Josh Gallagher only needed one word to describe performing a recent concert with country music star Randy Houser: "Big."
The 22-year-old Cresson native and aspiring country musician opened for Houser, best known for his songs "Boots On" and "How Country Feels," on Sept. 28 at a tailgate concert before a University of Buffalo football game in Buffalo, N.Y. It was his first time performing in front of a big crowd.
"That was a pretty big experience and opportunity," Gallagher, a 2009 graduate of Penn Cambria High School, said. "There was quite a bit of people there.
Josh Gallagher of Cresson (left) opened for a performance by country singer Randy Houser at a concert in Buffalo, N.Y., before a University of Buffalo football game on Sept. 28.
"I played for 40 to 45 minutes. At the start, there were a few people - more than I am used to - but as the set went on, everybody started pouring in. It was a good experience."
Gallagher - who has loved music "since I was a kid" and started playing guitar when he was 10 - has also auditioned for two singing competition shows, "The Voice" and "American Idol," in his pursuit of a musical career.
He only started performing country music about a year and a half ago, beginning with an opportunity at the Lilly Sokols Club.
"Josh was always self-taught, and he was getting progressively better," said Dan Gallagher, Josh's father. "He was doing YouTube videos, and he decided to try and expand this. It happened down at Sokols in May 2012. They gave him a shot, and it was a big hit.
"The more he played out, the more word-of-mouth he got. He got a bit of a following. It's been a whirlwind for the last year and a half, and he's come light years [in that time]."
Josh continues to perform around this area as he pursues his bigger Nashville dreams, and he has also released a self-titled album, with four original songs: "Cowgirls in Cowboy Boots," "Calloused Hands," "Welcome to the Show" and "Where Your Heart Is."
"I've played in a lot of bars," said Josh, who has also performed on "Central PA Live" and at the Cambria County Fair. "Sokols, the Cresson Legion, the Ol Skool Tavern in Portage. I play locally in a lot of different places."
John Pupo, the manager of the Lilly Sokols Club, immediately recognized Josh's talent.
"He's real good," Pupo said. "Every time we get him, we have a good turnout."
When Josh opened for Houser in Buffalo, Dan said it was "overwhelming" to see his son perform for that many people.
"He had never been on a big stage like that," Dan said. "I asked him, 'Are you nervous?' and he said, 'No, Dad. I'm really not.' He really falls into his own realm when he's playing. It was awesome; I can't think of another word.
"There were about 150 to 250 people to start, and then I noticed all of these people streaming in. I heard a lot of people saying, 'This kid's really good.' An older couple told us, 'He's going somewhere.' I'm biased, of course, but it is nice to hear it from other people."
Trying out for "American Idol" and "The Voice" was an exercise in patience, according to Josh.
"For 'American Idol,' you have to go online and register," Josh said. "You then go to the site - for me, that was Heinz Field - and you get your wristband and pass. You show up the next day, and you wait a really, really long time. I waited for 12 hours before I got to sing.
"'The Voice' was a lot quicker. They opened the doors at 7 a.m., and I was out of there by 11:30 a.m."
Auditioning for both shows was a bigger process than viewers see on television.
"You have to go through a few rounds before you see the judges," Josh said. "For both 'The Voice' and 'Idol,' you audition for producers, and they say whether to send you through or send you home."
Josh didn't get to sing for Blake Shelton or Steven Tyler, but that hasn't stifled his passion or his pursuit of music fame. He plans to travel to Nashville this coming summer, to "try my hand down there."
"Hopefully, it goes pretty well," he said. "It's a tough industry. There's loads of people down there, trying to do the same thing I want to do."
His dad, for one, has faith in Josh's ability.
"He's doing really well," Dan said. "I hope he progresses through the next step. We'll take it one step at a time and see what happens.
"Give him all the credit. He does all the work, and he's gotten so much better. I'm really proud of him."
Josh Gallagher's four original songs can be downloaded from his website, www.reverbnation.com/joshgallagher.
Mirror staff writer Cory Dobrowolsky can be reached at 946-7428.