Raised as Chris O’Brien in a suburb north of Chicago, he started playing music at a young age at church and with kids from his middle school. His first venture was as a drummer in a four-member rock band that covered songs from bands like Led Zeppelin, Van Halen, and Bad Company and featured now-famous classmate, Tom Morello on guitar and lead vocals. Wanting to write and sing, Chris purchased his first guitar in eighth grade for $75 from a local second-hand music store and started writing songs. Influences on his early writings ranged from Neal Young and The Eagles to Led Zeppelin and Bryan Adams. During High School and College he continued to hone his songwriting skills while playing guitar and singing in working bands in Miami Florida and Chicago; eventually releasing a recording entitled Hard Road by CUSA in the mid 90’s.
His first gig as a paid singer/songwriter came after college when he was hired by a start-up company called TerraGlyph Interactive Studios (TIS) as a producer for computer animated edutainment products. In need of better means of supporting his growing family, Chris left TIS after two years to build a business in an unrelated field. As the company grew, it placed more demands on his time, and soon his songwriting consisted of recording ideas on a small recording device. When asked about this period of his life he responded, “I carried a handheld recorder with me at all times, and whenever a melody entered my life I would hit record.”
It was these recordings that inspired Chris to go back into the studio in 2017 to try and capture the essence of the melodies obtained through the years. One of these new recordings caught the ear of film writer & director Michael Damien who decided to use the CJRAY song Words in his new movie High Strung Free Dance which will be released in the summer of 2018.
Chris O’Brien became CJRAY when it was learned that another artist, by the same name, already had an established presence in the music business. Christopher James O’Brien, thus became CJRAY.