Conor Mullen Oberst (born February 15, 1980) is an American singer-songwriter best known for his work in Bright Eyes. He has also played in several other bands, including Desaparecidos, Norman Bailer, Commander Venus, Park Ave., Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band, and his newest project Monsters of Folk.
Conor Oberst was born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska. He was born to Matthew Oberst, Sr., an information manager for Mutual of Omaha, and Nancy Oberst, an inner-city elementary school principal. He grew up with two older brothers, Justin Oberst, a lawyer, and Matthew Oberst, Jr., a teacher and part-time musician best known for his band, Sorry About Dresden. Oberst's mother claims that he was banging on a piano since he was two years old. Besides his brother Matt, Oberst's father was also a musician who played guitar and piano for various cover bands in his youth, and together they began teaching Conor to play guitar at the age of 10. By the time he knew only two chords, he was already writing songs.
Oberst began his musical career at age 13 while at St. Pius X/ St. Leo School. He was in the showchoir and other musical groups at the school. One night in 1992, Ted Stevens (of Mayday and Cursive) invited Oberst onstage to play. Bill Hoover, who was in attendance, invited Oberst to come back to play with him a couple of weeks later. In that short amount of time, Oberst wrote enough songs to fill out the set, establishing himself as an artist. Shortly thereafter, Oberst began committing his new repertoire to tape in his parents' basement with his father's four track cassette recorder and an acoustic guitar.
In mid-1993, Oberst self-released his debut album Water on cassette tape. The release of the album was financed by his brother Justin on what they called Lumberjack Records, the indie label that would become Saddle Creek Records, making them founders and present day executives of the label.
Shortly after his two solo recordings, Oberst began playing with four friends; they formed Commander Venus in mid-1995.
Here's to Special Treatment was followed by 1996's The Soundtrack to My Movie, a cassette only released on Sing Eunuchs!. Kill the Monster Before It Eats Baby, a split 7" vinyl with Bill Hoover, was also released around this time.
Norman Bailer (The Faint)
In 1994, following a Slowdown Virginia show, Oberst, along with friends Joel Petersen, Todd Fink (formerly Todd Baechle) and Clark Baechle, formed a band called Norman Bailer, later known as The Faint. A few days later, Oberst told the other members of the band that they had a show in two weeks at Kilgore's. Despite having never performed together, they produced nine songs to perform. An album, Sine Sierra was released on cassette only in 1995.
Oberst formed the rock band Commander Venus in 1994 with Tim Kasher, Todd Baechle, Ben Armstrong, and Robb Nansel. They recorded two albums: Do You Feel at Home? (1995) and The Uneventful Vacation (1997). Kasher later went on to form Cursive, Baechle became the vocalist for The Faint and Nansel was the co-founder of Saddle Creek Records. Kasher left the group as they were about to go in to the studio to record their second album, and was replaced by Todd Baechle. In 1998, Commander Venus broke up.
The Magnetas were only active for a very brief period of time in 1996 in Omaha, Nebraska. Along with Oberst, band members included Todd Fink (The Faint) and Chris Hughes (Beep Beep). They recorded three songs, only one of which ("Anex Anex") was released on Ghostmeat Records' Parts compilation album.
In January 1996, Oberst began playing drums in a group named Park Ave., alongside Baechle, Jenn Bernard, Neely Jenkins (now in the band Tilly and the Wall), and Jamie Williams (also in Tilly and the Wall). The group only played between 10 and 15 shows and made a handful of recordings (several of them with Mike Mogis as producer). The group disbanded in 1998 when Williams, the singer and primary songwriter, moved to London, England. In 1999, Urinine Records released their only album, When Jamie Went to London...We Broke Up, which has also now been re-released under Team Love.
Oberst's television performances with Bright Eyes have included a spot on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, where he performed "When the President Talks to God" in May 2005. The performance drew notice for the song's political overtones. Oberst has also appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman, where he performed "Trees Get Wheeled Away" , and The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, where he sang "Road to Joy" (which included an abrupt smashing of instruments and an interview with Conor Oberst promoting the band's two new albums: Digital Ash in a Digital Urn, and I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning).
Aside from his Tonight Show performance, Oberst has made other political statements as a band member of Bright Eyes along with fellow band member Mike Mogis. A longtime opponent of Clear Channel, Oberst in September 2005 cancelled a show the band was scheduled to play at The Pageant in St. Louis due to the venue's ties with the media giant. Before the 2004 presidential election, he took Bright Eyes on the road with Bruce Springsteen and R.E.M. as part of the "Vote for Change" tour.
Oberst was a guitarist and singer for Desaparecidos. The music and lyrics of Desaparecidos differ greatly from Bright Eyes, having more in common with punk rock than Oberst's usual folk rock. The lyrics are generally social commentary on the state of affairs in America and the pitfalls of suburban lifestyle, as opposed to the more introspective lyrics of Bright Eyes.
Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band
In November 2007, it was reported that Oberst would work on a solo record with Jake Bellows, and that he and M. Ward would start a band and perform two late December shows in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Contrary to what was believed, the shows were not played with M. Ward, but rather with Nik Freitas and Jason Boesel. They also played a show in February in Mexico City, Mexico.
