Arun O’Connor has a new album coming out, Songs From the Reading Room, with deep lyrical stories and a heartfelt vibe. We had a chance to chat with him a bit about the songs and about some of his own perspectives on this thing we call life.
Enjoy the interview.
AH: If someone were to sit down with no context and listen to your album all the way through, what would they learn about you?
AO: I think they would learn that I’m passionate about telling the stories of others. That the harder things in life inspire me to write. I’d like to think that although the songs can be on the darker side, they are all trying to find a happy end.
AH: What would the album prompt them to think about in general?
AO: This album does have a lot of heartbreak, hurt and dejection in it but it’s not meant to be in a bad way. My hope is that the songs can talk about all these hard things be let people know there is a way through it all. That they have people around them that care and will help them. I know people will relate to the songs and can hopefully take something out of each one.
AH: What inspired the song “When the Darkness Comes Around”?
AO: I’ve seen a few people going through depression or a dark chapter in their life where there seems to be no hope. Its a tough subject but NZ has a real problem with mental health. No one likes to talk about any of their issues or feelings and it can be tragic for those involved who are too afraid or embarrassed to reach out for help. This song is about someone going through all of that and having all those feelings of doubt ( what if no one listens or even cares? ) its not a song with a happy ending but I think its something that needs to be said. I know we would all do anything for the people we love and care about, but they need to make that first step and reach out.
AH: Tell us about the two versions of that song on the album.
AO: I really wanted to start the album with this song because it’s probably my favourite on the album and carries a lot of emotion. The reason for the second version ( reprise ) is that I wanted something to cap the album off with and if I’m honest, it was almost a nostalgia type of thing. I thought of the Eagles “Wasted Time” or “Desperado” reprises and how they summed up the feeling of those songs. I wanted that at the end to wrap up the album for the listeners. To give it a finality.
AH: If people were to listen to one song on the album to draw them in and get their attention, which song would it be?
AO: Probably “When The Lights Go Down (In This Town)” it’s got a great beat to it and I think it is very reminiscent of Tom Petty and that era.
AH: What’s the story behind it?
AO: This is probably the song on the album that doesn’t have a big heartfelt message. It’s really a story of two sides about working in the hospitality industry ( in a bar ) here in NZ and also playing music here as a full time job. It’s basically telling a story of someone who works all the time but lives in a place where the cost of living is so high that they can never really get ahead. They work to pay the bills and they would try and leave but they can’t really afford to leave. It seems a common thing here. Low wages, high living costs. The other side is about my life playing gigs for a living. A life on the road, sometimes playing to many, other times to empty seats. The song still has a bright tone to it about when the lights go down everyone can then let loose and forget about the stresses of the day and just enjoy a drink and time with their friends.
AH: What’s the story about “Too Far Gone”?
AO: “Too Far Gone” is a story about a man who has can’t seem to change old habits. He’s someone that has everything to lose but struggles with the notion that he might be too far gone to save from his addictions. It is ultimately a song about the mistakes we make in life and how we learn from them. How we try not to repeat them and do the best we can for our families.
AH: What instrument would you like to write a song on that you can’t play?
AO: Piano! Without a doubt. I can sit down and figure chords out and play some little things but I can not “play” piano. They have such a beautiful tone and I play everything by ear on guitar so when I hear any chord, it sounds familiar to me and makes me think of songs already written. Piano doesn’t do that for me. The tone is so different that I don’t associate the chords with songs as much and it gives me more freedom to write something without the pressure of thinking I’m writing a song already written!
AH: What have you been doing in your spare time lately?
AO: Lately I’ve been working on the album and the singles coming out. Really just promotion and trying to get the songs heard. I’ve also been doing a lot more photography which I love. It started out as a way to take reference photos for artwork I was doing, then ended up being something I’ve become very passionate about so that takes up a lot of my spare time.
AH: What’s your set up when you play live?
AO: I play mostly solo now so it’s a very simple setup! My Martin D18 or OM28 ( but the D18 is my main guitar at the moment ) through a small PA system ( Mackie SRM450 speakers, Allen & Heath QU-16 desk ) Sennheiser 945 mic, Cosmic Ears In-Ear Monitors, Sennheiser IEM pack and a tuner pedal. I don’t use loops or tracks behind me these days. I love to play acoustically and sing the songs I love whether they are my own or covers.
AH: What is something that has come out of your musical voyage that you hadn’t anticipated when you chose to take this path?
AO: Hmm, I guess I always wanted to write songs but it took winning the NZ Gold Guitars and actually writing and recording one of my songs for me to realise just home much I loved that. That’s when I knew it was what I wanted to do. Something that still blows my mind is playing my original music and seeing people in the crowd sing those songs. Total strangers that aren’t friends or family that know every word! It blows my mind and it feels amazing to see and hear people singing them. That was something I never anticipated.
AH: When is the album due?
AO: Songs From The Reading Room is due out on the 22nd of April and will be available on all good streaming services and download platforms.
Thanks so much for having having me, Americana Highways!
AH: Thank you for sharing with us.
Find more information on Arun O’Connor — his tour dates and the music — here: https://arunoconnor.com/products/songs-from-the-reading-room-1