By Claire Spinner | March 4, 2021
The Maine frontman John O’Callaghan has been practicing self-reflection as the country approaches the one-year anniversary of the first lockdown.
Having recently released his first full-length solo album, “I Only Want to Live Once,” under the moniker John the Ghost, O’Callaghan has discovered himself through the pandemic.
The Maine relied heavily on touring, so O’Callaghan had more time to contemplate his music and his personal life.
“I’ve been coming to terms with not having touring in my life, so I have had to do more introspective reflection and thinking about who I want to be and what kind of persona I want to exude off stage,” O’Callaghan says.
“It has been tough, but I am very fortunate for all the things I have and fortunate that I am still able to make music and that people are still listening.”
Raised in Chandler, O’Callaghan has released music with his band for nearly 15 years. As an industry veteran, he feels he has more freedom with songwriting.
“I think that being comfortable enough to be vulnerable comes with time,” he says. “It really helps you feel like you can take more risks. I definitely wouldn’t have been able to take some of the chances I did on this album without experience under my belt.”
Releasing an album was not the original plan, as the Phoenix resident wanted to release songs individually. The result is an album featuring a multitude of styles and influences, all recorded in a whirlwind nine days with Globe producer Matt Keller. They recorded one song a day, not worrying about an overarching theme.
“I didn’t really care to overthink things while recording,” O’Callaghan says. “I just wanted to express myself in the moment and then move on. I think it made the album really honest in that way. I didn’t have time to sit and overthink and be neurotic about the material, so it was a breath of fresh air. I was just having fun.”
The songs were written exclusively by O’Callaghan, with only Keller aiding in production. Used to recording with a band, O’Callaghan experienced new pressures in making the music. But it felt good to go beyond his comfort zone.
“It was cool to be able to have that kind of pressure on my shoulders alone and to be responsible for playing and recording everything and just hammering out the lyrics in a quick time frame,” he says.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, O’Callaghan had good news to share. He married in November, and that has impacted his music greatly.
“When you decide you want to spend the rest of your life with someone, naturally it impacts your train of thought and your mode of thinking,” he says. “It’s been a really incredible time in my life.”
Arizona also inspires his music.
“I think Arizona has a heavy effect on everything that I write about,” he says. “Having the experience of being able to leave Arizona and see other parts of the world made me really appreciate what I have here — the sunsets, the weather and, of course, family and friends. It’s really just a long way of saying that I love Arizona and I feel like I was very fortunate to have been born here and to live here.”
O’Callaghan said he would love to tour the album, but he is focusing on the present. He wants to remind his fans and himself of that.
“To me, it’s really all about just being in the now and knowing that just existing is enough,” O’Callaghan says. “That’s the message I ultimately want to send not only to just my fans, but to myself as well. We are existing right now in this moment, and nothing else means much more than that.”
John the Ghost