Local singer-songwriter Nick Gallant remembers going to the Salton Sea, setting up his recording equipment, and getting ready to record the song “I Don’t Want To Wait Anymore” for his latest album State Park. He was parked in his van, and he looked around at the desolate and decaying landscape around him, with dead fish everywhere, wondering why he felt he had to drive all the way out here just to record a song.
“The feeling of solitude, of this being my own journey, sunk in for me. I felt a great sense of purpose that I was doing this for more than just the recording,” says Gallant. “I was doing this for me, as a man, trying to bond with myself and learn about myself.”
The song’s expression of loneliness is striking, a noticeable contrast for the folk-rock songwriter, who’s released four albums prior to State Park and is most known for his upbeat folk-pop 2013 tune “Wanderlust,” which was featured in Tap Tap Revenge, a popular mobile game that was downloaded 2 million times.
Gallant wanted to make a different kind of album. To do that, he needed to break out of his normal routine of recording music in the privacy of his home studio. For State Park, he recorded each song at a different California state park from last November through April.
The idea was initially sparked by his love for state parks, where he likes to camp with his family as frequently as possible.
“When I’m camping, it creatively gets me in tune with writing. I’m writing music while camping,” Gallant says. “Why not put the two together and actually record an album at state parks?”
For this project, he visited the parks alone. Most of them are in Southern California—he flies down to Southern California two days every week for his day job, managing the music/audio team for Disney Games and Interactive Experiences. Instead of a hotel, he’d rent a van and spend the evening recording the track at a park.
It was a completely different experience for Gallant, who’s used to having total control and cherishes his ability to be meticulous about everything he records. When he was recording these songs, there were other people around. He had to play and sing more quietly than he normally would. Because of the limitations, he wrote one of his quietest, most vulnerable recordings to date.
“I’m the guy that auto-tunes my vocals. I’m really nitpicky. This way was kind of like, ‘Let it go,’” Gallant says. “I was excited to do this record. It’s not going to be overproduced. These songs were meant to be recorded this way.”
Other environmental elements reared their head unexpectedly. On the album closer “My Shadow”—a particularly reflective, sad song recorded at Silverwood Lake State Park—it poured rain during his visit. The sound of the rain hitting the van was picked up by the microphones. Gallant kept it.
“I was forced to be OK with some of the environmental stuff that made it onto the recording,” Gallant says. “It was dark and stormy subject matter. And then there’s this rain in the background. It was kind of amazing when it happened.”
Now that the record is finished, he’s well aware that it’s unlikely to yield a pop-y single like “Wanderlust” that gets licensed for a popular video game. But how many people listen to the record doesn’t really matter to him. The experience means a lot to him for a variety of reasons.
“This whole process made me realize that just the process of making a record was important. The record could come out and no one would listen to it. That would be okay,” Gallant says. “The journey of making it was just as precious to me as the actual product. Not every creative endeavor in my life has been that way. I hope when I die that my two sons will sit down and crack a beer and listen to my 15-20 records that I made and remember me in that way.”