Behind The Music With The John O'Brien Band on By The Throat


Band Name: The John O'Brien Band
Song name: By The Throat

Music Genre:: Alt Pop, Singer/Songwriter
I live in: St Augustine, Florida

This song is about the opioid crisis…
I have a brother who passed away from an overdose and it really sharpened my feelings about the 60 or 70,000 people a year that are dying from this addiction. Opioid addicts are desperate so that’s how I named the song because they feel like they are captured and don't have choices. I became involved with some groups who were fighting for reform of the prescription laws and I studied the facts.

As a songwriter I studied the language and the slang involved in the culture of addiction so that the song could appeal by pleading to those who are addicted to go get help. The song starts with an overdose, almost death and recovery using Narcan, a drug to counteract the deadly affects of the opiate. The song describes the common process of becoming addicted after a doctor prescribes the painkillers, OxyContin, losing employment, and after the prescription runs out onto heroine and ultimately fentanyl.

The lyric’s message is meant to appeal to addicts to get help and stop the “running” – slang for going out to buy. In the last verse the addict looks at a window, sees an angel, not the death ghost they see as the overdose progresses. Instead, the angel is the strength to get help, he/she takes the angel's hand and goes with her to get that help. “JUST GO!!”


I wrote this song…
during a period of time when I decided to go all out in promoting my original music. I have a home studio now that is very well set up and I’ve spent a huge amount of time learning about how to produce. In that regard, when I wrote this song I recognized that it had to be produced as a somber and serious type of sound and arrangement and I really focused in on using a particular instrument – the low Irish penny whistle – because it conveys a somber and very serious tone, but it is a beautiful instrument.

I’ve been recording at Full Sail University Studios in Orlando, where I recorded the original tracks for this song, and elsewhere in North Florida and working with different musicians using different types of styles. My live act features much more up-tempo material that I’ve written. I’ve learned that you don’t do a bunch of mellow songs at an outdoor street festival! I like to highlight musicians performances in my live show.

There are so many great musicians here in St Augustine. We will be playing all original songs on October 13 at a major music festival in Ormond Beach Florida and November 3 in a festival in Deland Florida.

Importantly, we are producing a music video of the song with veteran documentary videographer and producer Victor Zimet who has produced several award winning documentaries and dramatic movies. I am hopeful the video will get out there and maybe help lead people that need it to get help and straighten out their lives.

My music is actually pretty eclectic…
I’ve written jazz-oriented pop songs, blues rock songs, EDM, folk, country, adult contemporary, house and other genre. I tend to write about experiences that I’ve had or that I have seen others go through. Sometimes I just start with a word or thought, and it is the seed that leads to a new song. Sometimes it’s a social cause. I’m currently working on a new song named “Mother Ocean” about all the ocean pollution that’s being created.

My thinking about music…
has evolved so many times over the many years that I’ve been writing, recording and performing that it’s hard to focus in on one particular piece of advice. However, the piece of advice I guess I decided not to take is to look at what’s popular at any given time and try to replicate that style of music in my writing and performing.

Of course, like any musician who writes and performs, I am sensitive about trying to appeal to the folks who listen to my music and please their tastes. However my best friend, Bruce Wands, who is a fabulous artist and musician once told me to forget about current trends and write, record and perform the original music that comes out of me from my heart. I think I’ve been following that advice ever since he gave it to me.

Being a musician today : 
You have to be digital! I am a traditional musician, but I’ve learned that the resources that are available now are so abundant that it’s almost mandatory to study the digital side of things. I started playing a performing at age 7 and that was now many years ago. Music is timeless, but it has changed because of the technology including listening platforms, performing venues, and in many ways. You’ve got to keep up.

While I am writing a song…
I have a tremendous feeling of fulfillment. I have a message and a progression that fits the message. I understand that writing music is the science of giving the listener a sense of anticipation and then fulfilling that anticipation in a pleasing and sometimes unexpected way.

I listen closely to music of all kinds to derive moods and feeling from progressions and lyrics. I even dream songs into existence! I wake up and start putting a song together that comes from a dream I’ve had.

I always have music in my head as if its on a constant music loop. I was in Nashville recently and a professional songwriter put it best to me; “when I listen to music its, like I’m hearing it through an x-ray machine.” I also hear every little nuance in a song production and now that I know production techniques I mentally dissect everything.



Songwriter John O'Brien sits with Jacqueline Jax to talk about the song ‘By The Throat’ he wrote for his brother who passed away from an overdose. The song is meant to encourage people to get help. John also discusses his songwriting process of researching his topics and living his truth while he composes about impactful subjects.

Website & social media links: 
Festival Application: