"My songs are vehicles for story telling, but they're also my way of taking something that is subjective and making it objective; allowing me to move beyond whatever hardship or pain might have been the reason for the song in the first place," says Oszajca (pronounced OH-ZSA-KUH, as in the French children's song "Frere Jacques"). "In contrast to my last record (From There To Here) which was written over the course of many years and about a wide range of subjects and emotions, this record is fairly focused. It was written over a relatively short period of time and has a very specific muse." When asked what that muse was; "specifically", a smiling Oszajca replied, "You figure it out."
Indeed, FIRST SIGN OF ANYTHING immediately strikes the listener as an emotionally honest and purging album. The albums first track, "Runaway", speaks to just that kind of angst and eventual release, while "I'm Alive", "Go Away", and "Broken" vaunt the raw guitar sounds and sonic punch that give the album its energetic sound and feel. Songs like "Hang On To Me" boasts a healthy dose of acoustic verve, while "Come Home" is hauntingly stripped bare, harkening the simplicity of the White Stripes. "Long Goodbye", written with Max Collins, long time friend and front man of the multi platinum-selling band EVE 6, recounts the harsh reality of a relationship gone sour. FIRST SIGN OF ANYTHING's stand out track and first single, "OK", (also the last song written for the album), beckons a love lost to the melodic backdrop of loud guitars and harmony's immediately reminiscent of the bombastic blast of bands past.
Oszajca recalls the life changes he's weathered, particularly the culture shock of moving from the small Hawaiian town where he was raised to the major cities of Seattle and later, Los Angeles. "I was this dumb kid from an island confronted by this fast-paced, ultra-hip scene," he recalls. "There was a lot of confusion and angst and just figuring myself out. It was a struggle. I'd gone to Seattle to "make it" and had no idea what I was doing."
Not that this fish-out-of-water experience was completely new to Oszajca. For the first 18 years of his life, he was a "Haole" (a derogatory Hawaiian slang for Caucasian) in the tiny Oahu town of Waimanalo. "I wasn't the only white guy in town," he concedes, "but we were definitely the minority, and that was no fun at all I know what it feels like to be picked out of a crowd."
At the age of fifteen, Oszajca began taking guitar lessons on the instrument his folks had purchased for his birthday. He recalls, "During my first lesson I met a guy who also played guitar and I asked him if he wanted to start a band. We didn't really do anything with it. After that it was band after band. I probably played in at least seven bands before I left Hawaii. Many more since."
A few weeks after his high school graduation, John relocated to Seattle where he quickly joined a band in his new hometown. Before long a friend asked him to play a solo show, without the band, for a local benefit. "The club I played just kept asking me back," he says. "So I made this tape, playing all the instruments myself, just for fun, and eventually quit my band" thus a solo career was born. "After a while, I went from small gigs, where you got paid in sandwiches, to opening for national acts (Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Eve 6, Jewel, Brian Setzer, etc.)."
However, during his rise as a solo performer in Seattle, Oszajca decided to make a move. "I knew I was at that make-or-break point," he states, "and I knew it wasn't going to happen unless I made it happen". So he packed up his belongings and headed south to Hollywood, where it quickly became apparent he'd found his niche at last. "Rather than being a solo act playing at eight o'clock for 12 people in a town where impressions are everything, I figured I had to kind of create my own scene first and then put myself right in the middle of it. So in addition to being the artist, I also became a club promoter."
"I started redeveloping the concept of what I was doing," Oszajca says, then presiding over a few hole-in-the-wall nightclubs, Goldfinger's and the Dragonfly to name a few. Within six months he had begun packing the clubs, drawing several hundred people a show. "In retrospect, I was leaving the Seattle guy behind and embracing the more edgy sound and personality of this new album".
John began the road to making FIRST SIGN OF ANYTHING in the fall of 2002 with an introduction to producer Dave Darling, founding member of the critically acclaimed group Boxing Ghandi's and producer of such artists as Brian Setzer, Meredith Brooks, Sprung Monkey, and Echo Brain. "We started out just doing demos in my home studio, trying to find a sound for these songs" recalls Dave. "We had such a blast that two songs turned into four, which turned into eight and before we realized it we had a finished album on our hands".
On the road, Oszajca fills the stage with two guitarists (himself included), bass player, drummer and a lot of pent up energy. The show is a loud and energetic ruckus with some special surprises thrown in for good measure. "I'm trying to make the show as huge as possible," Oszajca declares. "I want people to leave feeling they've been to an event". Asked where this fondness for spectacle comes from, he laughs, "I'm a totally self-centered person with very encouraging parents - and I love vaudeville."
He also cites one of his earlier band mates for helping him see the big picture. "He taught me a lot about manipulation not manipulating people, but manipulating the presentation. I learned how to conceptualize what I was doing, how to push buttons to provoke a reaction. It was a way of getting people to care about these songs and the sentiment behind them, which is very real and very personal."
When asked the meaning behind the albums title FIRST SIGN OF ANYTHING, Oszajca explained, "At the risk of sounding melodramatic, there are times in life when you can find yourself way off the beaten path. When that I happens you find yourself searching wildly for the way back. It's not so dark as all that however. I think there's a certain beauty in realizing where you are, where you've been, and most importantly where you want to be. I guess I'm still being a bit vague, but that is what this album is about to me."