by Meaghan Paulosky
Ron Gallo isn’t out to impress anyone. But with the June 24th release of his first solo album, Ronny, a bad impression doesn’t seem very likely.
Gallo grew up in New Jersey and spent a portion of his childhood in Kentucky, but never felt “culturally involved.” He was into music, playing in punk bands during high school and discovering favorite bands like any other teenager. Though, it wasn’t until graduation, that things got a little weird for the self-taught musician.
He moved to Philadelphia to attend Temple University as a communications major and quickly found ways to occupy time outside of classes. Gallo shares, “I got into the weird, underground music world.” It exposed him to new venues, new friends, new sounds, and new artists – simply enough, it had “the greatest effect on [his] music.”
Before long, Gallo found his own place in this weird world and “figured out what [he] wanted to do.” He started Toy Soldiers in 2007, his “first real band,” as a garage rock duo with drummer Mike Baurer. Like Gallo, it evolved over the years, going from duo to “twelve-piece circus…before trimming back down to a five-piece.” Along the way they (however many “they” were at the time) found success, recording six albums and creating a national fan base through festival appearances.
But now, after nearly seven years at the front of Toy Soldiers, Gallo is up for a new challenge. This summer will see his debut as a recording and touring solo artist. Though admittedly “scared and a little disheartened,” Gallo is excited to start writing for himself.
“In [Toy Soldiers], I had trouble putting myself fully into the songs because I knew had to write for the band. It was democratic so I had to write with the others [in the band] in mind,” he explains. “For the first time I’m just following my heart completely.”
Inevitable fans of his album, Ronny, can expect to hear “in-depth, personal, lyrically-driven” songs that more or less follow whatever he happens to be feeling. “As I’ve grown, I’ve evolved. I was into soul, rock, folk, country – following the timeline of history…always looking for the weirdos of music.” With influences like Ray Charles, Jeff Buckley, Harry Nilsson, and countless other outliers, Gallo isn’t afraid to write with “no limits.”
Ronny was produced in Philadelphia with Reed Kendall of Up the Chain. Together, he and Gallo recorded songs that were meant to be built upon organically. In a very “Wanna come play?” method, they invited local musicians and friends to join in on their fun. Toy Soldiers, Satellite Hearts, The Get Real Gang, among others can be heard on tracks that were arranged and re-arranged along the way.
That’s not to say this is the end for Toy Soldiers. “This is just a ‘farewell.’ It’s going on the back burner for a variable amount of time, but can be revived at any point.” Toy Soldiers can be heard at festivals through the summer and on July 18th at Union Transfer.
Gallo is scheduled to play with them in addition to his own show dates. He’ll be at Spruce Street Harbor Park on June 26th and Boot & Saddle on July 3rd.