TANYA GALLAGHER - -“One Hand On My Heart”

Tanya Gallagher leads a double life. By day, the Pensacola, Florida native—who once interned for NASA—practices cartography, turning geographic information into maps for Santa Rosa County, where she resides. By night, she pens the kind of soulful, folk-inflected pop songs that comprise her new EP, One Hand On My Heart. “When I describe myself as a scientist and a songwriter, I think people immediately assume there must be this right brain-left brain dichotomy between these two passions but for me they’re almost symbiotic. I don’t think I could have one without the other,” she says.

 Case in point: Gallagher wrote all of the songs on One Hand On My Heart while she was pursuing a PhD in forestry in Vancouver.  Heartbroken after a split with her longtime boyfriend, she nearly found the stress of academia too much to take. “Had it not been for music, I don’t think I would have made it through my PhD,” says Gallagher. “There were so many times I wanted to quit.” Instead, she found a healthy outlet in songwriting. Within a year, she had over 200 songs. “When it comes to songwriting, she’s just a machine,” says Cooper Heffley (Maren Morris), who plays drums on the EP.

To sort through the mountain of songs she found herself with, Gallagher enlisted the help of veteran producer Daniel Mendez (Noah Gundersen, The Native Sibling, Alexi Murdoch). Together, as they whittled down the long list, they honed in on the organic, roots-driven sound that now defines the twelve songs they recorded together (“One Hand…” comprises only the first six). Once that was accomplished, Gallagher launched a Kickstarter for help funding the recording sessions, and was blown away by the support she received. “Without those sixty-seven people, the record wouldn’t have been possible,” she says.

The six songs on One Hand On My Heart tell the tale of heartbreak, and of a singer-songwriter finding her groove. The EP’s first track, “Dark Side,” is an atmospheric slow burn—likened to an Americana version of Tidal-era Fiona Apple. “Just be honest if it’s not something you want…with my head high I will move on, so darling do not waste my time,” Gallagher sings over a staccato banjo line and haunting organ melody provided by Beau Bedford (Leon Bridges, Paul Cauthen). To hear Gallagher tell it, the song came out in a single rush during a particularly fruitful session. “I hit record on my phone, and I just went,” she says. That sense of ease carries through to the EP’s next song, “A Little Effort.” The track’s simple, seventies inspired alt-country production provides the perfect platform for Gallagher’s smoky voice and stellar lyrics, drawing welcome comparisons to nineties singer-songwriters Alanis Morissette and Sheryl Crow. “She has such an exceptional voice,” says Bedford, who has played alongside such legends as Kris Kristofferson and George Straight with his band the Texas Gentlemen. “When you have that, and you have great songs, you don’t have to put a ton of makeup on it.” 

But the EP’s centerpiece might just be “Barren Land,” which Gallagher wrote about the larger spiritual falling-out that accompanied her breakup (“Come down off of your mountain, because I don't quite understand how you can take me high as heaven and bring me down to barren land”) It’s this vulnerability that has earned Gallagher comparisons to contemporaries Lori McKenna and Jason Isbell, and that gives One Hand On My Heart its emotional core.

The cumulative result is an EP of remarkable depth for a singer-songwriter as at home in a science lab as she is the recording studio. Not that Gallagher sees a disconnect between her two passions. “Both in relationships and in grad school, you face a lot of rejection, and so sometimes I would come home after a tough period and think, Well, what would I say if I felt confident?” she says. “Writing these songs helped me to face my insecurities and kept me moving forward.”

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To send thoughts / inquire about booking email:  baylenmusic@gmail.com