By Lily O’Brien
“I’ve just been obsessed [with music] ever since I was a kid,” confesses singer/songwriter/guitarist Ryan McCaffrey, as we chat over coffee in his woodsy Novato home. That “obsession” continues to shape his life today—he and his band, Go By Ocean, just finished recording their second album, Sun Machine, and will perform at the Sweetwater Music Hall on Thursday, February 23.
The band is tight, and plays eclectic, indie rock. McCaffrey, 36, writes all of the songs, which range from mellow grooves to percussive rock ’n’ roll rhythms. He sings with heart and sincerity in a soft and dreamy style that is distinctive, compelling and personal. “I want to have emotion in it,” McCaffrey says.
He grew up in Southern California, and started playing guitar in grade school. McCaffrey’s early musical influences included Guns N’ Roses, the Beatles, Led Zeppelin and Nirvana, which led to the formation of his first punk rock band. In high school, he began singing, and then discovered his true passion—songwriting. “I love songs and I love the craft of writing a song,” he says. “I’m always on the hunt for the next song.”
McCaffrey moved to the Bay Area in 2000 to attend San Francisco State University, organized a band after graduating and started gigging around with a variety of players. Having been through some dark times in his life, McCaffrey says that he’s much happier now, and “living by the light, rather than letting darkness lead the way.” He calls the band’s song “Ring Around the Sun” an “anthem” to a brighter future. “Even in your darkest hour, it’s a song that says that even at your worst, you can look down the road to better days ahead,” McCaffrey says.
Juggling a full-time “day job,” McCaffrey says that music will always be the driving force in his life. “No matter what, this is just what I’m going to be doing. I signed up to play music a long, long time ago—and my soul requires it.”
Go By Ocean, Thursday, February 23, Sweetwater Music Hall, 19 Corte Madera Ave., Mill Valley; 8pm; $12-$14; gobyocean.com.