Interview: Solo Artist Christian O’Connor Talks New Album and NFTs

Solo artist Christian O’Connor is trying something different. His new album Laughing From the Other Side of Fear comes out later this year, and it’s a bluesy rock album with alt-rock and even hip-hop elements. The digital streaming version of the album is being released on New Year’s Day 2025, but, in the meantime, he’s rolling the album out slowly over the course of this year, putting out a new single every few weeks, and creating NFTs to coincide with each song off the album. It’s a unique release strategy that will see 10 different tracks from the album get their own release day. The addition of tying his songs into the controversial world of crypto makes for one of the most unique musical experiences you’ll find in a long time.

We took a moment to sit down with O’Connor to talk about his new album, NFTs, and his love of 3-D art.

So you’re rolling out your album Laughing From the Other Side of Fear over the course of this year. Can you tell me a little bit about this album?

So I’ve been doing music since I was a little baby, professionally for 10 years, meaning I’ve been playing with other artists and stuff like that, doing gigs for very long time. But this is my first big release. This is first real foray into touring as myself. I’ve been doing it for a while; I’ve been playing in cover bands forever. I’ve been playing in other people’s bands. I’ve been doing my own stuff in bars across the US, but this is really my first big Spotify release. So I’m very pumped about it.

Well, I did release three albums before this on Spotify that I later took down because (I) keep getting better. I’m a lot better than I was at those albums. In particular, my voice wasn’t very strong back then. I’ve gotten a lot better vocally; I was too whiny. I didn’t have the rasp that I have now. That was the main reason. But it’s not like a scandal that I’m trying to hide.

You’re releasing singles one by one over the course of the year. What made you want to roll it out slowly in this gradual process instead of a traditional promotional cycle?

The reason why I wanted to do that is I started making a lot of 3-D art around every individual song. I’ve been sitting on this material for a while, and, (for) every song, I initially intended on releasing a lot of 3-D projects along with them. So I just decided, because every single had its own artwork, and (I) had so much material around each individual (single) that I thought each one of them deserves to be a single. Every one of these things had so much other material surrounding it. I thought maybe they all deserved individual releases.

So you’ve been doing NFTs for each one. Is that correct?

Yes, I have. They’re not necessarily going to be released alongside of every single because one of the things with NFTs is you absolutely have to get them right because of the permanent nature of NFTs. What’s your familiarity with NFTs, if you don’t mind me asking?

Not great, I’ll be honest. It’s my understanding that it’s an image that can’t be replicated?

Yeah, that’s the gist of it. It’s kind of one of those cult industries, meaning that the people who like NFTs love NFTs and the people that don’t like NFTs hate NFTs. So it’s very conscious. It’s probably the most controversial form of art for a lot of reasons. One is a lot of people don’t like crypto and a lot of people really do like crypto. There are people out there who believe it to be a scam and there are people out there who believe it to be the revolution. So everything about is very controversial. But yes, an NFT is basically a piece of art.

The best way I’ve heard it described is on the Ethereum blockchain—you can do it on a bunch of blockchains, there are a lot of different types of NF Ts, but I’m just going to talk about Ethereum-based NFTs just for simplicity sake—it’s a piece of digital artwork that the receipt is stored on the Ethereum blockchain. So (it’s) like a deed to a piece of art or something like that, like a certificate of authenticity. It’s a picture or a video or a 3-D file that is certified by a something called a smart contract. Think of it as the receipts on Ethereum. It is certified one of a kind. You can copy the art, but you can’t copy the deed to the art. I’ve heard people compare it with real estate. You could clone my house, you could make an exact replica of my house, but you couldn’t put it on this ground where my house is because there’s only so much real estate. You can take a picture of the Mona Lisa, but there’s only one Mona Lisa.

This makes me think of an autograph with a certificate of authenticity. You can retrace an autograph, but you can’t replicate the authenticity.

