You’ve seen his face before in our magazine alongside his four bandmates, but today this feature is all about The Maine’s John O’Callaghan and his latest musical endeavor and side project, John The Ghost. John The Ghost made his apparition by releasing an EP and book titled Sincerely, John The Ghost in early April. The 90-page book contains original poetry written by the Ghost himself. O’Callaghan explains that this project is to help him let go of lingering ideas and an opportunity to potentially inspire others to express themselves in whatever ways make them feel alive. Here, we chat with O’Callaghan about his thoughts on vulnerability, recording in his bedroom, and the story behind John The Ghost. This is Ghost Stories with John The Ghost.
Cliché: What birthed the idea behind this side project, John The Ghost?
John O’Callaghan: Though it is important to occasionally take it slow in this life, an overabundance of idle time for me allows far too much opportunity for my brain to eat itself. Catharsis is to blame for the birth of The Ghost.
In your own words, who is John The Ghost?
He is the idea of letting go.
And in John The Ghost’s words, who is John O’Callaghan?
He is just a tiny grain of sand on an enormously beautiful beach.
You say that the purpose of this project is to not only help you let go of lingering thoughts, but to potentially inspire others to express themselves in a way that makes them feel alive. So, what makes you feel alive?
I suppose everything that arouses a reaction inside my being reminds me I’m alive. It’s easier for me to lose the notion of just how important my “reality” is when I allow negativity to cloud my mind, so lately I’ve tried my damnedest to focus on the aspects of life that bring me joy.
Let’s chat about the EP and then the book, both titled Sincerely, John The Ghost. When did you start writing these songs?
To be honest, the writing process as far as songs are concerned never ceases and I hope it never will. These songs are pieces I felt like I just needed to send on their way.
This EP is said to have been recorded in your bedroom. Was there a specific reason as to why you chose such an intimate space rather than a studio?
Money tends to dictate much of what we do unfortunately, but I was more than pleased with the sonic quality we achieved in the process. Plus, it sounds super indie when you tell someone you recorded in your bedroom.
I listened to the song “Sour Grapes” when it was first released and then on repeat for a good while. Each time I listened I could hear more and more that it had such vulnerability in it. Was it difficult for you to be so open in the writing and recording process?
Brennan Smiley, who helped co-produce the EP, really helped maintain much of the raw feelings from my demos and urged me to be as candid as I was in those demos in the recordings. The vulnerability complemented the whole thought process behind the project and I think that made it much easier to find comfort in the release.
What would you say the most challenging component about writing and recording the EP was?
Trying to find time in our conflicting schedules was the biggest hurdle. I had the drums done for a few months and then had to leave for the road. My biggest fear was starting the project, going away, then returning with new ears and hating what I’d done, so I just decided to put it off until we had ample time to complete it.
What do you hope listeners get out of it?
I hope they get whatever it is they’re looking for.
Along with being a lyrical genius, you’re a talented poet that has already released a book of your poetry titled Exaltation back in 2011. Did that book inspire Sincerely, John The Ghost or was Sincerely already in the works back in 2011?
Wow, I’m flattered by your high praise! I believe Exaltation inspired me in more of an empowering way, just as all of my outside projects have. My modest little soapbox has attracted some beautiful folks who give a shit about what I have to say and I would be letting myself down if I said nothing at all.
What does this book mean to you?
This book reaffirms that my future is my own to create and that all of those “you can do anything’s” I dismissed as platitudes in my youth have merit and are preached for a reason.
Is there a future for poet John The Ghost as a spoken word artist or will he stay as a writer? As in, would you perform any of your poetry at shows?
Can’t see myself busting out the turtleneck anytime soon, but I always say… STRANGER THINGS.
Were you ever at all emotionally stretched when writing Sincerely, John The Ghost?
There is always a point when I feel as though I’ve exhausted all ideas. I get to a place in which I know I’m reaching and for intents talking just to talk. When I hit that point, I knew I was done and that’s when I decided to release Sincerely.
What does the future look like for John The Ghost?
I would love to play a few shows at some point once people have sat with the music for a bit. It would be really great to share the stage with the cats that played on the record. For now, I’m just looking forward to the release and anxious to see and hear how people feel about it.
Will we be able to pick up a copy of the book and EP on Warped Tour?
Due to an overwhelmingly positive reaction thus far, it’s looking like we’ll be sold out of the books well before Warped starts. I’ll think about bringing something out, but The Maine is (and always will be) my focus and we have some neat stuff to look forward to this summer!
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John O’Callaghan Gets Personal About His Side Project John The Ghost: Photographed by Cole Kiburz