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Ryan Gallagher: From 'The Voice' to the heart of Filipinos

December 14 ------ Strong faith, a loving heart, unwavering optimism and inherent musicality are common attributes among Filipinos. Filipinos and Michigan-born and bred Ryan Gallager, that is. 


Those familiar with the handsome crooner should know him as one of the more popular contestants of America's "The Voice" who, through the years, has turned into one talented and frequent visitor to Manila. He will always acknowledge he has found a second home on these islands because, save for his caucasian good looks, everything about him, as we like to say, is "so Pinoy." Even the story of how Ryan first embraced music could easily be the stuff of true-to-life features in "Maalaala Mo Kaya." 


The former hockey varsity player had been eyeing to go pro many years back when an injury put an end to what could have been a promising sports career. Faith, however, quickly lifted Ryan's spirits, carried him to recovery and gave him a mission for God. "I heard his voice loud and clear. He told me to sing," recalled Ryan in a casual chit-chat last week, a day after planning into Manila for the holidays. Unaware he had a gift for music, he did as told, and with the help of his dad, who sent his demos to radio stations, Ryan's singing career was officially born. 


Devoted journey 

Even with gigs already coming his way for concert appearances and corporate shows, Ryan didn't want to take for granted the new path the heavens opened for him. Devoting himself to his gift, his musical journey has since been steeped in classical training, allowing him versatility in many genres. Soon enough, he was sharing the stage with music bigwigs like Carrie Underwood, Josh Groban, Lea Salonga, and Michael Bolton. His stint on "The Voice" under Kelly Clarkson's team further elevated his profile and resulted into an exciting jet-setting life where he performed in front of world leaders, Fortune 500 companies, shieks and of course, countless Filipino audiences. 


Loving PH 

Ryan's love affair with the Philippines began in 2013 when a casual invitation to sing at a friend's birthday party turned into a whirlwind of 15 gigs across the archipelago. "Since then, I don't think I can count the number of times I've been back. Maybe 30 to 50 times and I just really fell in love with this country — its people, your musicality," he enthused. Bound to find himself in local showbiz circles, it was actually Ryan's idea to have foreigners sing Filipino songs as a popular segement on ABS-CBN's "It's Showtime." "I just love the way Filipino music sounds, especially the love songs. You don't need to understand the lyrics but anyone who listens to it can immediately feel it." Becoming quite an expert in singing Martin Nievera's most famous ballads, Ryan thought no one would really take his idea to have foreigners sing Filipino songs on the ABS-CBN show, and was just as thrilled as surprised when he was invited to the segment (fittingly titled "I Love OPM") not just once but numerous times during its run. Ryan naturally packed in more miles from his main base in Los Angeles to Manila and back and was only too happy to do so. 


Buckling down 

Reflecting on his extensive career, Ryan is grateful for such an exciting and bustling career in his 20s. Traveling the world doing what you love as one's bread and butter is certainly a sweet deal. "Coming off my 30s for five years now, with the pandemic in between, I've transitioned from being a performing artist because that's all I've ever done. I realized I should have something to show for all these blessings and decided it's time to go into recording." As such, this latest visit to Manila isn't just about connecting with his treasured circle of Filipino friends and soaking in the festive atmosphere. Ryan is here to introduce his holiday single, "The Feeling of Christmas" shortly after launching the record back in the States. 


Explaining the inspiration behind the song, he said, "I think it's nostalgia. It brings me back to when I was a little kid, where I felt stuck in that moment forever. And then you realize how quickly it passes. Like, I lost a ton of people in my life this year: my grandparents and then my uncle and then close family friends, and so it was." Ryan added, growing up in snow-covered Michigan, make their family Christmas folks too. "We love Christmas like you do here so it just makes sense to record a Christmas song and bring it here, right?" he beamed. Part of a 16-song Christmas album, Ryan shared he personally funded the project and recorded the tracks in iconic studios in Nashville, Texas, and Los Angeles with a full orchestra. "We recorded in the same studio as Frank Sinatra and where Michael Jackson did 'Thriller.' So you can say there's a lot of magic on this album and we're scheduled to release it full this coming year." A labor of love, Ryan admits he is very hands across every stage of recording and production. "I didn't realize how long these things took so for now it's just this single available across the top digital platforms." Indeed, the compilation of his original composition and and covers is special for Ryan who is unashamed to say this is his gift of thanks to God for the unexpected but wonderful and fulfilling life that came his way amid adversity. And so with a song full of love, borne out of faith and God-given musicality, there is no doubt Filipinos will embrace "The Feeling of Christmas" as it begins playing from Manila to the rest of the nation this holiday season. Because Ryan and his music simply feel like home and hit straight to the heart.   




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