Opportunities endless for Gallagher

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First Posted: 10/31/2014

Leroy Justice proved to be one of the brightest lights on the Americana scene upon the release of “Above The Weather” in 2013; the band’s national debut disc finding distribution through the EMI/Universal group. The album, described in these very pages at that time as “embracing lofty, jam band-inspired musicianship as easily as it crafts memorable pop hooks,” was a springboard to national touring opportunities and critical accolade – the band exposing their NEPA roots to the world, as several members of the NYC-based Leroy Justice hail from the Wyoming Valley.

The band’s vocalist/songwriter/guitarist, Jason Gallagher, does not stop at the Americana city limit sign. In addition to pouring out his heart to the strains of countrified acoustic guitar and Hammond B3, Gallagher, a Kingston native, dabbles in television and movie soundtrack music production. On Oct. 31, Gallagher saw the continuation of his latest such work – with a twist.

Actually, “dabbling” in film and broadcast music isn’t entirely accurate. Gallagher’s made some substantial inroads into the business. His work’s been featured in movies like Universal Solider: Regeneration, and Rank, and on the CBS drama “Criminal Minds.” Friday night saw an episode of his SyFy Channel music contribution to the series Z Nation, along with Gallagher’s acting debut via a cameo as a barfly guitar player, closely resembling Keith Richards.

“They gave me a chance to audition some music cues and it went really well,” says Gallagher of his foundation for working on Z Nation, as the show’s director/producer, John Hyams, initially introduced him to Karl Shaefer, the show’s runner.

“John and I have worked together on some films, and he actually directed the first Leroy Justice video for our song “Belt Buckle” a few years back,” Gallagher said. The music needed for the show, which deals with humanity’s survival after a zombie apocalypse, was very different than what he plays onstage at a Leroy Justice gig.

“They wanted something between Neil Young’s soundtrack for Dead Man, which is mostly solo electric guitar, and the music from Full Metal Jacket – incorporating a lot of synth sounds and ambient noises as percussion,” he said. “I got the gig soon after that and have been up to my neck in zombies ever since.”

As for the acting role in this past Friday’s episode of Z Nation, Gallagher admits it was a total no-brainer.

“Well, they made me look pretty disgusting, so that was cool,” he jokes. Noting that the character was originally supposed to be a Keith Richards look-a-like, the final take on the character’s appearance was a bit grittier.

“The make-up department had some fun with me,” he laughs. “I happened to be in town to work on the music for the pilot episode, and they were shooting this scene with a guitar player in a bar, so Karl asked me to be in the show. I couldn’t say no.”

Could this acting appearance lead to more small-screen roles for Gallagher?

“After being on Z Nation, I got the bug,” he says. “It’s the best – trailers, catering, my own chair on set; it was a dream come true. But, it’s probably the hardest thing to do, ever. It looks easy, and I’ve acted in some plays and short films in high school and college, but when you get on a real set, it’s no joke. I realized just walking across a parking lot on camera was hard to do naturally. I think my acting career began and ended with episode 7 of Z Nation.”

The process of writing music for Leroy Justice and composing scores for television and movies isn’t all that different – the soul of the task remains the same.

“My favorite moments of the show are when I get to actually write songs,” Gallagher notes. “They’re mostly instrumental, but I come from a rock and roll band, so it’s usually the best work I do. I have to deliver music for 42 minutes of action packed television every week, so it’s kind of like making a strange, scary album every 7 days.”

Gallagher has even been able to work some of NEPA’s own musical talent into the premise of Z Nation, when the show’s character, Citizen Z, is shown listening to music. Local musicians like Pat Finnerty, Mike Quinn, and Bob Lewis have had their music introduced on the show, as well as Gallagher’s New York City friends like Scott Metzger and Jon LaDeau.

“You should seriously listen to all of them if you’re looking for new, quality music,” Gallagher presses.

Leroy Justice, during Gallagher’s time spent in the television and film world, has taken anything but a “back-burner” status. As he reveals the prospect of new music – the band’s about to record a few songs for an EP to be released in the next couple of months, with Gallagher working on a film to go with the entire recording featuring different directors for each song, he reflects back upon the year since “Above The Weather” was released.

“Leroy Justice had a great year last year when we released ‘Above the Weather,’” he says. “There were some great reviews and killer shows, and we’ve been on a few small tours. We’re really proud of that album and so honored to get support from a lot of friends in the area like The Bog, The River Street Jazz Cafe, and Joe Nardone.”

While he maintains that hometown, NEPA quality of the band is intact, the band’s NYC base is surely now in focus.

“We love playing our home turf, and these days being based in NYC, that’s Brooklyn Bowl,” Gallagher says. “We’re back there November 5th with John Popper’s (Blues Traveler vocalist) band. The Capitol Theater shows we’ve played have been the most memorable, though. I’m not sure it gets better than that stage, but The Bog might come close. Who doesn’t love a good, loud throwdown at the Bog?”

For the foreseeable future, music and film will continue to go hand in hand for Jason Gallagher.

“I’ve been working in film and TV for a while, mostly video editing,” he says. “At the same time, I’ve never stopped writing and recording music, so I think the two came together naturally. It’s probably the best job I’ve ever had.

“No offense to (Kingston’s now-defunct) Leo’s Pizza, where I worked in high school – sad to see that place go.”

See Jason Gallagher’s body of film/television work online at www.jasongallagher.net. Leroy Justice can be found online at www.leroyjustice.com.