‘Voice’ finalist Josh Gallagher leans on wife Lindsey: It’s not ‘Make Believe”
Fresh out of college, Lindsey Miller was 23 when she first moved out of her childhood home in Sinking Valley. Her destination was 700 miles away, a city 15 times the size of Altoona.
Many thought she was just following her boyfriend who was hoping to make it big in the country music capital of Nashville, Tennessee.
“A lot of people say, ‘She moved down there for you,'” said that boyfriend-turned-husband Josh Gallagher, who grew up over the mountain in Cresson. “No, she moved down here WITH me.”
The woman who captured the heart of the fourth-place finisher on last year’s “The Voice” on NBC is, indeed, Josh’s biggest cheerleader. But Lindsey — who became Mrs. Gallagher last October — never wanted to settle down in her hometown, and she chose a career in human development and family studies that she could use almost anywhere.
“When Josh and I first started dating, I had two years of school left and I told him my goal was to graduate and move away,” she said in a telephone interview earlier this month from the couple’s Nashville apartment. “I just wanted to warn him. He was cool with it.”
By then, the summer of 2012, it meshed with his goals.
Josh had played baseball at Penn Cambria High School and then at Penn State Greater Allegheny for a couple of years before he dropped out and went to work at J-LOK, a factory in Cresson that supplies the mining industry. Always one to play his guitar when hanging out with friends, Josh began seriously writing songs and playing area bars and events.
One was the Lilly Fire-men’s Carnival, where a friend introduced him to a young woman from Altoona.
“He talked to everybody in my group but me,” Lindsey recalled, with a laugh.
“I’m a little shy, I guess,” Josh said.
Their paths crossed again later that evening at the Penn Avenue Tavern in Cresson.
“I had just gotten out of a relationship; she had, too,” he said. “We both weren’t looking for a relationship … But there was something about her, and I couldn’t keep my eyes off her.”
Lindsey gave him her phone number and he called the next day.
“We’ve been inseparable ever since,” she said. “It was really easy to talk to each other. We have so much in common besides country music. We both love to be outdoors. We like sports.”
While he had played baseball in high school, she had played softball, the centerfielder for Altoona Area High School, from which she graduated in 2009. They still love the Pittsburgh sports teams, especially the Steelers, and the outdoors. They used to fish and float down the Juniata; nowadays — when they have time — it’s Old Hickory Lake, a dammed portion of the Tennessee River northeast of Nashville.
And, there is the music.
“Josh and I just kind of clicked,” Lindsey said. “Me and my friends always listened to country music. We always went to country concerts. Eric Church is my very favorite. I saw Kenny Chesney … Luke Bryan …. Carrie Underwood … Little Big Town I remember seeing before they got really big. It was in the auditorium at Roosevelt (Junior High) when I was in the eighth grade.”
The couple’s relationship flourished and, during spring break of her last year in college, they visited Nashville.
“His music career just started taking off and we were like, ‘Where do we want to go?'” Lindsey said. “He really wanted to do music, so I said, ‘Why not? Let’s go to Nashville. Do it while we’re young.'”
“It was kind of like every single star aligned at the very perfect time,” Josh said. “We were both on the same page.”
Lindsey said she was fortunate she could complete all four years of her major at the Penn State Altoona campus, enabling her to live at home and “save a ton of money.” She graduated in the spring of 2014, and she and Josh decided to move south that summer.
“That was my very first move away from home,” Lindsey said.
It was a “big deal,” but she said her parents took it well.
“It was hard having her move away,” said her mother, Ann Miller, supervisor of radiology at UPMC Altoona. “It was the first time she was ever away from home. But she had her mind made up. She was gonna go. You could tell they were in love.”
“Our older son had moved away, but she’s our only daughter,” said her father, Dave Miller, a paramedic with AMED. (Lindsey also has two other brothers.) But “we felt comfortable with Josh. He waited for her to finish her degree. He’s really a polite, nice young man. I know she is in good hands.”
The young couple found a two-bedroom apartment 10 minutes from downtown Nashville and Lindsey immediately started job hunting. Her degree allows her to work with children and seniors, alike, and she considered social work.
“But I didn’t know the area and I wasn’t comfortable with that since I would have to make home visits,” she said. “I only applied at pre-schools.”
Within two weeks, she was hired as a toddler teacher at a nearby day care, where she still works.
“I love it there,” she said. “But … I want to go back for my master’s so I can do counseling. I really want to be a school counselor.”
Meanwhile, Josh started networking with other musicians and songwriters, including Steel Blossoms, a Pittsburgh duet who also had just moved to Nashville.
They told him about Tootsie’s, a popular lounge where he could show up and sing. He ended up on a circuit, playing up to three shows a day and eventually putting together his own band. When he wasn’t playing, he was writing songs and going to “songwriters’ rounds,” sort of an open-mic night for artists to play their original music, she said.
“You never know who’s going to be there,” said Lindsey, who jumped into her work and attended conferences, including one out of town in July 2015 that she left early because she was sick.
“When he got home from his gig that night, he woke me up, made me a bowl of chicken noodle soup and he did that mushy, lovey, talk,” she said. “It was really throwing me off. I was like, ‘What is wrong with you? I was only gone for a couple of days.'”
With their three-year anniversary of dating approaching, he wanted to give her an early present.
“He told me to close my eyes. When I opened them, he was down on one knee with a ring,” she said.
