Alumnus searches for name twins and creates four-musician band of Paul O’Sullivans
When he embarked six years ago on a Facebook search for name twins, Paul O’Sullivan ’09 could not have imagined that he and three other musician Paul O’Sullivans would end 2020 with the release of their band’s first mini-album, “Internet Famous: A Retrospective.” Nor could Baltimore Paul – so nicknamed to distinguish him from the band’s other Pauls – have guessed that the album would bring media attention to the band from as far away as New Zealand and include Forbes, CBS National News, the Kelly Clarkson Show, and People magazine.
When he embarked six years ago on a Facebook search for name twins, Paul O’Sullivan ’09 could not have imagined that he and three other musician Paul O’Sullivans would end 2020 with the release of their band’s first mini-album, “Internet Famous: A Retrospective.”
Nor could Baltimore Paul – so nicknamed to distinguish him from the band’s other Pauls – have guessed that the album would bring media attention to the band from as far away as New Zealand and include Forbes, CBS National News, the Kelly Clarkson Show, and People magazine.
But that’s exactly what happened – just as Sociology professor Sara Raley predicted in 2013, still in touch with former students as so many professors are long after students earn their degree. Raley posted on O’Sullivan’s Facebook page that she had saved all of his CDs (from a previous band) so when he appeared in People magazine she could say she knew him when.
His concept band adventure began back in 2014. Baltimore Paul – a Communication graduate and Marshall McLuhan Award winner – was struggling with medical issues and an extreme case of obsessive-compulsive disorder when he noticed that a friend of his had posted a selfie with another person with the same name. This “name twin” spectacle piqued Baltimore Paul’s curiosity.
“I wondered what my name twins were up to,” he said in a recent phone interview. “So I sent friend requests to about 10 Paul O’Sullivans I found on Facebook.”
Three responded. And all were musicians just like Baltimore Paul. First to respond was bass guitarist Manchester Paul from the UK. The next response came from another guitarist in the Netherlands, known as Rotterdam Paul. Ultimately, percussionist Pennsylvania Paul joined the band, thus rounding out the quartet.
“It was one of those if-you-build-it-they-will-come moments,” says Baltimore Paul. “At first it was about the music. We talked about what music we liked and experimented with music we wanted to make and ways to overcome the gaps in geography and time zones and how to make music virtually.
“Along the way, we became friends. Good friends who support and are there for each other.”
They send demos back and forth; across the ocean and state lines, each adding something to the song. Rotterdam Paul writes the lyrics. Manchester Paul adds “juicy bass lines.”
“I’ll do my rhythm guitar and sing. Then, they record their own parts using the same key and tempo,” says Baltimore Paul, who teams up with Grammy-nominated producer/engineer Eric Taft as well as Harbour Red Studios owner Kenny Kingsborough. “With a lot of post-production, we’re able to churn out a surprisingly cohesive product in the end.”
As 2020 dawned, they debuted their original pop rock song, “Namesake” and its music video. Two weeks later it had logged 20,000 views on YouTube, earning them an exclusive licensing deal with New York City’s T&T Creative. And then, COVID-19 shut everything down.
Well, not quite everything. Among the exceptions? The Paul O’Sullivan Band. They invented the model for a socially distanced band. They made music across oceans. They kept on going, together in music and in friendship.
Just before 2020 came to its much-anticipated end, The Paul O’Sullivan Band released “Internet Famous.”
“We wanted to end 2020 with some hope,” he says of the Extended Play album featuring their original track “Ready,” plus six cover songs including Carly Rae Jepsen, Africa, Hank Williams, and others.
The rest, to everyone’s but Sara Raley’s surprise, is history.
“To me it is a perfect example of the kind of creative thinking, ingenuity, and resilience in the face of adversity that our best and brightest graduates demonstrate,” says Raley. “It’s also just nice to hear a good story about a good person right now. Paul is so talented and was the first and only student to perform a song live in one of my classes.”
Baltimore Paul performed the song he was assigned to analyze for a project in Raley’s class. He had been determined to take Raley’s Sociology class before he graduated.
“Everyone talked about Dr. Raley’s Sociology class, so I finally had room my senior year and took it,” he says, adding that the class even exceeded its and Raley’s reputation.
“Dr. Regis started crying during one specific line of the poem,” he says. “That had a profound effect on me, that she was willing to share that vulnerability. It gave me the green light to be vulnerable, to put myself out there and make changes in my own life.”
Paul has also remained in contact with his former Communication professors, including Bob Trader and Deborah Clark Vance. “They have both championed my musical ambitions over the years, and it’s funny how my current musical project is a confluence of songwriting and mass communication. Talk about full circle.”
And so it was that Baltimore Paul, before of course he was Baltimore Paul, took a chance and reached out to perfect strangers who just happened to have his name, only to win a life lottery.
So far, 2021 has been filled with media requests for interviews. The band plans to release the 22 original songs they’ve written and produced over the years. They’re hoping to someday make their music together in the same room, and maybe go on tour to at least each of their hometowns.
The coincidence of a shared name may have brought them together, but at this point they are united in so much more.