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School of Music student launches career by signing with record label founded by LU alumnus TobyMac

Joseph O’Brien

Liberty University School of Music senior Joseph O’Brien recently announced that he has signed with Gotee Records, a Nashville, Tenn.-based label founded in 1994 by Christian music icon TobyMac (Toby McKeehan, ’88) and producers Joey Elwood and Todd Collins.

“Growing up, TobyMac was my music idol, so it is surreal to now be signed by the label he helped start,” O’Brien said in a phone interview near his home in Franklin, Tenn., last week.

In the 25 years since Gotee’s founding, the label has launched the careers of Relient K, Jennifer Knapp, Sonicflood, Jamie Grace, and, more recently, Capital Kings, Ryan Stevenson, Hollyn, and Aaron Cole.

O’Brien, who is currently studying Commercial Music: Recording, Engineering, & Producing at Liberty, said working with Gotee is a dream come true for multiple reasons.

“They provide you with all the connections,” he said. “Booking agencies will not sign you unless you’re signed with a label, and radio won’t play you unless you’re signed to a label. A lot of things revolve around that. It’s so helpful to have that team of people who get your music out there to as many ears as possible.”

On June 18, O’Brien released his first single through his new label, “Give Up On Love,” which he co-wrote with a friend. The song is about going through a breakup while also still having the hope of Christ within one’s heart. It is available on all streaming platforms.

Liberty University senior Joseph O’Brien signs with Michael W. Smith’s management team at the Center for Music and the Worship Arts

The recent release is not O’Brien’s first time in the spotlight. In 2018, he performed on “America’s Got Talent” and was then asked to join the Liberty Worship Collective, a student-led worship team that performs during Convocation and Campus Community, as well as at churches and events across the country on weekends.

O’Brien said that he will still participate in leading worship with the Collective on campus this coming semester before graduating in December and moving to Nashville, where he will begin touring.

Through opportunities with the Collective as well as events with the School of Music, O’Brien has been able to meet Michael W. Smith, executive director of the Michael W. Smith Center for Commercial Music at Liberty.

Now, O’Brien is managed by Smith’s management team, who will assist in tour booking details while Gotee Records handles music production and marketing.

“The reason I loved them (Smith’s team) was because they were so personable,” he said. “Everyone I’ve been involved with, both with Gotee and Michael W. Smith’s team, has been so kind and have been so excited for me. It definitely feels like a second family.”

O’Brien has also received support from his father, Michael O’Brien, the lead singer for the contemporary Christian band NewSong from 1999 until 2006, who has been able to advise his son on how to navigate the music industry world as a young artist.

Joseph O’Brien poses with Michael W. Smith whose management team is assisting O’Brien.

“My dad has been there the entire way,” Joseph O’Brien said. “He’s always given me really good tips, and I think I’ve had a good idea of what to do as a result of that.”

While the future is bright and full of possibilities for the young artist, he said that he and his management and record teams are focused on the present.

“At this point, we’re very much focused on the release of this new song and just kind of getting my music out there,” he said. “We want it to launch successfully and the best way that we can, and hopefully by the spring of next year have things ready to then start traveling around and focusing on the touring life.”

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