On 4 March 2017, Tim Gallagher had just been eliminated from the sixth series of BBC talent show ‘The Voice’, and he could feel something coming. Something dark. Something big.
As he sat alongside a fellow Voice evictee for post-show press obligations, he realised he couldn’t speak. Words just wouldn’t tumble out of his mouth. Afterwards, he slumped down with a pint in his hands in a nearby pub. Maybe whatever this was had been building for months, perhaps it had been years. Either way, it was here.
Two weeks later and still licking his wounds, he hit the casino and won big – emerging with around £8,000.00 bulging in his pockets. Always an impulsive character, he splashed the cash immediately on a flight to Nashville, where he quickly snapped up a manager.
Gallagher was on a mission to prove the talent show carousel wrong and find an alternate route to stardom. But the venture was short-lived. When he returned to Manchester, the walls came down around him. Decisively, this time. “That mindset just slowly encroached on me bit-by-bit until I was in this hole,” he recalls.
Only 24, Gallagher was at “rock bottom” and didn’t know how he’d pull himself out. For a few years, his breakdown left him rooted at home, living like a “recluse”. If it wasn’t for the “strong network” around him – specifically, his partner Lisa and his mum – he believes he wouldn’t have made it out.
If all this sounds pretty bleak, and it is, then it makes his ascent even more startling. In fact, it’s a far cry from where the singer-songwriter finds himself in 2023.
His mental health is in a brighter spot, and his career is on a dizzying incline. He has soundtracked Love Island, his TikTok following is approaching the 700,000-mark, and he has over a quarter of a million on Instagram, including A-listers Sharon Stone, Channing Tatum and Shawn Mendes.
Having signed to Headie One and Bad Boy Chiller Crew’s label, Relentless Records, in 2021, a series of EPs and singles have showcased his rich, soulful croon and sweet, razor-sharp pop smarts. Latest EP Growing Pains, featuring his most recent single ‘Dancing Feet’, is a firm case in point.
Gallagher grew up in Crewe in the north-west. His dad played in a rock and roll covers band called Pink Cadillac, and he recalls getting the singing bug from the age of five. “He wasn’t really present at all growing up, but I always idolised him when he sang,” he recalls about his dad. “I remember watching him and being absolutely in awe.” It ignited a spark. “It’s all I wanted to do.”
As he grew older, Gallagher started performing in the local area by hawking around a karaoke machine and singing to the public. As a teenager, he started turning over tidy sums, coining in £150-a-turn. “At that age, £150 for a few hours work is great money. I always had more money than all my friends and I always had more time than my friends. Any means through which I could make money from music, I would. And in whatever capacity.”
A transformative experience occurred while on holiday at 16 in Alicante. He saw a guy bringing the house down singing and strumming a guitar. “For some reason, I’d never considered it,” he says of picking up a six-string.
Keen to expand his musical vocabulary, he borrowed an acoustic from his best mate when he got back home. A few weeks later, he’d found his way around the fretboard and a vehicle through which he could bring his songs to life.
While everything was looking promising – he was writing songs with a producer and amassing a body of work – a life-altering health event was hanging around the corner. “I was so lucky for 18 years and then my whole reality changed,” he says.
Doctors discovered a clot that ran down the side of his leg, creating havoc in his body. He continues: “There are things that will never be fixed. I’ll never run again. My eyesight is not right anymore. I have constant pressure in my head and my muscles twitch all the time. I’ve got a few problems with my heart. There’s a reality that I’ve had to come to terms with, but I’ve continued to fight for my career.”
His family bought him lessons from a life coach for his 21st birthday, one who “lit a fire” under him, he says. Gallagher left his hometown for pastures new. “I moved to Manchester, and two weeks later I had a job at Shelter, the homeless charity,” he says. The job only lasted about a week when he discovered he could earn better money busking. Galvanised, he started seeking more stages to play.
“I went to this open mic at The Whiskey Jar [a bar in Manchester]. I called up, and this Scottish guy answered the phone, and I said, ‘Can I get on?’ And he answered, ‘No, it’s a three-month waiting list, but come down and watch.’”
“So, I went down with my guitar thinking I’d get on somehow. I stood at the back of the room the whole night. He had a little bit of time spare, and I think he felt bad for me. He put me on, and I went down an absolute storm. Afterwards, he said, ‘You’re in now. You can play whenever you want!’”
Gallagher secured his current manager from his stint at The Whiskey Jar, and asserts he owes everything to the bar and the city (“The Whiskey Jar and Manchester has shaped the way my career is now, 100%,” he states).
Having already been forced to contend with one health problem, the breakdown he would go on to suffer following his exit from The Voice (something he says was a contributing factor, rather than being the sole cause) rendered him almost back to square one.
Fast forward to 2020, and while the UK was locked (and locked-down) in the devastating grip of COVID-19’s first wave, TikTok was making waves of its own in the social media space. Gallagher took a new course of action.
He archived his existing social media posts and started afresh. New content was uploaded to TikTok, and he utilised the “Instagram Live” function with regularity. Things went stratospheric fast, thanks to Gallagher’s everyman charm and traffic-halting voice.
It provided a salutary lesson for an artist who had previously tried to do things the old-fashioned way. “Ed Sheeran was basically the soundtrack to my teen years and probably had the biggest impact on me as an artist, [but] I’m not sure you can do what he did anymore,” he considers with a hint of sadness in his voice.
“The industry has shifted. I don’t think you can break an act from travelling around and playing loads of open mics, selling CDs and stuff anymore. There’s a quicker route to that via social media.”
He continues: “I’ve done both, and the social media one worked. I tried doing it the other way, and it just wouldn’t work. What it did give me though was that every time I got in a room and played, I had validation that I was good enough.
“When everything did take off, I was like, I’ve paid my dues and did the grassroots stuff enough to know how to handle live gigs. It put me in an unbelievable stead.”
It’s not been an easy road for the singer songwriter. “Growing Pains is maybe my favourite song of those that I’ve done, because that is about my whole story,” he confides.
The EP that shares its name is also “very symbolic” when it comes to his journey. With its release, it seems that he’s done looking back, however, and his eyes are on the road ahead. Intentions are to hit the studio later this year. “I’ve got so many songs sat on a computer,” he reveals.
Having overcome so much already, Tim Gallagher is grateful for the gains he has made. Adversity has made him resilient, and it’s forged a mentality that has equipped him with the tools to overcome most that comes his way. “I’ve got a wonky brain,” he confesses. “My mindset to just keep going has been the most important thing for me, because there’re so many times I could have stopped.”
‘Growing Pains’ is out now via Relentless Records.