Andrew O'Brien and Catherine Allan's earnest blend of acoustic folk/pop and roots has been gaining them significant critical and popular praise. Bare-bones arrangements and delicate, quietly assured harmony allows for the intimate musical conversations that have made their live shows so endearing and memorable. They perform with the openheartedness of two people that live the songs they sing and the vulnerability and closeness between them in performance is palpable.
Catherine Allan - Vocals, mandolin, Piano Accordion
Andrew O'Brien - Vocals, Acoustic Guitar
Debut album Songs For Searchers is available through www.andrewjamesobrien.com, iTunes, Tunecore, Fred's Records and O'Brien's Music.
Awards Gala Ends Perfectly for Local Singer
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On the Soap Box with Andrew James O'Brien
From Studio to Stage
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It’s not every day you wake up to an email from Great Big Sea frontman Alan Doyle, telling you how a...It’s not every day you wake up to an email from Great Big Sea frontman Alan Doyle, telling you how awesome you are. Not only did Doyle email local singer/songwriter Andrew James O’Brien, he sent the world a tweet about him, too.
“Andrew O’Brien rockin’ it on ‘Out of the Fog.’ Great singer. Great song,” Doyle posted on Twitter Monday.
“It was pretty cool,” O’Brien said of the recognition. “It was exciting to hear that they were on tour in Seattle, listening to the album on their bus before a show. When I was a little kid, even before I could play guitar, I was listening to Great Big Sea records, and it was amazing to me that you could bump into one of your heroes on Water Street. That’s still amazing to me.”
Doyle’s not O’Brien’s only high-profile fan: Juno-winning singer/songwriter Amelia Curran is, too, and is featured on O’Brien’s debut CD, “Songs for Searchers,” set to be released with a show tonight at The Rock House on George Street.
O’Brien was born and lives in the St. John’s area, but was a staple on the music scene on the province’s west coast for a number of years. Humble and sometimes a little self-deprecating, even O’Brien recognizes there’s a buzz going around about him and his band, The Searchers — Allan Brake on percussion, Mark Allan on bass, Gerald Coleman on drums, Catherine Allan on keys and John Allan on horns. They’ve had to break their original goal of performing one show a month because of it.
“The shows we’ve been offered in the past few months have been the ones that you hope for and can’t really turn down,” said O’Brien, naming opening for Hey Rosetta! during the band’s tour-launching show at The Rock House as an example. “Thankfully, that show spawned a few others. The audiences have steadily increased over the past six to eight months and even though we haven’t been a headlining band yet, our sets have been garnering really good crowds.”
Though “Songs for Searchers” is their debut CD, there’s nothing amateur about it. Sometimes sparse and folky, sometimes pop-rock, O’Brien sings in a voice that’s gentle and authentic.
He also wears his heart on his lyrical sleeve.
“Some say love ain’t built to last/That it, with time, will pass/I’d hate to prove them right/So for now we’ve got to hold on tight/And we’ll prove them wrong, prove them wrong,” O’Brien coos over a single guitar on “Some Say Love Ain’t Built to Last,” a track recorded on the back porch belonging to Corner Brook musician Sherman Downey during hurricane Earl last fall.
O’Brien can’t choose a favourite tune, but says there are a number of special moments on the album, thanks to help from artists like Mike Davis, Kalem Mahoney, Paul Kinsman and Mark Neary.
“It was exciting to hear that they were on tour in Seattle, listening to the album on their bus before a show. When I was a little kid, even before I could play guitar, I was listening to Great Big Sea records, and it was amazing to me that you could bump into one of your heroes on Water Street. That’s still amazing to me.” - Andrew O’Brien
Curran’s participation on the song “Go Easy” was a definite highlight, O’Brien said.
“I wasn’t surprised but I was definitely humbled by her willingness to come in, and she did a really great job,” O’Brien said, adding he felt humility rather than nervousness about having her participate.
The album’s more raucous tunes were arranged with live shows in mind, in an effort to make the CD translate into something more exciting onstage.
“A lot of the folk songs wouldn’t fly at the Rock House. They’d be tunes you’d play at an arts and culture centre, and those gigs are kind of few and far between,” O’Brien explained. “We had to adapt some songs from the album that would be a bit more folky normally, but the tunes that are more upbeat translate perfectly.”
The ability to be able to back up the album on stage was crucial, O’Brien said.