Yeah, you got it. That’s exactly what it is. Again, there’s a lot of there’s a lot of math underpinning that, but it’s kind of like your car: you don’t have to understand how your car works, you just have to understand how to buy it and how to drive it. But when it comes to my NFTs, my plan right now is to make an NFT for every one of my songs. I have NFTs right now for every one of my songs but I want to make sure that they’re perfect because, like I said, once you release it, they have a very permanent nature. So I want to make sure there’s no bugs in the code and there’s nothing that could render them useless in the future because you only have one shot at these releases.

Why did you want to tie your album into crypto and NFTs?

Just to retrace it, I’ve been working with music as my living for 10-15 years now. Before that, my day job was that I was a coder. One of my first music gigs was I was the guitar player for Jennifer Paige. She sings that song “Crush.” So I played with her, and I basically just had an RV with the rest of the band and we would travel around. At that point, working remote had just come out, like 2009-2010, something like that. So I got a job doing code. On the road, I had a laptop I would go to coffee shops and do that. So in the coding community. crypto became very, very popular; you heard about it a lot.

I got into crypto at a very young age and ideologically just fell in love with it. I just (said) there are the people that hate it, there are the people that love it. I would be in the “love it” (camp). I think it’s the revolution. It’s the new underpinning of money in society. So I tried to incorporate crypto into every single thing I do. And I believe that NFTs are probably going to be the new standard for art. I think that it’s going to be a way to monetize your interest in a band.

Like, I was very into Coheed and Cambria with their first album, The Second Stage Turbine Blade. I was obsessed with it; I loved it. They blew up, but you don’t get anything for that. I caught on early but who cares? I think I used the wrong word when I said “monetize.” I don’t think that was the right term because it’s not supposed to be about reselling it because that kind of cheapens it. It’s a way to almost pledge allegiance or like prove your loyalty to bands. Because, if NFTs had been around, and if Second Stage Turbine Blade had been an NFT, I would have bought it. I would be like, I was obsessed with this movement, and I can prove it.

You can prove that you were there before. You can get hipster cred for it.

Exactly! Yeah, I like that. That’s actually a good way to put it, whether somebody would like being called hipster or not. But you’re right. It means I was here at the time. So I didn’t mean to say “monetize.” I don’t think selling NFTs is a good thing. So I would actually say I’m against the idea of monetizing it because, whenever you get into the business of selling stuff, it cheapens it a little bit. But it’s a way to prove you were there. It’s digital graffiti in its most pure sense.

You’ve also been making your own artwork for the singles. Is that separate from the NFTs?

As of right now, yes, it is. I’m also an addict of 3-D art, like Blender. I don’t know if you’re familiar, Blender is an open-source program that it’s very popular for 3-D art. There’s cinema 4-D, there’s Houdini, there’s 3ds Max. There’s a lot of those softwares, but Blender is probably the only real mainstream open-source software for 3-D art. For every song, I made a lot of 3-D sculptures for them. I just started with a blank canvas in Blender and I just thought “If this (song) was to be a visual thing, what would it look like?”

“We’re Stealing the Crown” was probably the first one that I made Blender art for. I made a machine. You’ll see in the artwork, it looks like some kind of a nuclear reactor or something like that. That was the first one where it was a machine with no purpose. So I thought what would look cool. Glowing rings look cool. Some people don’t like that because they say that’s lazy, but I think it’s actually cooler to build a machine with no purpose, like a Rube Goldberg. It serves no purpose other than to be aesthetically pleasing, which is cool. I probably should have made it a crown, the more that I think about it, because that would fit the song a lot more. But maybe it’s cooler the way it is. But that is not the NFT for the song; my NFTs are separate. But yes, the NFTs will be 3-D artwork.

And speaking of “We’re Stealing the Crown,” that was the first single you’ve put out from the album. What made you want to lead with that one?