On March 31 2008, it was announced that Conor Oberst would play at the 2008 Reading and Leeds Festivals. In addition, he also performed at the Electric Picnic, in County Laois, Ireland on August 31 2008, the Cains Ballroom in Tulsa, Oklahoma and Austin City Limits in late September 2008, shows across Australia in early October 2008, and the Warfield Theater in San Francisco October 24. Conor also headlined the Friday night slot of The End of the Road Festival at the Larmer Tree Gardens in Wiltshire, held over the weekend of 12-14 September 2008.
Conor Oberst released the self titled album Conor Oberst, which was recorded in Tepoztlán, Morelos, Mexico with Taylor Hollingsworth on guitar and Macey Taylor on bass, on August 5, '08 on Merge Records.
In about mid October, the band sold a new EP, Gentleman's Pact. It was limited to 1000 copies and was only available on tour. The band placed limitations on how many were sold at shows. It has four unreleased tracks. Three of them are pre-album songs while "Corina, Corina" is a cover of a traditional folk song.
Monsters of Folk
Conor Oberst is one of the four members of the band Monsters of Folk. Other band members include Jim James of My Morning Jacket, M. Ward and fellow Bright Eyes member Mike Mogis. The band swap instruments and share vocal duties. The quartet will release their self-titled debut album on September 22, 2009.
Oberst is known for the diversity of his work, and has been compared to Bob Dylan and related artists. He prefers immediacy over perfection and continually constructs verses rather than repeat hooks or write them down, feeling that his songs are never completed.
Oberst has written poetry and many short stories in addition to songs, but has not published any due to lack of devotion and confidence, preferring to stick to his songwriting abilities. He was recently named the best songwriter of 2008 by Rolling Stone magazine.
Saddle Creek and Team Love
Oberst is one of the founding members of the independent record label Saddle Creek Records, which hosts and has hosted bands including Cursive, Desaparecidos, The Faint (who left to start their own label Blank.wav), Rilo Kiley (who left to start their own label Brute/Beaute Records), Bright Eyes, Two Gallants, Son Ambulance, Azure Ray, The Good Life, Sorry About Dresden, among others.
Oberst founded the Team Love record label to "do different things, or smaller things, that we couldn't get everyone to be into at the same time" at Saddle Creek. such as Tilly and the Wall, Willy Mason, and Jenny Lewis' solo album with The Watson Twins.
Oberst was drawn to music at a very early age, due in part to his older brother's penchant for bands like The Cure. He has cited their first singles collection, Staring at the Sea, as the first record he ever bought, as well as being one of his favorites. "It must have been third grade...I bought the cassette at a local record store chain called Homer's in Omaha. I just loved the sound of Robert Smith's voice. It just sounded good."
Some of his biggest influences and favorite songwriters are local musicians David Dondero and Simon Joyner. Joyner wrote the song "Burn Rubber", which Bright Eyes covered on the "Take It Easy (Love Nothing)" single. The two used to do mini-tours together, usually on weekends due to Joyner having a family.
Oberst has also been heavily influenced by the 1960s folk revival, mentioning Neil Young, Leonard Cohen, and country singers Emmylou Harris and Townes Van Zandt. He covered Neil Young's "Out on the Weekend", collaborating with Mike Mogis, Jim James and M. Ward in concert. Harris sang on a few tracks on Bright Eyes' I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning.
Oberst was also profoundly influenced by the work of Elliott Smith, saying in an October 22, 2003 All Things Considered interview that "sometimes when you're not feeling good, you have to listen to really sad music like Elliott Smith's" and that [Smith] "wrote the sweetest, saddest, most gentle songs". Oberst also said he liked to "listen to Elliott Smith's songs when he [couldn't] find anyone to talk to on the phone" and thought that it was sad that, "through his music, [Smith] had the ability to answer feelings in others that he was unable to answer in himself". A live cover of Smith's "The Biggest Lie" is featured on Motion Sickness.
As Conor Oberst
Title Year Label Format(s) Notes Water 1993 Lumberjack cassette Here's to Special Treatment 1994 Sing, Eunuchs! cassette The Soundtrack to My Movie 1996 Sing, Eunuchs! cassette Kill the Monster Before It Eats Baby 1996 Sing, Eunuchs! 7" Split EP with Bill Hoover Conor Oberst 2008 Merge Records cd, vinyl Gentleman's Pact 2008 no label cd, vinyl Outer South 2009 Merge Records cd, vinyl
- Criteria - En Garde (2003)
- Cursive - The Ugly Organ (2003)
- Street to nowhere - Tipsy (2006)
- Mayday - Old Blood (2002)
- Son, Ambulance - Key (2004)
- Jenny Lewis and The Watson Twins - "Handle With Care" (2005)
- Dntel - "Breakfast in Bed"
- Melon Galia - "N'en Parlons Plus"
- The Faint - "Dust"
- Maria Taylor - 11:11 (2005) and Lynn Teeter Flower (2007)
- Team Love Records
- Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band
- - Brand new Conor Oberst fan site/community
- Saddle Creek Records
- Live review on Drowned in Sound
- Review Solo Projects
Biography from Wikipedia