Hittin’ the stage in Malibu

Billy Gale, who has written songs for performers like Waylon Jennings, Anne Murray and Cher, cites the experiences he's had on the road as key to developing the subject matter of his songs.

Country singer songwriter Billy Gale to perform at Malibu Stage Co.

By Michelle Salzman/Special to The Malibu Times

Sitting on the front porch of The Old Place restaurant on Mulholland Drive in Agoura Hills, Billy Gale’s bright, attentive eyes peek out from beneath a worn cowboy hat. His attention to his surroundings is a vital part of his songwriting. He is a storyteller. Gale has spent a good part of his life collecting experiences to use in his music and this Sunday, he will be performing at the Malibu Stage Co., sharing these tales with his audience.

A country-western songwriter by trade, Gale has written songs for Waylon Jennings, Anne Murray, and Cher, among others. Signed to Capitol Records as a staff writer after serving time as a marine in Vietnam, Gale was mentored by country music pioneer Cliffie Stone. Stone is known for his key roles in country music publishing and recording, and was a past president of the Academy of Country Music. The Pioneer Award is now named after him, called the “Cliffie.”

Gale worked as a staff writer for various big name record labels over the past 35 years. He cut his teeth performing with the Palomino Riders at the Palomino Club in North Hollywood. In the past few years, Gale has released two CDs independently, “A Note from My Heart” and “Still in Love,” and is working on an album to be released in the near future.

Gale’s close friend Bruce Smith said, “Billy’s a rebel and always has been the 30 years that I’ve known him and his music is beautiful.”

Gale grew up on a berry farm in Torrance and then moved with his family to the Malibu area when he was a teenager. He grew up listening to country music and playing it for as long as he can recall. “I’ve had a guitar in my hands since the time I can remember,” Gale said. “I don’t remember not having a guitar.”

Gale has also spent a lot of time traveling throughout the United States and all over the world. He cites the experiences he’s had on the road as key to developing the subject matter of his songs. He said, “I just hit the road and keep hittin’ it. Subject matter. You know. It’s subject matter. You ain’t gonna write songs sitting still-all of the great song writers are troubadours, wanderers-that’s the way it is.”

You can find Gale performing at The Old Place Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. He enjoys the intimacy of the restaurant, especially the close contact with his audience. He said it’s “one on one, no pretenses, nothing … if I have to perform, that’s the way I want to do it. Just loose, no worries. I’m adamant about that.”

He continued, “These people, these unsuspecting [people] in here, who are sitting there, that have no idea that a guy’s gonna walk up to their table and sing them a country song. And everybody here who comes in here who doesn’t know, they leave here going, ‘What a nice evening we’ve just had.’ And that’s where it’s at.”

As far as the upcoming performance at the Malibu Stage Co. Theatre, Gale plans on incorporating the spontaneity of his performances at The Old Place into his show. “I’m just gonna go in there and start playing,” he said. “I thought, you know, what’s a man do? A man sits down with a guitar and plays a song. Alright look, I kind of challenged myself, you know? I want to be able to sit down with my acoustic guitar, solo, and lay it all down.”

“I want upfront, absolute honest, from the heart, here it is, this is me, this ain’t some network band that I hired. This is me. And here’s what I do. Here’s what I’ve learned. Here’s the experiences that I’ve gone through. Every song’s got a story.”

Billy Gale is scheduled to perform at the Malibu Stage Co. Theatre Aug. 1 at 7 p.m. To purchase tickets visit www.billygale.com or call 310.589.9767, or The Malibu Stage Co. at 310.589.1998.