“It’s one thing to have a great record, but if you can’t back it up in live performance, how much credibility do you have? I don’t think there’s any substitute for being at a live show where a band is really on fire.”
And that is something in which O’Brien and The Searchers revel. O’Brien has a reputation on the west coast for giving unique shows and now that he’s fronting a full band, the intensity has only grown.
He’s proud of the energy they produce together onstage — saying it would be the same whether the audience was made up of five people or 500 — and likens it to a family kitchen party “that sounds good.”
“We’re not jumping around, hitting bad chords — we work really hard to make sure the tunes are tight,” he explained.
The release party for “Songs For Searchers,” also featuring The Monday Nights and the Pathological Lovers, will start at 11 tonight. The CD will be available at the show and at Fred’s Records on Duckworth Street.
O’Brien’s next gig, this time solo, will take place in Charlottetown, P.E.I., during next week’s East Coast Music Awards conference. He’ll be performing an acoustic set on the MusicNL stage, alongside local musicians like Jerry Stamp and Ian Foster.
Next year, maybe a nomination?
“That would be amazing and I definitely would be honoured, but basically I just want people to hear the album and enjoy it. Any extra recognition is just icing on the cake.”
Breakfast With Andrew James O'Brien
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I met with Andrew James O’Brien on Friday past, while he was in town to play a show at The Bar Roo...
I met with Andrew James O’Brien on Friday past, while he was in town to play a show at The Bar Room. It was a grey, drizzling morning with the promise of warmth when we sat down for breakfast. We chatted about his new record, Songs For Searchers, song writing, criticism and finding happiness through loving what you do – our own version of life, the universe and everything.
O’Brien came to Corner Brook in 2003 where he studied at Grenfell Campus. It was then he started playing, first doing covers, and then progressing to original material around his last year of study. Around that time he began playing with Kev Hamilton, who he notes as a positive musical influence. He also worked with Louis and Mike McDonald, as well as Sherman Downey. He says, “I stuck around Corner Brook because a lot was generating musically. [There was] momentum. Corner Brook is amazing and I consider it home… Where ever you make a connection is home.”
I asked him about a quote I’d read elsewhere. It was about how you have your whole life to write your debut album. He considered my question for a moment and said “it is but then it also isn’t.” He calls his debut a record, not an album, because “for me it’s a record of a moment in time, a document. I wrote three songs in the recording process and I wanted them on there because they felt current and right to me.” While his songs are all tied together by being autobiographical, he admits there is some musical variation on his record and that some have criticized this as “being risky on a first record.” O’Brien then pauses, smiles and shrugs, “I don’t know if that’s my opinion.”
“Is it easier to take criticism now with the positive buzz that’s around you and the band?” I asked. He says he welcomes constructive critques. “As soon as you put [your work] out there it’s open to criticism. People are free to say whatever they want, but that doesn’t make negative criticism easier to take.” So how to stay positive in a whirlwind of critisicm? Surround yourself with good people and have a good support network.
O’Brien’s gratitude for the people in his life is touching. He cites his family, band mates and musical mentors among the people that help him continue following his musical passion. Of his band, The Searchers, he says, “I owe those guys a lot. They’re huge for me. They’re my family… You can have the best website, etc., but if you can’t make me a believer at your live show why should I listen to your record? The band I have right now does that.”
He says that those moments playing live when everything falls into place is “the closest thing to religion I’ve found in that it’s spiritual. This is the secret of life – and everyone’s secret is different – but if you can find it you’ve got it locked down. One moment of joy can destroy all that other negative stuff.”
Which brings us back around to Songs For Searchers, a record about searching for meanings and moments. If you can get yourself a copy, do it. If you can get to an Andrew James O’Brien and The Searchers show? Even better. On Friday past they celebrated their CD Release at Jennifer’s Bar Room. Stay tuned to the CornerBrooker.com Events Radar to find out when they will be playing our city again.
Andrew James O'Brien
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Today we take another break from RPM mania to feature a great new voice on the local music scene: An...Today we take another break from RPM mania to feature a great new voice on the local music scene: Andrew O’Brien and the Searchers are fresh on the local circuit and have already been named one of St. John’s “bands to watch in 2011? by The Herald. Singer-songwriter Andrew O’Brien has a knack for weaving tender, unabashedly autobiographical songs into the folk-pop backdrop provided by his band, The Searchers. In their short time together, the band has already reached a number of career milestones. They shared the stage with Hey Rosetta, Pathological Lovers, Repartee, The Monday Nights, Matthew Hornell and the Diamond Minds, Sherman Downey and the Ambiguous Case, and Juno nominee Bahamas. In 2010 Andrew took part in the CBC/Music NL Songwriter’s circle in Rocky Harbour. Andrew and the Searchers are definitely poised for great things.
