Local singer/songwriter/lounge crooner extraordinaire, Brendan O’Hara’s new CD, Embrace Chaos twelve songs, literally out of over 100 written and 50 recorded, are a reflection of his self awareness rising out of the wild child, his “first step to find some inner peace”, of becoming a man with the desire to do something good with his talents and opportunities.
Monday night, hotel guests made their way back to The Loews’ Hemisphere Lounge upon hearing the bass beat from a distance, and then stayed once they arrived. O’Hara has an undeniable charismatic pull. Its not just his handsome, laid back Florida style of polished, yet charmingly disheveled long brown hair, trimmed, full beard, and sophisticated beach attire of linen and fine cotton, it’s also his winning smile, soulful, twinkling eyes and the comfort of his unassuming self awareness on stage. His singing voice matches his stage persona with his raspy, yet polished and hauntingly vulnerable style. O’Hara’s powerful, deeply connected vocals were almost too much of a match for his ensemble for the evening, however, the well played drums and bass, with O’Hara on keyboards and guitars enticed his fans, and the chairs filled up with a non-generational specific, mostly female, audience who lined up to purchase his CD and get his autograph before the end of his three hour performance.
O’Hara’s musical style weaves in and out of 70/80’s lounge musical a la Hall and Oates, a touch of Billy Joel’s lyrical brilliance and piano man bravado, and John Legend’s soulfulness, albeit with a dance groove, to draw on a few comparisons for lack of any other way to describe music. In essence, O’Hara has few contemporaries that compare to his talent and uniqueness.
Embrace Chaos begins with O’Hara’s battle song Freedom, “I want PEACE and love…” is an obvious passionate desire to make a difference, which includes a respectful nod towards MJ. O’Hara comes from a family that has made making a difference their life story: Mother, a nurse who has worked in Africa, father, an architect currently in the Middle East building medical schools and hospitals, an aunt and uncle who have dedicated themselves to teaching music and the arts, its not surprising he feels the pull. O’Hara’s father is his inspiration for hard work, proudly describing him as, “…putting The Job before his own personal wants and desires, often to a fault….he’s created lasting work..”
His musical guidance and inspiration was from his grandfather, a renegade, beatnik, singer/songwriter, and his son, O’Hara’s uncle. According to O’Hara, his father’s father was a closet poet, “I’d say my mother’s father carried the musical genes and my father’s father carried the love of words- these would be the two most important traits that have been passed on to a guy who likes to write and sing.”
Born in Boston, raised in New Jersey, O’Hara made his way to South Florida to teach and participate in his aunt and uncle’s performing arts school. His music has dropped him into creative existences in New York and Los Angeles, but he always returns to South Florida where most of his family resides, all living within close proximity of one another and the ocean, both essential necessities. He explains, “The Ocean is emblematic of infinite possibility and endless potential. So basically I have that which is most grounding in South Florida…(family and the ocean)”
It seems that family has the most reoccurring role in his life as a musician and otherwise. At seventeen, O’Hara lost his cousin who was also his best friend. Writing a musical tribute was his way with dealing with his pain. “The first few songs I ever sat down to really compose were to process my grandfather’s death, my cousin’s death, and the separation from my childhood love in Jersey… so melancholy and pain were the initial feelings I would process through songwriting…lets say for a ‘tough guy’ from Jersey these feelings justified my sensitivity and really formed who I am today.”
O’Hara’s self awareness, though can be melancholic, is filled with optimism which reveals itself in Through This
I can’t stop- I can’t quit
To the top- the edge of it,
can’t sleep- stay awake
Tear it down- watch it break
Open up- world awaits
I got the finger at the pearly gates
knock me out
But I got back up
Bout to drink from the sacred cup
Running, with his John Legend-esque melodic ballad and inventive lyrics, “running with the stars, I’m never coming home, I’m the one in charge…”, you get a sense of this artist coming into his own. His journey has been a solid ten year run, though with each project, his material is fresh and inspiring, “to be new after over a decade of performing feels pretty damn good,” O’Hara admits.
A new CD, serious talent, charm and good looks, what does O’Hara attribute his humbleness and humility to? His parents and…, “I guess my occasional lack of self
confidence keeps me real. As a musician, I can always be better. Looks fade, charm is one step from flattery (which Dante punishes by an eternity swimming in shit) and humbleness and humility are actually traits one can cultivate, so after a bunch of years breezing in and out like a hurricane, I feel like the lasting impact I want I have on people and the planet is to have done good and been nice.” Seriously folks, he really is a nice guy.
Embrace Chaos is a serious contender for his contemporaries, as so few have the chops, the writing skills and the freshness that this CD has. You can find the CD on iTunes. For more details on Brendan O’Hara go here or here.