Photo by Rich Weinberger, Casket House & Co.
Fortunately, mental health issues like depression, anxiety and other mood disorders are getting more awareness. More people are opening up about their struggles and trying to get rid of the stigma that depression isn’t a serious clinical problem. Ghost Key vocalist Austin O’Brien is one of those people. With the band’s new record, If I Don’t Make It, coming out on February 17th via InVogue Records, he finally shares his own story.
“A lot of it is stuff that I’ve been kind of afraid to write about,” he admits. “It’s a lot deeper than things I’ve been talking about before and a lot more personal. I felt like I should talk about it and share.”
Depression can not only be extremely difficult to deal with, but it can also be extremely difficult to acknowledge. Many people refuse to seek the help and the treatment that they need because they don’t want to admit to themselves and to others that they are suffering. For O’Brien, his moment of truth came when someone he knew committed suicide.
“Brant [Simon’s] death is actually something I’ve been talking about for a few years,” he says. “The song that we wrote, “3:33,” I wrote that right after he committed suicide. It was literally just me getting on stage and being real and yelling about why I was mad. It was kind of ridiculous but I did it because I didn’t know what else to do. Brant passing away, for me, opened up a lot of feelings that I didn’t really understand and a part of myself that I wasn’t really ready to confront. After finding out that he committed suicide I, for the first time in my life, started to reconcile that I was dealing with mental illness and depression.”
When O’Brien finally allowed himself to come to terms with his feelings and share them with his friends and family, he started to feel less alone. He found that the more he talked about it, the more he came across people who shared the same feelings.
“There are a lot more people that feel the same things that I feel than I initially realized,” he says. “I’m surprised by that every day. When you deal with [depression], especially when you’re alone in your room, you don’t really think about anybody else. Then when you step outside the box and you find out that all these people feel the same way, it’s extremely comforting and it’s been a huge reason why we keep going.”
But for a while, the Ghost Key vocalist didn’t know if moving forward with the band was such a good idea. Pressure from his family and friends about finances set in and he ended up reaching a decision to quit music and go back to school. “A lot if it also had to do with the pressure I put on myself to be somebody,” he explains. “I wanted people to see me as somebody they can be proud of.” But as luck would have it, an opportunity presented itself that O’Brien just couldn’t turn down.
“I didn’t tell my band members for at least a month or two,” he says. “By the time I felt comfortable enough to tell them, we had been offered a tour with our friends in Beartooth. It kind of switched my whole decision on its head. It made me realize I didn’t think I was doing the best for me or anybody else and that I owed it to them to keep pushing forward. After doing that tour I realized this is where I’m supposed to be and this is what I’m supposed to be doing. Even if sometimes it’s hard and even if I’m scared.” That’s where the band’s new single, “Indecision,” ultimately came from.
But confronting and dealing with his own depression isn’t all that Ghost Key’s new record is about. It’s also largely about the listener. “The record is actually called If I Don’t Make It because the final line on the entire record is, ‘If I don’t make it/ At least you’ll have these songs,'” O’Brien says. “It kind of culminates to a feeling of finally saying everything that I wanted to say and being OK with that. It also means that if for some reason I don’t make it tomorrow or I don’t make it next week or next year, then at least I finally did what I always said I was gonna do, and [that was to] open up and be completely honest with myself and everyone else. We want to be able to share our story with people and have people share theirs with us.”
If you like what you’ve heard so far from Ghost Key, be sure to listen to the full record when it comes out. And that shouldn’t be too hard because the band really don’t care how you get your hands on the tunes. “Whether you want to buy it or pre-order it or steal it off the internet,” O’Brien says, “we don’t care. The most important thing to us is that you hear our story and you try to find yourself in that story and find out what that means to you and hopefully you feel comfortable enough that you can come to us at some point and share your story. To us as a band, that’s the most important thing, is being able to talk and being able to listen. That’s what we’ve been about for five years and that’s what I want to be about until we’re done.”
FUN FACTS ABOUT THE ALBUM:
- O’Brien’s favorite track off the record is “Solstice.” He actually hated the song during the writing and recording process because it was so difficult to get through, but now it is the song he listens to the most.
- The cover art of If I Don’t Make It shows flowers being set on fire because they are trying to send a message. The band’s previous EP, The Things I Am Not, has a bouquet of flowers on the cover, and according to O’Brien, Ghost Key are ready to move away from the past. “The thing we wanted to symbolize the most with the flowers being on fire is that this record is a next step for us,” he says. “The songs on The Things I Am Not, as much as they mean to me as a person… We wanted to move forward. By burning the flowers that was our way to say, ‘That’s the old record and this is the new record and this is who we are now and this is who we’re going to be for the foreseeable future.'”
- It’s not just the music that the band are focusing on. Be sure to pay close attention to all of their artwork and merch designs as well. “We want every piece of the band to mean just as much as the music does,” says O’Brien, “and we want every piece of the band to say something.”