May 11, 2020 : By Jacob Couch - Liberty University News Service
Joseph O’brien’s path to becoming a part of the Liberty University family was propelled when he performed on “America’s Got Talent” on national television two years ago.
The rising senior and Commercial Music – Recording, Engineering, and Producing student was born in Tennessee into a strong Christian household. His father, Michael O’Brien, was the lead singer for the contemporary Christian band NewSong from 1999 until 2006, when he stepped down in order to spend more time at home with his family.
As O’brien grew up, so did his love and talent for music. His older sister graduated from Liberty’s School of Music and encouraged him to attend Liberty, too.
“She was always very fervent and very adamant about me coming to check out Liberty,” O’brien said. “But mainly for financial reasons I went to a college in Louisville and it was then that I decided to try out on a whim for ‘America’s Got Talent.’ From there I took off a semester, Fall 2018, so that I could focus on the show.”
“I don’t know exactly how many people try out for ‘America’s Got Talent,’ but I believe it’s north of 500,000,” he continued. “I was then narrowed down to around the final 32, and then the journey ended there and I did not get voted further.”
It was when O’brien was competing in the “America’s Got Talent” Season 13 quarterfinals that he was noticed by the Liberty Worship Collective. He had already tried out for the group,
but after hearing him perform on national television, leaders of the Collective contacted O’brien and offered him a spot.
“They looked back at my audition and thought I’d be a good addition to the team. I told them to give me about five seconds to pray about it,” he said, laughing.
The Collective leads worship on campus at Convocations and Campus Community, as well as at churches and events across the country on weekends. When they are not leading worship or traveling, the 62-member group is hard at work either practicing or songwriting.
O’brien said he immediately decided to transfer to Liberty.
“My brother works in Lynchburg while pursuing a degree online, so to be able to also be in close proximity to him was very exciting, too,” he said. “I love this school so much, and I am so grateful for everything Liberty has done for me and for my family.”
Commercial music students use state-of-the-art recording studios at Liberty’s Center for Music and the Worship Arts and have the chance to learn from veterans in the music industry, including Michael W. Smith, who helped Liberty launch the Michael W. Smith Center for Commercial Music last fall. The center aims to equips musicians for marketplace evangelism in today’s music culture, to reestablish the culture for God’s glory, and to become a top choice for the training and equipping of commercial music professionals.
O’brien has produced three singles since enrolling at Liberty, including his most recent single, ‘Helpless One,’ which was released in late March. O’brien’s music is available on Spotify.
If all goes according to plan, O’brien will graduate next May. Until then, he will enjoy his remaining time as a college student while looking to the Lord as he anticipates his future steps in life.
“I’m grateful that since I was a young kid I’ve recognized that I am a sinner in need of a Savior. From then on, the Lord has been conforming me more into the image of His Son.”