Some Westporters know Terry Brannigan as an Eagle Scout. Others think of him as a former Staples High School wrestling star.
Perhaps one day the rest of the world may celebrate him for his music.
The 2020 Staples grad is now a Wesleyan University sophomore. He’s double majoring in physics and music. He’s minoring in IDEAS (Integrated Design, Engineering and Applied Science). He’s a varsity wrestler (125 pounds).
And he’s just released his first album. Which (of course!) he created entirely himself, in his dorm room.
He wrote every song. He played live instruments (after teaching himself bass and piano — he already knew guitar). He sang. He mixed, mastered and produced it all (after figuring out how to use the Ableton program).
And — why not? — he designed the album cover too
“Gillham” — that’s Terry’s middle name; it’s both the album title and his stage name — traces its roots back to Terry’s first guitar, at 7. He joined School of Rock, but did not take music seriously until the summer after 11th grade
He and a friend formed the band Verbatim (it included his younger brother Eamon). They played a few gigs, at venues from bars to Barnes & Noble.
A turning point for Terry was taking Advanced Placement Music Theory with Luke Rosenberg. The Staples choral director gave Terry “another way to look at and appreciate music,” he says.
Balancing school, music, wrestling and Boy Scouts was not easy. Terry was grateful to have two escapes — arts and sports — from the stresses of teenage life. They use different sides of the brain, he notes, and balance each other out.
Throughout high school, Terry wrote songs. Last year, stuck in his Wesleyan dorm room for long stretches during COVID, he worked in earnest on his music.
“I’d sit in the same chair for 6 or 7 hours — class, homework, music, eating dinner at my desk,” Terry says. “I was having a really weird relationship with time.” He began writing songs with that theme.
At first, Terry admits, it was hard to write about personal feelings. “Is it too much information? Why would anyone care?” he wondered. But, he notes, “it’s easier, and a lot more fun, to write something you care about.”
The hardest part of making an album was not the lyrics or melody. It was production.
“There’s so much to learn,” says Terry. He taught himself Ableton Live — a digital audio workstation. “There’s an infinite number of sounds and instruments. When I figure out how to get something to sound the way I want it to, I’m grateful.”
He’s produced an impressive debut album. That theme of “time” runs through nearly every track, mutating and reprising often. The more you listen to “GIllham,” the more you appreciate Terry’s insights, subtleties and nuances.
After the next tough part — promotion — Terry will turn to another musical project.
He’ll fit it in along with his very demanding courses at Wesleyan. And his equally tough wrestling schedule.
Terry Brannigan is a many of many talents. And — somehow — he’ll find “time.”
(“Gillham” by Gillham is available on Spotify, Apple Music and other streaming platforms.)