“We just wanted to make sure that the work we did, our art, moves people in some way. With this song, it moves us.”
Country love songs don’t get much more profound and, well, full of love, than in Everything Means Nothing, the latest single from country duo and real-life married couple Mark and Jay O’Shea. Known on stage collectively as O’Shea, the pair are no strangers to writing music that bares all the nitty gritty details of their lives, their marriage, and their journey. But it’s in this evocative single that Mark and Jay really demonstrate an innate honesty, one that may become a source of jealousy or inspiration, depending on how you look at it.
Where some husbands may surprise their wives with flowers, Mark surprised Jay with a music video that he, as he has done with many of their videos across their professional tenure, produced. “I don’t think we would have had a music career if he weren’t able to do things like this,” says Jay. “He came to me one day and said, ‘I’ve put something together, visually, for Everything Means Nothing. I sat down, watched it, and I bawled my eyes out.”
The clip is a montage of personal and professional events throughout the couple’s 27 years together. “I couldn’t believe he spent so much time pulling footage from so many different years of our lives together.
“It’s like a family photo album in three and a half minutes, and I was really overwhelmed. So, thanks love – I don’t think I actually thanked you for the video, so here it is for the first time!”
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“I don’t think you have, either!” Mark teases from beside Jay. Perhaps the thanks, though, is that Jay has stayed with Mark for nearly three decades? “I think it’s that he’s stayed with me for 27 years, it’s quite the miracle!” Jay jokes, Mark shooting back a playful “Truly”. These guys are besties, and always have been. It makes their personal and professional lives easier to navigate, come what may. “I never normally say nice things to him,” says Jay, “but I’m still as much in love with him today, if not more, as I have ever been!
“I think we’re very, very lucky, and we don’t take that for granted. Because people can go a lifetime without finding their one true love, and we got lucky when we were young.”
Overwhelmed, though, as Jay mentioned, is certainly the operative word here. Everything Means Nothing, though it’s largely a unique narrative for the pair, didn’t, as Mark reports, have its origins in the aftermath of a marital argument. The song stems from a place of joy, dancing through many elements of love; hope, longing, bliss, gratitude, and so much more, all meant to be received by the listener and adapted to their own experiences of love.
“We had a song we wrote for Mr. & Mrs., our first album – it was called Meant To Be. It was our love song up until we got married. It talked about how we first met and where we were in our lives – I almost feel like this song, Everything Means Nothing is a ‘part B’ to that.
“In the five albums we’ve made, it’s hard to say ‘I love you’ too often because it loses the gravitas. If you release love songs too often, it doesn’t have the same impact – so we have to be careful not to do too much of that. A lot of our songs are about the difficulties of marriage, life in general. We have to be careful not to flog it as anything other than our relationship.”
“It talks about warts and all,” adds Jay. “Credit card debt, huge mistakes together, thinking you’re going to live forever and all that stuff. We’re pretty honest. It’s one of those things; it’s so autobiographical, so us, that no one’s going to give a shit.”
An intimate spotlight, indeed, on O’Shea as individuals and as a couple; though the reception throughout their career from their fans, and indeed, their contemporaries, has been largely familial. “There was a moment ten years ago,” begins Mark, “where we’d been in Nashville for quite a while. We’d written some great songs, but sometimes they come across as a little hollow. We promised ourselves years ago, we were only going to write songs that really moved people and changed their state.”
“Firstly, songs that meant something and had truth in it or hurt to write or made us really happy. But it had to be truthful,” adds Jay. “It’s not meant to make you cry,” Mark says, “but if a song puts a smile on your face, that’s an amazing song. We just wanted to make sure that the work we did, our art, moves people in some way. With this song, it moves us.”
Jay says, “Even though people might not have had the exact same experience, hopefully they can relate and connect with the emotion of it.”
This is the first song O’Shea have released since leaving Sony Music, but Everything Means Nothing isn’t necessarily an introduction to a forthcoming sixth studio album, the band readdressing what releasing music and its consummation looks like for them.
“It sort of refocuses us on writing music and only recording music that allows us to refocus on things that matter to us more than ever,” Mark muses. “I feel like the way people consume music these days, myself included, it’s not so much as an album. If you record five songs, you feel obligated to round out a body of work with a slow song, a sad song, a fast song. I don’t think we have to do that anymore; I’m relinquishing us of that pressure. I think we just write and release songs that we feel at that time.
“If it turns out we do that for five thousand songs in a row, I don’t give a shit anymore, it’s just what we were feeling at the time. If what comes out is five up-tempo songs, that’s fine too, they don’t have to sit next to each other on a record, and we’re not looking at it like that anymore. We just want to put out music that we’re vibing on at the time.”