Where were you born? Where do you live now?
I was born in Mosgiel (aka Mollywood … locals know the Hollywood-style sign on the hill!). I live some of the year in the UK and some in New Zealand.
Where did you go to school? Did you have a nickname?
I went to school at St Mary’s Primary School and Taieri High School (now College) in Mosgiel, Otago. My nickname, Deano, still stands.
What were you like in school? What was the most outrageous thing you did there?
I loved playing in the school rock band and going in school shows from a young age. I once (or twice!) turned up to school on mufti day wearing my school uniform! I wanted a job that had something to do with music, so at the age of 15 I went to the local radio station and asked to do work experience.
What was your favourite book growing up?
I remember an audio book that I used to LOVE getting out of the library every year, called Bad Jelly the Witch. It was the best, and I was always so excited to get the cassette tape (I’m showing my age!).
Who is your favourite children’s author?
I’m a big fan of Julia Donaldson, and Craig Smith’s Wonky Donkey.
What is your favourite food/colour/movie?
I love so many different kinds of movies, especially comedies like Happy Gilmour or emotionally stirring films such as The Green Mile.
Who inspired you to write music?
Craig Smith (the Wonky Donkey man)
How did you get started? How old were you?
I started writing songs in primary school about the age of 10 and have been doing so ever since. In recent years that has evolved into adding more depth of story for kids’ books.
Why did you want to be a writer/musician?
It’s the best job in the world. Getting to daydream, and use your imagination. Watching kids’ reactions and laughter is priceless, and then seeing their parents behind them during shows getting so much enjoyment out of their children’s reactions is truly amazing. It’s such a rewarding job and I’m the luckiest person in the world to get to do it.
How do you think up ideas?
Kids during shows normally provide inspiration by talking about things and then quite often the story plot will come to me — probably at 3 a.m., bizarrely. I normally jump out of bed when I have a thought and capture it all before I go back to sleep. It then evolves over months of adding and reworking bits.
Do you have a special place where you write music?
At home, normally after my wife and kids go to bed as it’s really quiet then.
What is the best thing about being a writer/musician?
Getting responses from people that are enjoying my books, and then of course seeing it in book stores and knowing it started as nothing more than a 3 a.m. thought. It’s amazing seeing Paul’s illustrations come to life with his interpretation of what I have written. I get such a buzz out of seeing his sketches and illustrations.
Have you had a funny or embarrassing moment as a writer/musician?
YES!!! Can I share it?? Umm, I was doing a show in Japan that involved lots of stories, singing, and dancing, etc. I noticed all of the polite Japanese parents were looking down most of the show. At the end, after walking out, I noticed that my fly had been undone the entire time, and a collection of Japanese mums had seen more than they anticipated, by seeing my Yipadee underpants!
What do you do when you are not writing music?
I get to spend a lot of time with my two daughters and wife. It’s a brilliant job for having family time and I feel so lucky. I also enjoy going to the gym, and running the other areas of the business.
What would you have chosen to be if you were not a musician?
I would likely still be working in radio or teaching English in Japan. I loved my time living there!
Which famous person from the past would you like to talk to?
Dr Seuss, Mother Teresa, or Elvis. Preferably all at the same time in the same room. That would be awesome and enlightening, I imagine!
Is there anything else you would like to tell us about yourself?
1) My dad’s name is Brian O’Brien; and 2) I once spent 20 minutes in a room with just me and Justin Timberlake. I had a keyboard and played a song while he beat-boxed!
Books written or illustrated:
Jingle Bells, Rudolph Smells
Nee Naw, the Little Fire Engine and Stink-o-Saurus
Number One in the UK Children’s Best Sellers Album Charts
Headlined the Kidz Field at Glastonbury Music Festival