Who We Are: Josh Galvin: singer-songwriter, mountain man
May 20, 2012
Plenty of New York City transplants have made their way out West over the last 40 or so years and settled into the High Country quite nicely. Few have settled in quite as comfortably as Josh Galvin, however, or become such a fixture to both the skiing and creative communities of Summit County.
Having lived in Breck now since 1977 or 1978, he can’t seem to put a finger on it, Galvin is the embodiment of the mountain man, both as a skier and a storyteller. He’s found his niche in Breckenridge. Not only does he pay homage to the town and mountain life through his songs, but he has given back to the skiing community with more than 20 years of service as a professional ski patroller.
“I moved here in the mid-’70s,” said Galvin. “I was a full-time ski patroller at Breck for 20 years or so, and before that at A-Basin for a couple years. I lived in Keystone, which back in those days was a lot less developed. I’d hitch hike up the pass to work in the morning or sometimes drive my little Volkswagen.”
Galvin had two crowning accomplishments during his 20-plus year tenure on Breck ski patrol, on which he still serves as a part-time patroller.
One is that he created one of the first ski safety programs for kids, which enjoyed an 18-year run, called the Opie and Dopey show. “Went to every school in the county,” Galvin said. “It turned into something bigger than life. The kids, the teachers, everybody loved this show. It was so popular we started getting invitations from the Children’s Museum, and schools outside of the area. It was always a great adventure with Opie and Dopey. It was educational, fun and entertaining.”
His second claim to fame during his hard-core skiing years was winning the Colorado Powder 8 synchronized skiing championships, a national event that began in the U.S. in 1970 at Jackson Hole. Galvin won in 1982 at Breckenridge with skiing partner Butch Peel.
Galvin is also a published author. One of his best pieces is titled “Snow Men,” published in issue 182 of the Mountain Gazette (October 2011), the holy grail of mountain-man magazines. “I’m pretty proud about that,” Galvin said modestly. The piece has the same nostalgia, seriousness, experience and poignancy found in many of his songs.
And for now, he’s focusing on his music.
His first album is titled, fittingly, “Ten Mile Ranger,” and he is in the process or re-recording tracks on it right now. “It’s been out a couple years now, but it’s still evolving,” Galvin said.
Galvin bought his first guitar from a friend in New York when he was 16, but he didn’t fully embrace this part of his life until a decade ago. “I wrote my first song 10 years ago,” Galvin explained in his matter-of-fact demeanor. That first song was “Married to the Single Life,” somewhat apropos for a construction worker turned A-Basin ski patroller. “Everybody gave me a hard time about that song,” he said with a chuckle. He’s self-taught, and has come a long way while perfecting a melodic, finger picking style.
“I take my songwriting very seriously,” Galvin said. “I try to craft well designed songs that appeal to a broad audience.”
The songs are ballads, tributes, love songs and more. They tell the tales of mountain life, sing the praises of fresh powder, fresh air, the beauty of the natural environment, and the celebration and hardships of life at altitude.
He’s made the album in two studios over the last several years.
“The music is a really primary focus right now,” Galvin said. “Ultimately what I would like to see happen is for a major artist to pick up some of my songs. I’m happy to stay in the background and be a songwriter. But in the meantime all of my friends in the music business tell me I need to get out there and be heard, so I perform as much as possible.”
“Some of them are serious, and there are some that honor people,” Galvin said. His ballad “Fresh Tracks in Heaven,” while written in honor of his fallen comrade John Nyberg, is an oft-requested favorite that has even seen radio play, and has come to represent all of those we’ve lost doing what they love.
His popular tune “Breckenridge” is a classic homage to the town and the life that he has come to represent both in practice and aura. And he would love for the town to adopt his ballad as its official song.
“In Colorado people tend to accept you on face value and consider you a decent person unless you do something to diminish that trust,” he said. “Part of the excitement of living in Colorado, and particularly in Breckenridge, is knowing that you can walk out your door and within five minutes be surrounded by complete wilderness.
“It’s always a pleasure to walk around and recognize folks and be recognized,” Galvin continued. “Any small town can feel tight as a glove from time to time, however. I wrote a song to address that entitled ‘Podunk Town.’ I’m in the process of recording that song.”
Other new material he’s working on includes “Rocky mountain cowboy” about the rodeo; and in “It’s all right to be wrong,” Galvin asks listeners, “if you’ve ever met anybody who’s always right, all the time, well this is for the rest of us.”
He’s developed a following at Stella’s Coffeehouse on Pearl Street in Denver. “I mostly play down in Denver,” Galvin said. “The market up here is pretty saturated. It’s a challenge to get gigs. That’s a whole learning curve.”
Recently the town of Dillon called Galvin out of the blue, however, and said they had heard he’s a must have, so he’ll be performing at the Dillon farmers market next month.
Being a one man show isn’t easy, however. “I do everything,” Galvin explained about his marketing and promotion. “It’s something I could certainly use some help with. I’m hoping to borrow somebody’s teenage kid to help me out with some computer stuff. I do have a website now though, so that’s good.” To learn more about Galvin and his music, for scheduling and bookings, visit that website at http://www.joshgalvin.com.