Today’s track is from the band’s upcoming album produced by Mark Neary, with artwork by Jud Haynes and backing vocals by Amelia Curran. You can expect to see the album in stores by April, but in the meantime you can hear Andrew and the Searchers play live this Saturday, March 19 at the Rock House and on the west coast at The Bar Room on April 29th in support of kindred spirits Sherman Downey and the Ambiguous Case.
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The Newfoundland roots-rock scene has seen some stellar breakout acts in the last few years: the Onc...The Newfoundland roots-rock scene has seen some stellar breakout acts in the last few years: the Once, Sherman Downey, Matt Hornell, and now Andrew James O’Brien. His debut album, backed by his band the Searchers, is a soft-spoken man’s personal narrative, flavoured with catchy melodies and instrumental flairs.
O’Brien comes from a singer-songwriter background, but that doesn’t mean that Songs For Searchers is just a collection of introspective lyrics, half-whispered and half-sung over a finger-picked acoustic guitar. That’s there, of course—check out “Thank You,” or “Go Easy” with the incomparable Amelia Curran—but the musician integrates a wide range of sounds, from horns and gang vocals, to build a bigger sound.
What makes this a particularly strong debut is the way O’Brien has balanced production, performance, and a rigour that typically takes a few records to perfect. Little flourishes like the initial vocal delays on “On The Radio” are handled with sophistication, rather than obsessing over them and losing the intent of the song.
Songs For Searchers opens with the highly rockable “House On Fire,” a tune that sets a whimsically romantic mood that is turned on its head during the quiet intro of the next number, “City Song.” Sudden shifts in emotion run the course of the album, exemplifying the uncertainty and search for meaning that give this disc its character.
“All These Things” and “On The Radio” offer brief returns to cheery novelty, but it’s not a permanent thing—the aching “We Were A Boat” re-imagines everything again.
There’s a lot going on in any given song, but O’Brien is consistently capable of bringing it back to the lyrics. “Some say love ain’t built to last,” he sings over a single guitar on the closing track, but he isn’t prepared to give in that easily: “We’ll prove them wrong, we’ll prove them wrong.”
It’s a nice end to the album: a reaffirmation that those who have been searching for an authentic new voice in Newfoundland music have found something significant in Andrew James O’Brien, whose debut album will prove any naysayer wrong.
The official CD release for Songs For Searchers is at the Rock House on April 8.
Andrew James O'Brien
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``With a persuasive, high tenor vocal sound, solid acoustic guitar playing and sensitive, original l...``With a persuasive, high tenor vocal sound, solid acoustic guitar playing and sensitive, original lyrics, Andrew James O`Brien is an emerging talent with a ton of promise. He has a strong sense of being a young Newfoundlander, as he comes from the Avalon Peninsula, but his style integrates North American pop, rock, blues and folk. Andrew's songwriting topics range from the quirky, to the introspective and analytical. His confidence on the stage and in the studio, combined with his sheer drive to make it in a tough, competitive industry, ensure that Andrew James O`Brien will enjoy many years of success in music.``
Brian McHugh, musician, CBC Radio Morning Show Co-host, Corner Brook, Newfoundland.
Andrew James O'Brien
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I have known Andrew O'Brien for a few years now having worked closely with him and having the opport...I have known Andrew O'Brien for a few years now having worked closely with him and having the opportunity to see him perform live at a number of venues and events.
Andrew's performances are always entertaining. He shows an incredible passion for his art and always leaves the audience wanting more. He is very engaging and knowledgeable about the music he is performing. I've had the chance to see him at various venues for varied audiences and he is always entertaining and a joy to watch.
He has a fantastic, young sound and should enjoy a successful musical career for many years to come.
