John O’Callaghan never stops. When he’s not writing, recording or touring with The Maine, he’s working on other projects. Over the years, those have included Exaltation, a collection of poetry accompanied by photography by Dirk Mai; Eagles In Drag’s self-titled EP; and most recently, Sincerely, John the Ghost, a second poetry collection, this one accompanied by a six-song EP. Read on for more on O’Callaghan’s relentless work schedule, the spark behind John the Ghost, and the line between his poetry and lyrics.
ABScream Media: Is John the Ghost a different persona/musician/writer than John O’Callaghan of The Maine? John O’Callaghan: Without getting too convoluted, The Ghost is a projection of all the things I wished I would have said to all those I wished I’d said it to. Everyone is far from regular, and that’s kind of why I decided to do this project.
ABS: This seems like a collection of writing that was completed over a long-ish period of time. At what point did you decide this was something that needed to be put out in the world, and something that needed to be its own distinct entity? JOC: To be honest, I can’t cite a specific point in time in which I decided to release this, but I do know I had been working towards something and the ink just kinda ran out with the ideas and that’s how I knew it was time to let it go. To answer the latter part of the question, I knew all along that this was going to be something with its own identity from the start.
ABS: Some of the poems published in this collection released as John the Ghost have previously found homes in The Maine’s discography (Imaginary Numbers), and you’ve also released music as part of Eagles In Drag in the past. What markers, if any, do you use to decide who gets what words and/or music? JOC: I try not place restrictions on what I can include in the different mediums. That said, it’s sometimes tough for me to revert back to anything published and include that for any future work, but I might be opening up to the idea of using some free verse passages in upcoming songs.
ABS: How much of a mark would you say Pat Kirch and Brennan Smiley’s involvement left on the music? JOC: They both helped tremendously. Pat is rather savvy on the engineering side of the fence, and Brennan played a major role in the production of the EP. He also played a majority of the music, so his fingerprints are all over this project.
ABS: What designates one piece of writing as poetry and another as lyrics to you? Does the approach to writing them differ at all? JOC: Perhaps to a fault, my lyrics can be rather overthought. I just seem to have so much time to think and rethink and over-think lyrics in a song, and the catharsis behind poetry is due in large part to the seemingly instantaneous release of a thought. I suppose it’s just the way my brain approaches both formats.
ABS: Will the songs on the EP live permanently as recordings, or do you have any plans or hopes to perform them for an audience? JOC: I would really love to bring these tunes to life in a live setting. Not really for the selfish reason of wanting to realize them in that way, but more so because I’d love to play music with the cats that were a part of it. We have no plans to do so, but if I can find a little gap in my schedule, I’d love to make it possible!
ABS: What part/parts of this creation process were most enjoyable for you? JOC: I lose my mind if it’s idle for too long. And often, “too long” is about a week after a tour, so the creative process never really ceases. The process in its entirety is what I’m wildly in love with. It’s almost addicting. I need it at this point. I literally would be a mess without it.
ABS: You’ve described John the Ghost as something to sort of keep you occupied when there’s a lull in The Maine’s recording/touring schedule. The poetry collection and EP are out now, and there are a few weeks to go until Warped Tour. What’s keeping you busy in the interim? JOC: I might be writing songs (wink wink) for The Maine’s next record, which is both wildly terrifying and extremely exciting. Apart from that, I’m just trying to keep it relatively together and keep my days as far from ordinary as possible.
ABS: Will John the Ghost be a long-term endeavor? JOC: As long-term as the folks who’ve supported it will allow. Are book burnings still a thing?