Peter Gallagher

Although best known for playing Sandy Cohen on "The O.C." and film roles, singing is this actor's lifelong passion.

Recently on Fox drama "The O.C.," actor Peter Gallagher showed off his vocal skills by singing Solomon Burke's soul classic "Don't Give Up on Me."

Although best known for playing Sandy Cohen on "The O.C." and roles in such films as "The Idolmaker" and "The Player," Gallagher began his career performing in Broadway musicals. In fact, singing is the actor's lifelong passion, one that he fully embraced on his debut album, "7 Days in Memphis" (Epic), which entered Billboard's Top Heatseekers chart last week at No. 6.

As the title suggests, the album was recorded in just seven days in Memphis, where Gallagher utilized the city's famed Ardent Studios. The success that has come out of those intensive sessions is "the most surprising thing that's ever happened to me in my professional life," he admits.

It was the show's producer, Josh Schwartz, who first suggested that the actor sing on the show. Gallagher had no idea his performance on "The O.C." would lead to recording a full-length album.

"He said, 'I have got to have you sing on the show,' and my response was, 'That's crazy. That would be so embarrassing. Who wants to hear the song stylings of Sandy Cohen? I'd be putting away my socks [on the show] singing 'Oh What a Beautiful Morning'?" says Gallagher.

But Schwartz was able to come up with a credible enough scenario -- a surprise party for the Cohen's 20th wedding anniversary -- for Gallagher to agree.

"Don't Give Up on Me" soon made its way onto iTunes, and then "totally out of the blue" a few weeks later, record labels came calling.

"At first, I thought they were totally kidding," he says. "But [Epic] was serious, and so I said the only sensible thing in the world: 'Yes.' But I told them that I wouldn't want to do a record of just [soul classics] 'cause then you should just get Solomon Burke or Wilson Pickett. But how about some music I love? Not iconic songs -- I wasn't going to touch 'Dock of the Bay' or 'Soul Man' with a 10 foot pole. No one should."

Aside from "Don't Give Up On Me," "7 Days In Memphis" includes such songs as Sam & Dave's "When Something Is Wrong With My Baby" and Johnnie Taylor's "I've Got To Love Somebody's Baby," plus some new material.

Gallagher hopes that this collection of songs will appeal to both fans of this type of music and to teens that watch "The O.C" who may not be familiar with these songs.

"My feeling is that if you have a good story and it's well told, demographics and marketing go out the window. I tried to assemble 10 great songs, and if a kid listens to any of these songs and has never listened to Sam & Dave or Johnnie Taylor before and the next time they see a Johnnie Taylor record and pick it up, that would be a beautiful thing. These are great songs and they're pretty durable, so I'm not going to do them any damage," he says with a laugh.

However, Gallagher admits that it's been hard for him to be taken seriously as a musician.

"People say mean things, people say nice things," he says, adding, "The biggest challenge is if [people] haven't heard the record, their first instinct is, 'Yeah, c'mon, really... so I heard that ["The O.C." actress Mischa Barton's] boob popped out on the show last week,'" he laughs. "And I realize that they don't quite get this."

Despite the image battle, Gallagher says the whole experience was well worth it, and he hopes to start performing live more often and eventually record another album.

"The whole notion of making a record was terrifying from day one because it was new and the music I chose was very close to my heart. Plus, I had such respect for the songwriters and the songs," he says. "I could barely breathe while contemplating going to Memphis. I'd lie awake at night and stare at the ceiling and think, what am I doing? I have the greatest day job in the world, I could just go play golf. But then I would get up and listen to the music and think, I'll be lying on my deathbed smiling about this one."