Corner Brook, NL
Andrew James O'Brien
“Wonderful Songs” - Singer/songwriter Ian Thomas
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“Andrew is a fabulous lyricist, an expert guitarist and great vocalist. He is an engaging performer...“Andrew is a fabulous lyricist, an expert guitarist and great vocalist. He is an engaging performer with a special charisma and warmth. “
-Shirley Montague: Musician, Rocky Harbour, NL
A Hard-Working Young Artist
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“I have had the pleasure of working with Andrew over the past few years and have found him to be a h...“I have had the pleasure of working with Andrew over the past few years and have found him to be a hard-working young artist. He has participated in a number of projects at the Arts and Culture Centre which has given him a great opportunity to showcase his talent. His passion for his music and song writing have certainly been highlighted in these instances as well as his love for his home province.”
-Karin Galliot: Regional Manager, Corner Brook Arts and Culture Centre
Unmistakably Andrew O'Brien
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“Over the past three years I’ve listened as Andrew James O’Brien has developed into one of best youn...“Over the past three years I’ve listened as Andrew James O’Brien has developed into one of best young singer/songwriters in Western Newfoundland. His lyrics are deeply personal, and his songs are born of a melting pot of influences. You’ll hear the folk rock, classic Nashville and pop melodies,but it is unmistakably Andrew O’Brien.”
-Steve Pollett: Morning Show Host CKXX FM, 103.9 K-Rock, Corner Brook, NL
Catchy Tunes and Clever Lyrics
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“Andrew James O'Brien is an awesome new singer/songwriter. His catchy tunes and clever lyrics stir e...“Andrew James O'Brien is an awesome new singer/songwriter. His catchy tunes and clever lyrics stir emotions in the listener. He's guaranteed to be a classic before he even pays all his dues...”
-Mike McDonald (Music NL Award Nominee/Drummer for The Fables)
It's a Fine Song, and Well Sung.
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I’ve known Andrew for half a decade now, travelled with and worked with him in a variety of situatio...I’ve known Andrew for half a decade now, travelled with and worked with him in a variety of situations, and have always been impressed by the quality of his musicianship, his incredible enthusiasm, and his determination to excel at his chosen craft, songwriting. And excel he does. Some of the finest songs I’ve heard come out of the mouth and guitar of any songwriter here or abroad have been Andrew’s. They are groovy, positive, and inspiring, born of a sensitive and observant eye, sung with heart, and played with chops that any singer-songwriter anywhere could envy. Andrew has been a staple of an exciting music scene that has been lately igniting here on the west coast, and it’s here that he has been plying his trade, and although I know that his plans will likely take him elsewhere, I would LOVE to see him receive support to record the songs that have come from his experience here. Andrew has been working with Louis McDonald of Deer Lake, who has produced some of the island’s best sounding and musical albums in recent years, and with the right financial aid, I have no doubt that they will together make a fantastic recording.
Musician, Corner Brook, NL
A Superb Songwriter
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“A superb songwriter” is the best way to describe Andrew O’Brien. If a comparison is needed I would ...“A superb songwriter” is the best way to describe Andrew O’Brien. If a comparison is needed I would even go so far as to call him Newfoundland’s Jeff Tweedy albeit with a slightly more shiny pop sound. There is a maturity in the writing that is rare regardless of age. The songs burst with beautiful colors. If you are lucky enough to check him out live there is nothing lost in translation from the recordings. You will be treated to an intimate, soulful evening that often feels more like hanging with an old friend than listening to “some guy” playing his guitar. It really is quite amazing!
- Scott Hammond- Recording Engineer
West Coast Rising Star
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"I first heard Andrew at a reception/dinner for the ECMA Corner Brook event during its planning stag..."I first heard Andrew at a reception/dinner for the ECMA Corner Brook event during its planning stages. I found him to be such a strong and sincere performer, with very strong original material, that I spoke privately with him outside the venue to encourage him to join MusicNL and ECMA and to pursue the professional development that was the next logical step for him. He did so almost immediately and has not looked back since. He avails of every PD and networking opportunity available to him as often as possible and is in the process of enlisting for the Export Readiness Training provided through the ECMA's International program.
Andrew's music is unique and from the heart and he consistantly demonstrates a powerful dedication to his fledgling career, an ingredient that is a must in order to succeed. He sincerely and graciously accepts and appreciates all advice and input from his mentors, without question.
I strongly recommend Andrew for funding of a full-length recording. He is one of the West Coast's shining stars."
Wade Pinhorn- ECMA
Andrew and Catherine typically play two 45 minute sets per performance.
PDF RiderAndrew James O'Brien- Duo Stage Plot/Input List
There are no upcoming dates at this time.