing his high school education, Gallant went on to attend New York University where he studied music. He graduated in 2013.
After graduating from New York University, he switched coasts and arrived in sunny Southern California in the fall of 2013, quietly working on music and playing shows in relative anonymity. Although, what Gallant would experience was not as simple as the previous sentence. Normally, when any artist works on his or her craft, there is a need for positive reinforcement. Mostly from family and/or friends. That did not happen right away. “I’d play my music for my friends and they’d say it was the worst and whackest music,” Gallant says. On top of the reaction from his friends, industry executives had a negative reaction as well. I’m familiar with the labels music executives place on music, not really encouraging anything new or different. He was told that his lyrics were too strange, that he didn’t fit into a particular genre, and that he’d have to create something that sounded like other pop products if he wanted to make it. “People had an idea of what R&B artists or pop artists usually say,” Gallant says, “which was like, ‘Talk about sex, talk about partying, and be positive, don’t be too much of a downer.’”
The best lesson I ever learned came while working for a publication several years ago. They rolled out a new product with great fanfare and marketing gimmicks. However, when it came time to tell the story of what the pub wanted to say, the owners and managers couldn’t find the words. Lesson: understand who you are and what you want to say first, before rolling out the mode to say it. Gallant understood this even at twenty-three years old. Therefore, he found another place to live and quietly went about making his music while marketing himself on the Internet.
Next Gallant was able to self-release his EP Zebra. He describes as “a sonic diary about dealing with the aftermath of New York”. Zebra was produced by Felix Snow, whom Gallant knew from college and was also his roommate at the time. An LA Weekly article two years ago by Katie Bain described what happened next:
Zebra got love from NME, Pitchfork, and The Guardian, and was ultimately sent to David Dann, the founder of indie label Mind of a Genius. Dann liked the sound, connected with Gallant, and invited some friends to see him at the Bootleg. There were approximately 10 people in the audience, but two of them were Tom Windish, founder of influential booking company the Windish Agency, and Jake Udell, founder of Th3rd Brain management, who has guided the careers of electronic acts Krewella and Zhu. The music began and, as Udell tells it, he cried because it was so beautiful. Gallant had a team.
Once Gallant started to gain industry influence, things really starting rolling forward for him. In 2015, his single, “Weight in Gold”, was played by Zane Lowe on Beats1’s first air date in June 2015. That seemed to be the turning point for Gallant. The same year Gallant toured with Sufjan Stevens on his North American tour, where he performed 18 shows throughout the country. Gallant was also announced as the opener for Zhu’s “Neon City” tour, spanning April and May 2016 in venues throughout America, beginning with Coachella. Gallant performed both weekends of Coachella in 2016, which Billboard named the number one moment of the entire festival. Weekend one included a surprise appearance from Seal, where the pair performed Seal’s song “Crazy” and Gallant’s song “Weight in Gold”. The following weekend, included a surprise appearance from Jhené Aiko where the pair performed their collaboration “Skipping Stones”.
Gallant had arrived and was tested by way of his live performances. He even got exposure with other established artists that only helped him grow as a live performer. Remember, Gallant had accomplished all of this without an album on the market. That also would change quickly. Gallant’s début studio album, Ology, was released on April 6, 2016 by Mind of a Genius Records. The album received critical acclaim from The Guardian, which states, “If this is what R&B’s future looks like it’s brighter than ever”. Also, Entertainment Weekly named Ology one of the 25 best albums of 2016. The album was given praise given for his distinct and diverse sound, voice, and lyricism.
I must say I agree with much that has been written about Ology. In fact, the best I can say is that it is now a part of my very personal collection of music. On May 12, 2016, Gallant made his national television début on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. Gallant performed “Weight in Gold”, which ended with a standing ovation from the audience. Fallon ended the show praising Gallant’s performance with the quote, “Oh my goodness! I told you… Watch out for this guy”. Yes, watch out for Gallant…indeed.