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Meet Jack O’Connell

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jack O’Connell.

Hi Jack, we’re thrilled to have a chance to learn your story today. So, before we get into specifics, maybe you can briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today?
I have been an avid music lover since I was in diapers – I listened constantly to my dad’s CDs and cassette tapes, which included bands like the Beach Boys, Fastball, and They Might be Giants. I eventually learned how to use a computer and started burning mix CDs by the time I was 7 years old.

Along the way, I endured the Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC, but admit I danced along to their performances at Madison Square Garden on VHS. Eventually, my babysitter introduced me to local alternative rock station–99.1 WHFS (R.I.P.)–where I could finally hear pop-punk icons like Blink-182 and Good Charlotte – bands I still listen to and admire today.

Blink-182 also influenced me toward the drums. During a drive past the Baltimore School for Drumming while listening to “Enema of the State” at age 10, Travis Barker unwittingly set events in motion that led me toward devotion to the drum kit. During my 8 years of private drum lessons with my now long-time friend, John Coale.

I practiced my craft with Kidz Rock bands at The Music Workshop, instructed by singer/guitarist Fred Moss in the ways of performing and band dynamics. I also played drums with my middle school’s jazz ensemble, taking me out of my usual “smash and bash” (as my drum teacher would call it) comfort zone and into more complex and elegant styles.

Since playing in liturgical and musical theater bands at Calvert Hall College High School, I have played countless shows at venues in and around Baltimore.  I’ve also toured cities around the east coast with surf rockers Trunkweed, which gave me important experience working through the politics of booking shows and engineering quality live sound.

I attended a summer program in the music industry at Drexel University, which cemented my decision to attend Towson University to major in Electronic Media and Film with a minor in Music Industry. While working on my degree, I maintained a job doing live sound and visual for Towson University event services, and teaching drum lessons from home.

I began to buy recording gear, building a studio and producing music on my own. My first wide release was with my former pop rock band, The Chance, a full-length record we named “Anything but Ordinary” that I co-wrote and produced.

I have more recently been making music with my brother, Danny, as Backyard Games, and am currently working on our first full-length album, all recorded and produced in my studio, O’Connell Sound. I also play cover gigs on weekends around Fells Point, including The Horse You Came in On Saloon.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey has been a fairly smooth road?
I am constantly working to hone my craft and learning new tips and tricks on how to produce the perfect record. I never produce a song the same way twice because I continue to learn new skills. I credit much of my growth to my peers — a special shout out to my friend, mentor, and assistant Tiago Carvalho, who works with me remotely from Portugal.

Every project is different, and it can be a challenge to get the best out of an artist, especially when I need to push them. It is imperative that my client and I share a vision of the finished recording. I have learned it can be difficult working with other musicians due to differences in creative energy and opinions. It really is like a marriage – communication is so important and everyone needs to put in the work to play their part.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
I have been involved in music my entire career, studying the drums since I was 10 and honing skills in the studio since college. I am dedicated to making an artist’s musical vision come to life through my broad industry experience and deep technical expertise.

I founded my studio O’Connell Sound to help artists achieve the success they strive to earn. In order to do so, I offer my artists an environment that promotes creativity and premium sound, guaranteeing an exciting recording experience and the highest quality outcome.

I consider myself more of a music producer than a recording engineer. I do whatever it takes to make sure an artist’s songs are in top shape before getting down to recording. I plan and lay out the recording process, help draw out the artist’s best ideas and steer them through efficient and creative sessions before hitting record.

I am always looking to collaborate with like-minded artists to develop song ideas into something memorable and emotionally fulfilling. I especially enjoy working with singer-songwriters; there tends to be fewer cooks in the kitchen, fostering a personal connection with the artist.

I often write and record drum parts, which gives me some influence over the foundation of their songs. Unlike a typical session drummer, I not only develop drum parts to best suit their songs, but I work as a band member to rehearse with them before I go into the studio with my drum engineer — shout out to Mike Bridgett of The Monster House in Waldorf, MD.

I add nuance to recordings and take them to the next level by sweetening tracks with parts supplied by my network of session musicians to ensure the artist and I have a fleshed-out, textured recording. For a solo artist or without a full band, I am ready with musicians who can help fill gaps the sound might have.

I also assist with artistic development and serve as an advocate in the commercial release of the record. From my many years of experience playing with bands, I can advise on how to communicate with prospective managers and promoters.  I always work to make our record heard by as many as possible.

I am particularly proud of an emo rap turned pop-punk/metalcore cover of nothing, nowhere.’s “Hopes Up” that I produced with my old friend Mikey Kehr, also known as ThonggDeLonge on Twitch. It has received recognition from producer Matt Squire (Panic! at the Disco, Ariana Grande, Demi Lovato) and engineer Glenn Fricker (Spectre Sound Studios on YouTube).

I am also excited to keep releasing songs from my band Backyard Games, which currently includes single “Trevor (I Could be Anyone for You)” that has garnered several thousand streams on Spotify and Apple Music this past year.

We’d be interested to hear your thoughts on luck and what role, if any, you feel it’s played for you?
I feel lucky that I can do what I truly love and people get enjoyment out of it, whether it is playing at a restaurant with just the bartenders, or on a big stage before a ton of people.

I feel lucky whenever someone picks me out of all the great producers out there to work on a project.

I am also lucky to have met so many talented musicians and engineers that have become great friends and resources over the years to assist me with making my productions the best they can possibly be.

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Image Credits
James Harper, Ian Bell, Chris Tracy, and Pocholo Itona

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