Songwriter Bryan Galentine Finds the ‘Good Stuff’ Through Living With ALS
When you meet Bryan Wayne Galentine, he may ask, “What’s your omelet?,” a question that also stands as a life mantra.
Galentine made a career for himself under the name Bryan Wayne in the Nashville songwriting scene throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s by penning hits including “What If She’s An Angel” by Tommy Shane Steiner, which peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart in 2002, and "Kiss My Ass" off Big & Rich's chart-topping 2004 debut album Horse of a Different Color, with additional cuts by Chris Cagle, Clay Walker and more. But life took an unexpected turn in 2014, when Galentine began experiencing a series of health ailments that led to multiple surgeries.
That summer, Galentine, his wife and two sons participated in the viral Ice Bucket Challenge to raise money and awareness for ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. The degenerative illness that attacks the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord and affects more than 16,000 Americans at any given time, according to the ALS Association.
“More than half of the people that did the Ice Bucket Challenge, including myself, did not know that they were doing it for ALS,” Galentine recalls to Taste of Country, gazing out of the kitchen window onto the front porch of his home just outside of Nashville where he completed the challenge. “My kids dumped water on my head and we were just doing it to do it.”
In April of 2017, Galentine was diagnosed with the very disease he helped raise money for three years earlier. He is honest, but not bitter when discussing the debilitating side effects of the disease that require him to use a wheelchair and eat through a feeding tube. Eventually, he will lose the ability to talk and even breathe on his own, and since this interview took place, Galentine is beginning to lose the use of his hands, arms and voice.
“You become a locked prisoner. Your mind stays alert so you can think about all you're dealing with, but you can't do anything about it,” explains Galentine, who’s a member of the patient advisory board for advocacy organization I Am ALS. “I really think that if everyone knew how brutal and evil it is, more people would want to do something.”
A week after receiving the terminal diagnosis, Galentine took action and started recording his debut album, While You Wait, in an effort to commit his voice to a recording before he lost the ability to sing, serving as an everlasting gift to his wife and two sons. Setting up shop in the home studio of his friend Kenny Alphin of Big & Rich, he spent a year recording the project alongside several other songwriters and friends, including the "Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)” duo and songwriters James Otto and Neil Thrasher.
Galentine cherry-picked 14 songs he’d written over the past 20 years that are embedded with life lessons he hopes to instill in his wife and children. There’s “The Good Day,” which reminds us to treasure the moments in life that are too precious to forget; “Fly,” a song he wrote for his wife that encourages one to chase their dreams and “Wake Up World,” which reminds us to live in the moment.
“That message is, 'This life is going to pass you by and we're not doing enough to care for each other and love each other,’” Galentine analyzes of the latter tune. “I purposely chose more positive, inspirational songs that have life messages in them, so I'm teaching [my wife and sons], even if I'm not here.”
The album is not only a legacy for Galentine’s family, but it’s also a thank you to the music community that’s played an influential role in his life and career.
“It’s more than a record,” Galentine reflects with tears welling in his eyes. “It was almost like a reunion, to revisit all these guys and gals and hug them and say, 'I appreciate you being part of my life.' It was all right there within that experience.”
In spite of the dire circumstances, Galentine consciously leads his life with an open heart and positive spirit. One example is the “Find the Good Stuff” Facebook page he created to share uplifting content, posting stories each day that range from a local food truck owner raising money for healthcare workers to a photo of a police officer sitting down for a slice of pizza with a woman who is homeless. He also sells “What’s Your Omelet” T-shirts, a phrase he concocted after learning how to make an omelet, one of the many tasks he crossed off his bucket list in the wake of the diagnosis, standing as a symbolize of his efforts to help others fulfill their dreams. Galentine is intentional about paying it forward with each act of kindness as part of his self-fulfilling prophecy — to make a positive impact that will outlive his time on Earth.
“I believe that staying positive will extend my life. But when you realize your time is finite and you start thinking about what you want to do and the mark you want to leave, I've decided that I want to leave a mark and make a positive difference in the time that I have left,” he determines. “It's frustrating and humbling to accept the things that the disease has taken away…but it is a blessing in a weird way because it taught me to quit going in the motions of life, to find my omelet, to find the good stuff in every day and to try to be a better person with everyone. I feel like if I died today, I left a positive mark — and that's why I say in a weird way, I'm glad I have ALS.”
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