“Josh and I always figured we’d eventually get married. We talked about it but we didn’t talk about it. We wanted to live together at least a year. … Every-thing always came easy for Josh and I. We always knew we’d be together.”
But she didn’t see that proposal coming, thinking he would wait at least another year. He was supposed to wait two weeks, having planned an elaborate proposal with friends at an upcoming Church concert.
“He was just too excited and couldn’t wait any more,” Lindsey said.
But he would wait at least a year before the wedding; they booked the date of Oct. 8, 2016, for the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament.
“That’s my home church, the church I grew up in, where I went to CCD classes, got baptized, did my first communion and confirmation,” she said.
Within two months, the bulk of the wedding plans were in place, as they resumed their work lives, she at the day care, he making the rounds.
One was at the Row, a popular spot for up-and-coming country artists, where Josh was told last spring he ought to consider auditioning for “The Voice.”
“Why not?,” the couple thought, as long as it was for the popular show’s 12th season, not the impending 11th season that could interfere with the wedding.
Josh drove to Atlanta for the audition; Lindsey went to work.
“He starts blowing up my phone, but I can’t answer it; I was in the middle of work,” she said.
They finally connected and he relayed that producers wanted him immediately for the show and it wouldn’t interfere with the wedding.
“She was like, ‘What are you doing? Go,'” Josh said.
He drove home that night, completed paperwork, packed his bags and flew out to Los Angeles the next morning.
“If it wasn’t for her, I don’t believe he would have gone,” said Josh’s father, Dan Gallagher. “Everything was coming to a head with the wedding. But she said, ‘You will go and we’ll figure this out.’ She is such a great supporter of Josh. Their relationship is outstanding.”
Lindsey took care of the “crazy wedding details,” such as preparing the tedious seating chart, with the help of friends and family.
But the summer was almost a blur with him spending weeks in Los Angeles taping the show, while she would fly out for a few days at a time. They came to Altoona for wedding showers and then back to Nashville for work and back to Altoona for the wedding as “The Voice” took a hiatus between taping and the live shows.
“I tend to make a mess of things, but somehow I got you that diamond ring. … For better or worse has got the best of me. Now when I push it in overdrive, you pull me through with your hand on mine. Sometimes I swear it’s a dream, but it ain’t make believe.”
Josh wrote “Make Believe” for Lindsey and it was their first dance together at the wedding.
Then it was back to Nashville and then Los Angeles as Josh continued to win round after round on the live show.
“Josh is great, but I never imagined he would make it to the final four,” Lindsey said. “The run was just incredible. It was thrilling. Nerve wracking. “
She is the nervous one, he the calm one.
When he was preparing to perform the National Anthem at the Steelers playoff game at Heinz Field earlier this month, she fretted.
“‘You know the words, right? Are you sure?’ He was like, ‘Babe, calm down,'” Lindsey said.
Thanks to an extra gig he picked up in Pittsburgh, she was able to fly up and join him. She also will be at his two sold-out concerts at the Mishler Theatre in Altoona next weekend — when she will celebrate her 26th birthday with friends and family.
But because she took off so much time from work for “The Voice,” she has to “pick and choose” which events she attends.
“I want to be at every show of his, but I just can’t,” she said
Even when they’re both in Nashville, their time together is limited. For the most part, she works days and he works nights — and days, sometimes. Often, they have just minutes together for dinner that he typically cooks before she gets home from work and he heads out the door. That isn’t just a matter of convenience; he is the better cook, both agreed.
She often learns about his schedule through his postings on social media as they both adjust to becoming more famous.
“It’s weird being noticed by strangers,” Lindsey said, relaying how strangers approached them in a Nashville mall when they were Christmas shopping. “I’m trying to get used to it … but it’s pretty cool.”
Her mother doesn’t always think so. Ann was bothered by a disparaging remark made about Lindsey on Facebook, but the daughter told her, “Mom, you just have to let it go. Don’t worry about it.”
“Lindsey definitely has it together,” added Ann, who is leary of the unwelcome attention that Josh’s growing fame could bring the couple.
“She doesn’t get jealous,” Josh said of Lindsey. “When we first moved here and I was doing a show, I would run a tip jar through the crowd, but check on her first. She was like, ‘I’m fine. Get out of here. Go flirt with the girls.’
“She knows that girls are going to give me attention and it doesn’t bother her at all. It’s such a breath of fresh air.”
As difficult as it is, Lindsey said she wants Josh to succeed with a record contract or a publishing deal as a songwriter.
“You’re fighting for the same dream as a million other musicians who are good,” she said. “I know he leans on me because it can be very difficult. You can get down on yourself very easily. But I always push him and tell him don’t ever give up.”
Last week, Josh was contemplating hiring a manager and a booking agent as he has become overwhelmed with the business details of his burgeoning career.
“I can’t believe how far he’s come in the 2 ¢ years since we moved out here,” Lindsey said. “I’m super proud of him.”
The feeling is mutual.
“She wants to see me succeed,” Josh said. “She inspires me with just about everything she does, not just with my music but in everything. She’s there for me, whether she thinks it’s a good idea or not, she’s always there.
“She doesn’t tell you what you want to hear; she tells you what you need to hear. That shows me that she’s not fake and she stands up for what she believes in. It’s one of the things I absolutely love about her. It’s an incredible thing we have.”
Mirror Staff Writer Cherie Hicks is at 949-7030.