Don’t be fooled by the calm disposition, Billy Gallant of Rankin Inlet is still 100 per cent rocker at heart.
He’s done everything from kickin’ out the jams to hosting open mic night, but these days you’re more likely to have him strummin’ a tune for you on acoustic guitar than welcoming you to the jungles of big city life.
Originally from P.E.I., Gallant, 46, who has spent the past 12 years in Rankin and 15 in the North, considers himself a late starter on guitar, having not picked up the instrument until he was 16 years of age.
That’s when the music of Guns N’ Roses came a calling and the stylings of the band’s lead guitarist, Slash, lit the desire to start bending the strings within Gallant.
“It’s funny because the first time I saw Welcome to the Jungle I thought it was terrible,” said Gallant. “Then Sweet Child of Mine came out a couple of months later and I was all over it.”
Gallant said he was into heavy metal only when he was in the south and, looking back, it was all quite insular in that the members of his band stuck with each other and rarely played with other groups or musicians.
He said that all changed when he moved to the North, having played with 40 different people here to date.
“I’ve played with accordions, flutists, saxophones… you name it here in the North,” he said with a bemused, how-in-the-hell-did-that-happen type of chuckle.
Gallant is like the majority of Northern musicians, in that he can name the biggest challenge to trying to put a music group together in the North with a single word, “space.”
“I’ve used my school classroom and the old arena when I could, even my living room a few times, but these are not ideal spots to be jammin’,” said Gallant.
“But, being in the North has introduced me to the acoustic guitar and more country music. I didn’t know Johnny Cash before I moved to the North. And it’s also introduced me to more acoustic folk and traditional music. I get into Charlie Panigoniak and that kind of style of music now, so that’s what the North has brought to me musically.
“Being among people who are more relaxed and laid back, and who live a slower lifestyle, has kind of affected my music in that I’ve noticed I’ll let my notes hang out longer and, if I wasn’t so influenced by the North and its people, I’d be uncomfortable with those silences.
“So, that’s really allowed me to allow my music to kind of ring out, or expand, and not worry so much about having to say something all the time.”
Gallant found himself spending a bit more time online recently due to the constraints of Covid-19, and he wanted to find a way to make the time more constructive.
That led to the creation of his Dad Rock Collective project.
“I love rock music and I love being a dad, so I started a YouTube page where I’m trying to promote my other rock dad friends who are putting out music and just doing interesting things.
“So that’s the thing I’m really working on right now.
“As far as my music goes, everything has it’s time and place but I’m definitely a rocker at heart.
“There’s no sound in the world like the sound of a distorted electric guitar. None.”