The Nashville musician on his acidic debut and the conversation he relives every time he goes grocery shopping
“I just want some truth,” Ron Gallo yelps early on his 2017 solo debut, the raw, primal Heavy Meta.
The singer, songwriter and guitarist treats these words like gospel throughout, delivering a stream of angry, angst-y, oft-poisonous screeds directed at ex-lovers, ex-friends and, on “Why Do You Have Kids?,” an unfortunate parental couple that enters his field of vision.
“Accidents having accidents,” he sneers on the scabbed garage-rock track. “Now mother like daughter, father like son/R.I.P. next generation.”
“It was just trying to be as honest as possible with where I was,” said Gallo, who visits Ace of Cups for a concert on Monday, Nov. 13. “At that point, internally, relationally, where I was living, trying to figure out what to do with myself — there was a certain amount of turmoil surrounding all of it.”
Now removed from the chaos, Gallo admits he doesn't particularly like who he was when he wrote these songs, which took root more than three years ago as he was living in Philadelphia and embroiled in a cancerous relationship. The turbulent romance forms the basis of cuts such as “Can't Stand You,” a dreamy ballad with lyrics that paint a far more nightmarish picture. “Everyone sees what you do not see,” Gallo sings, “that you're insufferable to talk to.”
“It was being frustrated with the world at large and pretty much finger pointing, I guess,” said Gallo, noting the band rarely performs “Why Do You Have Kids?” these days because “it lacks a degree of compassion … that will be a driving force on the next record.” “[Revisiting those songs] is almost like talking about a different person, in a way. I don't even think I could write a few of those songs now. It wouldn't align with what I'm trying to do with music anymore.”
Besides, when Gallo created Heavy Meta, he didn't really expect it to find much of an audience, noting his previous band, the more straight-laced, folk-tinged Toy Soldiers, never experienced a similar breakthrough. “It's a weird feeling when a better part of 10 years is spent writing songs and touring to pretty much no response, and then the next thing you know you go to a city you've never been to and there are people there,” Gallo said.
While the songs on Heavy Meta can be bracingly acidic, there are elements of dark humor throughout that offer welcome levity, such as a reference to Philly serial killer the Kensington Strangler in “Young Lady, You're Scaring Me,” which can elicit a laugh/gasp on par with the wood-chipper scene in “Fargo,” as well as the acknowledgments in the album's liner notes, in which Gallo saves the final thanks for himself “because I could have not not done this without you.”
This sense of humor will be on further display on a still-untitled EP Gallo intends to release this December, much of which will focus on his January 2016 move to Nashville and the year-plus he's spent navigating the ridiculousness of the modern music industry.
“[Nashville] is really small, and the thing I always bring up is if you go to Kroger to go grocery shopping, you're going to see 15 people, and they're all musicians and you have this same conversation every time: ‘Hey, man, you gigging? You just get off the road? You playing in town?' It's this conversation that's almost written before you have it,” Gallo said. “On one of the [EP] tracks we actually recreated that conversation, and it's called ‘The East Nashville Kroger Conversation.'”