John Oszajca may not be a household name, but the 26 year old singer-songwriter is already a hit with the tabloids. The Hawaii native made a splash last December by proposing to Michael Jackson’s ex, Lisa Marie Presley, 32. But if Oszajca has his way, he’ll soon be making a splash that has nothing to do with dating the daughter of the King.
His debut album, ”From There to Here,” was released May 2, and a documentary about how he became the object of a record label feeding frenzy debuted on MTV2 this week. What’s more, MTV has been giving his video for ”Where’s Bob Dylan When You Need Him” some airtime, and he began a tour with the Mighty Mighty Bosstones on May 9. EW Online talked to Oszajca about sad songs, stage antics, and that famous girlfriend of his.
Do us a favor and pronounce your last name.
How does it feel to be known as that shaggy-haired guy with Lisa Marie Presley?
While there’s been some of that, most people in the press have been pretty fair. Not to be glib, but I’m happy. I don’t spend much time thinking about it, really.
Yeah, but doesn’t having a famous girlfriend put a damper on writing any down-and-dirty relationship songs?
It has no impact at all. I’ll always write what I feel.
You’ve got a reputation for some pretty wacky stage antics. What’s your favorite stunt?
I had an impersonator perform as me at a Christmas benefit. I hung out in the crowd wearing this white leather jacket, white boots, and dark glasses so everyone would notice me. Then after tuning my guitar on stage, I went backstage and swapped outfits with a friend of mine [who played the set]. Eighty percent of the audience knew right away, but 20 percent just couldn’t grasp it. One A&R exec wanted to fly me to New York based on my friend’s performance.
Growing up in Hawaii, what was it like being a sensitive, arty guy in the midst of all those macho surfers?
Oh man, it was a total ugly duckling story. But I visited the mainland a couple of times and realized there was a whole world out there that appreciated long hair and all the stuff that was considered freaky in Hawaii. So when I moved to Seattle, I felt like the ugly duckling turned into a swan.
I had to go somewhere. I had thought about doing country music in Nashville or going to Austin or L.A. or San Francisco. I changed my ticket a half dozen times. I just wanted to get out and live that whole Jack Kerouac experience.
Looking at your documentary, it seems like you were an overnight success. Is that true or just good editing?
I’ve been in the business for 10 years, and I had three record label demo deals that didn’t go anywhere prior to signing on with Interscope, so no, it wasn’t overnight. When I decided to make the demo that led to this album, I thought it might be a good idea to film something about the amount of scheming that goes into selling your music. So I had a friend come down with this borrowed video camera, which was held together with a rubber band, and while we were making the demo, we got a phone call that the song ”Bisexual Chick” had been leaked to [L.A. radio station] KROQ. And that was it. Everything started happening very quickly after that.
Do you think Bob Dylan has ”Where’s Bob Dylan When You Need Him” in his CD player?
I’m guessing he’s heard it, only because we used a sample from him on the record so I know he or his quote-unquote people were contacted. But that would be amazing.
You write a lot of sad relationship songs — what’s your best real-life sob story?
I’d been in a very serious relationship with a girl, and I had moved with her from Seattle to Long Beach because she wanted to be with her sick mom, who actually turned out to be more of a hypochondriac than sick. But basically, [the relationship] ended, and a month and a half later she was engaged to, and pregnant by, my best friend. They were married in three months.
Which song did that inspire?
”I Hate You, My Friend.”