Meet Mo O’Laughlin, the 22-year-old indie artist from St. Paul who released their first single, “Do Not Disturb Mode,” on Feb. 25, now available on Spotify, Apple Music, and iTunes.
O’Laughlin wrote this song last fall, while they studied abroad in Strasbourg, France, and interned for a concert venue that featured many rock and metal artists. O’Laughlin, who studies international relations and French at Macalester College, had a lot of exposure to music and the arts through their family while growing up in Eden Prairie, but had put their dreams of “making it” in music aside for years. The stress of being away from family, with a seven-hour time difference, and feeling isolated due to the pandemic became a creative catalyst, and O’Laughlin began to use songwriting as a coping mechanism.
“I was moved by something,” O’Laughlin says. “And I was moved enough to start writing again.”
O’Laughlin has been promoting the song through their social media, and they have garnered over 150,000 likes on TikTok since starting to post in late 2021.
They had written many songs before this one, but “Do Not Disturb Mode” is special. The inspiration behind the song is the frustration of missing calls while away from someone you love. (In this case, that’s O’Laughlin’s little sister.) The feeling of wanting to be there for someone you care about but struggling to do so is familiar to many these days, and that feeling is what drives the evocative melody of the song.
O’Laughlin’s main goal was to make music that sounded honest and authentic. “People can really sense that in music,” O’Laughlin says. “I know that I can sense it when there is a pure, authentic connection to what they’re creating. You know it’s truly their own, and that’s something I definitely want to emulate in my own music.”
O’Laughlin started playing guitar and piano as a child, and they’re a classically trained cellist, which influenced the sweeping strings section in “Do Not Disturb Mode.” The song also turned them into a jack of all trades: As well as a singer-songwriter, O’Laughlin is a self-taught producer who designed the cover art themselves. “I’m thankful for the passion and drive, for wanting to do this so badly, because it pushed me to work through the hard parts,” O’Laughlin says. “It’s definitely a lot for one person, but it’s so worth it in the end.”
When it comes to the sound, O’Laughlin is influenced by many styles. Their original interest in singing came from going to Celtic Woman concerts with their grandparents as a child, but O’Laughlin has also admired the musical layering and lyrical storytelling of artists like Harry Styles and Cody Fry. Then, when interning at the venue in France, O’Laughlin found mentors and inspiration from metal artists performing there.
“I have a lot of creative freedom, which is really appealing to me. But I also got a lot of guidance from other musicians that I met while I was abroad,” O’Laughlin says.
“Do Not Disturb Mode” is a quintessentially Gen Z take on experiences throughout the pandemic. To view the phone as a conduit for a relationship and for mutual support has felt perhaps truer than ever over the last two years. Like many throughout the pandemic, O’Laughlin says that they’ve felt isolated. But they’ve also come to the realization that many people are going through this feeling of disconnect and isolation in their own way—and “Do Not Disturb Mode” is O’Laughlin’s way of reaching out.
“No matter how complicated or serious a situation is, there’s always someone who can understand to a degree,” O’Laughlin says. “I would love for this [song] to reach people and give them a sense of not being alone in this.”