An Interview With John O’Callaghan Of The Maine: Attaining Nirvana

Pop rockers The Maine have been hard at work since their formation in 2007, and right now, it feels like they’re peaking. The Tempe, Arizona-based band—vocalist/guitarist/pianist John O’Callaghan, lead guitarist Jared Monaco, rhythm guitarist Kennedy Brock, bassist Garrett Nickelsen, and drummer Patrick Kirch—have just released their sixth studio album, Lovely, Lonely, Little, and are now on a massive tour that has them playing everywhere from the U.S. to Australia.

A few weeks before the release of Lovely, Lonely, Little, I caught up with frontman John O’Callaghan, who filled us in on the stupendous new album, touring, their diehard 8123 fan base, and what the future holds for the soaring quintet.

First off, you’re just coming over from England. Could you describe that experience? Anything out of the ordinary happen over there?

It was a hell of a lot of travel for an hour and change set, but to be honest it was one of the better shows we’ve ever had in London. We really want people all over the globe to feel a part of this release, and physically being in England was of great importance out of the shoot. If the support shown that night is an indication of what’s to come in the coming months all over, then we are in for something good.

Out of the ordinary? The sun was out all three days we were there, and if you know anything about England, you’d know that that’s a fuckin’ miracle.

A few months ago, the band created and headlined the inaugural 8123 Fest in Arizona for their 10-year anniversary, which sold out. How did this come about? How’d it go?

For years now we’d been toying with the idea of putting together our own festival, but never really had a good foundation to build the idea off of until we got closer to the 10-year mark of our band’s existence. The fest really just embodied what 8123 represents and who we are as a collective. The majority of people in attendance were from out of state (and even country) which re-emphasized how important our relationship with the people who support us is. Such a special night, and certainly a highlight of the past decade.

As great as the band’s previous albums have been, I feel like the new one, Lovely, Little, Lonely, may be perhaps the best one yet, and takes you guys to a new level. Congratulations, I hope you’re all pleased with it. 

Thank you, sincerely. Feels like the most complete idea from front to back we’ve ever produced. We’re just anxious to hear how folks dig it.

I understand Lovely, Little, Lonely was recorded in an AirBnB you converted into a temporary studio, which is fascinating. How did this happen? What was it like going from Joshua Tree with American Candy (2015) to a converted AirBnB?

The Joshua Tree house was also a converted AirBnB, so the experience only varied when it came to location. That said, the change in scenery was incredible with the new house being nestled on a cliff overlooking the Pacific about three hours north of San Francisco. The whole vibe was surreal. Gualala really was the perfect backdrop for making this record, and if you listen closely enough you can hear a little of that house in the record.

The album starts out upbeat and fun with “Don’t Come Down,” “Bad Behavior” and “Do You Remember?” but closes with emotional tracks like “I Only Wanna Talk To You,” “Lonely” and “How Do You Feel?” How would you describe it on the whole? 

Life isn’t just roses, it’s thorns too. That’s the approach we took with this record. We wanted the listener to fall somewhere perfectly in between complete collapse and utter nirvana when spinning the album. In a musical landscape where the emphasis is placed on single songs, we wanted to create an experience of a record and not just a compilation of disconnected ideas. Ups and downs, man.

Did the songwriting process differ from American Candy or your previous albums, and if so, how? Or was it simply status quo? 

Most of the writing was done in the box (on the computer) for this record, which differed from mostly all others before it. I feel like it helped us focus more intensively on material we were all collectively excited about and helped cut the shit early. Not sure how we will write in the future, but we are certainly better for the whole process this time around.

The Maine have put out a new album every other year dating back to 2011. Is this an exhausting pace? Are there any plans to sit back and let this release simmer for a while?

The exhausting part were those years before 2011 when we had to work at a pace set by the record labels. Now, we work directly with the folks that dig what we do.

We’re definitely going to let this release simmer for a while, but it really ultimately comes down to what the listener wants from us.

You went from England to this full-blown U.S. tour, then immediately afterwards you’re going to Australia, back to the U.K., and even South America. What’s it really like hitting up venues around the world and playing to so many fans? 

The experience is still unreal. I feel like we’re taking more advantage of the travel aspect now that we’re a bit older. Eating great food and trying to submerse ourselves into the respective culture. But mostly, it’s insane that people thousands of miles away from Arizona know and support our band. That will never get old.

You’ll be touring the U.S. with The Mowgli’s and Beach Weather. Are you familiar with either band? How did they come aboard the tour?

Certainly familiar with both bands. We’ve actually been friends with Beach Weather for years now and they are a part of the 8123 roster, so there is no getting-to-know-each-other period required there.

We hadn’t met The Mowgli’s before the tour, but we were familiar with their tunes and how big of a fan base they’ve built. Can’t wait to get to know them a bit better and share the stage with both bands every night!

The Maine have such a loyal, passionate fan base. What’s it like to have this diehard 8123 cult-like following?

It’s something that we could have only dreamt up. That said, it’s growing, and we want it to continue to do so, so spread the word.

Do you have any plans for after this world tour concludes? Have you looked that far ahead yet?

You have to start at least thinking about things so far in advance that we are definitely hitting the drawing board already, but we’ll see where this first stretch of running around takes us. Can’t wait for people to hear this thing.


The Maine will be playing Webster Hall in New York City on April 27, The Stone Pony in Asbury Park on April 30, and the Theatre of Living Arts in Philadelphia on May 2. Their new album, Lovely, Little, Lonely, is available now. For more information, go to