Rock-pop Royalty: John O'Brien new single & UK tour
John O'Brien delivers rock-pop gold with latest track 'Stop!!' which dropped April 9th. We delve a little deeper behind the single, and also stop to chat with O'Brien himself...
With traces of INXS and The Rolling Stones, this is a catchy single with a great theme at its core. The lyrics talk of a lover who won't stay, as the speaker begs the person to stop tormenting them with their hot-and-cold games.
A great vocal arrangement sits at the forefront of the mix, with expertly crafted backing vocals, whilst rock guitar provide us all with ear candy. The track is held together by a tight rhythm section. O'Brien is a seasoned songwriter and performer, having had a career in the industry spanning four decades.
O'Brien's new live performing act, the John O’Brien Band, has been performing at shows and festivals playing his a mix of his originals and a creative adaptation of timeless classics for significant audiences. His is famed for his lively and dynamic concerts. Excitingly, he has a UK tour organised, for which you can see dates on the poster below!
We Chat To John O'Brien
Hey J.O.B.E. (John O’Brien), it's an absolute pleasure to talk to you about your music!
We admire the incredible musicianship and songwriting in everything you do. Tell us about your new single 'STOP!!'
I read a lot of literature and I was impressed with some stories I recently read about men who become obsessed with women of the night. It’s like gambling or drugs, it’s a rush that they can’t get away from once they start even though they know it might be destroying the rest of their life. It’s also the first song I’ve ever written on the bass guitar instead of my usual which is a six string. But the essence of the song is that desperation that people feel when they get hooked into something that they just can’t seem to shake.
Do you have to be in a certain mood to write songs?
Songs come to me and all kinds of crazy ways. Last August we released an EP entitled “That Girl Is Trouble”. It came to me when I was walking on the beach near my house, and I saw a stunningly beautiful young girl sitting on a beach towel just staring out into the ocean. Notably, she had a very nasty look on her face and when I saw that for some reason it just came to me and I said to myself… Yup the title of the song! I find myself writing songs all the time. They come into my mind when I play my guitar or piano it just seems to come so naturally after many, many years of writing. But I will say sometimes I’m just not in the mood to try to write a song, but that’s actually pretty rare these days. A new song always lifts my spirits incredibly.
Have you got any longterm musical collaborators?
Yes I have a number of them. I started playing piano when I was six or seven years old and graduated to the guitar when I was about 10. I immediately started playing with my close friend in the basement of our house, making way too much noise LOL! My first band when I was 13 and we played high school dance with guys I still know and collaborate with. (That’s where I learned the real meaning of the word “grinding”.) I am still playing with a keyboard player, Mark Connolly who I toured within the 60s and we got together again about five years ago and he has been a major part of the music that I have put out since then. Working with musicians is like being on a sports team, you gravitate towards each other in an emotional way and that’s hard to forget even if you’re separated for a while.
Who's in the band?
We knew that we needed British musicians in order to economically accomplish a tour over there. The cost of bringing a band over there is way more than you can ever expect to get back from ticket sales in the medium-size venues were playing in. We were able to identify for musicians that play together a lot, they are complete professionals performing in everything from orchestra pits to military bands, and we began working with them on our original tour schedule which would’ve been in May 2020. Well, we all know what happened and we had to reschedule and have since rescheduled three times so that were playing in October now. However, the break provided by the awful pandemic had us working with them remotely and we been recording with them for the new album which we will be releasing in August. We’ve actually become pretty good friends in our periodic phone calls across the pond. They are super talented, and they will be blowing everyone’s mind when we perform in our concerts over there.
What's your local music scene like?
St. Augustine is probably the music capital of the southeast US. It’s a small place, but if you just walk down the street on a Saturday night it’s reminding of Broadway in Nashville because you hear a different live act every 50 feet. We also have St. Augustine Amphitheater which draws some of the best acts out there. So we have small local venues for local musicians perform and large venues where pop acts come into perform. We also have ½ dozen highly professional recording studios in St. Augustine so it’s quite a place for a musician to live.
What's the best gig you've ever played?
That’s a really hard question to answer since many of them have provided outstanding memories of performing. I might add some of them were awful too LOL! One of the best though was the Cathedral Festival here in St. Augustine where we performed for literally thousands of people on a stage that seemed as big as a football field. I had musicians visiting from New York where I performed for many years and we all played a bunch of southern rock songs. Southern rock is a lot of fun to play and the crowds really go wild so that one was really something. Given that I’ve probably played in hundreds of venues over many years it’s really hard to isolate the best, but the Cathedral Festival is right up there.
Are you inspired by other art forms as well as music?
I’m inspired by all forms of music. It’s hard to imagine any form of music I wouldn’t enjoy listening to, the question is only what form would I rather listen to at any given point in time. For instance, I regularly run on the beach with my headphones in my iPhone playing Spotify or Amazon Music and every time I go out, I try to figure out who I want to listen to that day. Lately I’ve been stuck on an album from 1991 that carried me through a very difficult time when it came out named “Leap of Faith” by Kenny Loggins. The production absolutely blows my mind. But I also like Voicenotes by Charlie Puth and Room for Squares by John Mayer. I also like some hip-hop, some country, Brad Paisley is great. Steely Dan is one of my favorite asked to listen to. Well as you can see the list goes on and on.
Have you ever written a song in an unexpected situation such as in your sleep?
I wrote the song “STOP!!” in my sleep. I was dreaming very strangely about performing in front of a large audience with my handheld mic talking about, you’re not gonna believe this, the sorrow I had for having to put one of my dogs to sleep would just gotten too old to keep moving around. It was a sad explanation and at the end of it I yelled into the microphone “so now were going to get happy” in the opening percussion and baseline in the song came right into my head. I awoke got out of bed and sang the baselines into my cell phone so I would remember them. The next morning got up got my bass guitar out and started playing those lines. The rest of the song came to me as I was feeling that sorrow for my dog, and then the inspiration for the lyric in the song hit me. Very strange, weird, but true!
What's your advice to someone starting out in the music industry?
Take the time to really learn how the business works. It’s not what it seems, you submit a song to a DSP like Spotify, and you watch to see how your song does and you wait for your royalties. You’ll be waiting for a pittance for a long time. There is a whole world of help you can get out there and learn how to do publicity and how to promote your work through influencers. Problem is, they will be a thousand approaches you get and the pitch is always about the same which is “for $35 I’ll make you famous”. The one piece of advice I would give is to be very sincere about your music and not let anybody dissuade you from going where your emotions and your heart lie. Just be prepared that it’s a really rough world to get anywhere and and seek advice from people who’ve done well.
Finally, are you looking forward to your UK tour?
We are so amped up after rescheduling three times. Will be releasing an album in August and in addition to the four songs that were on the EP we released last August, will be adding seven or eight new pieces to the album as well. One of those pieces is the subject of this interview which is the song “STOP!!” The UK has a culture which has a large appetite for original new music being performed live which is very different than what musicians experience here in the United States. We are very much looking forward to playing for our British friends with our British musicians and really performing a show that will be very memorable. We know that people go to live performances mainly to see a live performance and in many respects the music is secondary to the theatrical performance that goes on on stage. You have to be really good musically, but whether there is enough chorus on a guitar or echo on a vocal really becomes secondary to the overall experience of seeing, hearing and feeling show. We’ve scripted it out, developed the videos, we got it all figured out were going to put on one heck of a show.