“We’re Stealing the Crown” is one that I’ve played live before and it’s one of the most exciting ones to play. I’ve been very itchy to get out there and to play that when I’ve been doing shows. I’ve been playing a lot of concerts for about a decade and just debuting my original material across a lot of bars, and “We’re Stealing the Crown” gets the best reaction out of people. I can sometimes get the audience to sing along. I try to teach them to say “We’re stealing the crown,” but it comes in at a weird interval so it’s very hard. Next time I write a song that has to be a sing-along I’m going to make it exactly on beat.

But it gets a great live reaction. It embodies a lot of what my journey as an artist has been about. It’s about you weren’t supposed to make it, but you do. That phrase itself is (about) maybe you weren’t meant to, to have a career, maybe it didn’t work out, maybe you got too old, but you’re doing it anyway. That was the premise; that was the philosophy for the song.

I’m always fascinated with why artists choose particular album titles and this one, Laughing From the Other Side of Fear, what made you want to pick that as the title?

That’s the pre-hook line in stealing the crown. This album, I wrote it on the heel of a pretty serious major depressive episode. I had just gotten on Zoloft and I was recovering from that. Laughing From the Other Side of Fear is a sentiment that I was telling myself that that I’ll get through this. It’s just a beautiful sentiment of, as painful is anything we feel is, there’s going to be another side of it.

And even though that underlying sentiment is serious, it’s also not really meant to be taken seriously because, in a way, I took a serious sentiment and made it silly because it’s an upbeat rock song. It’s not as emotional. So, it’s about pushing through something that may be temporary with the anticipation of better days. But on the other hand, we’re a rock band; don’t take it too much to heart.

So you’ve got the whole rollout plan for the rest of the year. You’ve got singles coming out every month up through the first of next year. What were you most excited about with this whole release and this whole rollout?

Getting out live. That’s my favorite part of it. I write everything with the idea that I want to see what it’s like in a bar. When I make an album, that’s like packing (my) bags for a trip. It’s funny to think of it that way because your album is your art, but I love playing live. It’s tough traveling, especially when you’re in your car, but it’s so much fun. Just getting into the bar with arms full of gear and playing for like four hours in front of a bunch of drunk people. It’s my favorite thing in the world. So my favorite thing about this, by far, will be playing and seeing what people think when they see it live, just seeing what the reaction is to this material and seeing also how me and the band can reimagine it.

There’s two phases with you write the album, and you almost have to relearn it because, when I’m making this, I’m stacking guitars and this took me a very long time to actually get all this out recorded after I wrote everything. So right now, I’m with the band relearning how I’m going to do this with three pieces. It’s a three-piece band: me, a bass player, and a drummer. So I’d say that’s my favorite part of this. It’ll be coming to your town and playing and seeing what you guys think of it.

So do you have any live shows lined up? I know you’ve got you’ve got the release schedule pretty tight.

As of right now? No. I’m still in the relearning phase with my band. It’s going to be tough because, like you said, my release schedule is pretty aggressive. I don’t have any yet, but I will keep you posted when we get it. I’m just trying to think of what cool stuff I can put into the show before I get out there. It’s always a fun thing before I get out live. It’s like, What kind of stuff can I pack into my live act that a club will let me bring in there. Can we do pyro? Of course not. It’s more like I just look at my van for a long time and I’m like, What can I fit in there? So that’s what phase I’m at right now.

I will have another song out; I think it’s every five weeks, at this point, I’ll be releasing a new thing. And I’m very active on social media, particularly TikTok and Instagram. I do Twitter; I do Facebook; I do pretty much everything. I think TikTok and Instagram are the most active ones (for me). So I’m going to keep everybody very posted about everything I’m doing. Even boring stuff, because of social media. I think it’s more personal when you can see everything I do. I’m not a very manicured posts kind of guy, because that’s not what it’s for. Documentaries are for that. Social media is like a Polaroid. You take it you throw it at the audience and they like it or they don’t like it.

First thought, best thought.

Exactly. Even if you regret it a little bit later. Don’t do anything too crazy. Some people say, Oh I regret that. But I’m like, Well, you are not using it right.

Follow Christian O’Connor on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok for future updates.

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