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  • Bryon Harris

JJ McGuigan - 'Dissociative'

JJ McGuigan is a praise-worthy alternative rock singer-songwriter from Wichita, Kansas who was diagnosed with OCD and depression as a teen. He started as a drummer then went on to play guitar and to attend the renowned recording school, Full Sail University where he honed his skills as a songwriter. Today, McGuigan's music stands tall as a voice and advocate for mental health awareness with his new EP 'Dissociative" that will resonate with anyone who has experienced struggle and with anyone who wants to understand someone who struggles with depression.

I couldn’t help but look up the meaning of the word “dissociative.” In psychology, the terms describes a wide array of experiences from mild detachment to more severe detachment from physical and emotional experience due to depression. The EP ‘Dissociative’ is a complete triumph because McGuigan manages to take us deep inside this experience with songs that are intimate, honest, communicative, and healing. He fully achieves his goal of advocating for mental illness. We never feel detached from McGuigan. Instead, his music connects us and what an amazing achievement this.

The first song of the EP is titled “Home”. As the song begins, all the instruments arrive in unison and the electric guitar plays a beautiful melodic intro backed by steady rocking drums and acoustic guitar strumming as we are introduced to a hauntingly intimate voice - McGuigan. It's easy to hear the emotion poured into this song. The chorus for “Home” delves deep into the heart and mind of McGuigan, “Home sounds like a nice idea to me. Don’t tell me that there’s nothing out there. This life has had its way with me." And it is in his struggle for light that McGuigan completely shines. “In All Honesty” is the shortest song on the EP and works as a great transition. It is a fitting title for an artist who delivers self-reflecting lyrics. McGuigan brings in the chorus with “I try not to think about the reasons I’ve been on my knees. In all honesty, I’ve been searching for someone, someone like me.” This leads to the up-tempo “Forces” which was one of my favorites. McGuigan talks about being lost in the battle again, not wanting let anyone in; it’s “just another breakdown.” The song describes in perfect picture-painting what it is like to experience the recurring cycle of depression. Beginning with ambiance leading directly into a full out jam by the band, this is definitely one of the most rocking songs on the EP. “Forces” glues the album together adding to the overall raw and emotive landscape ‘Dissociative' lays out.

For the last two songs on the album, McGuigan slows it down starting with the beautiful ballad “Letter”. “All the things that I’ve done wrong. I may be the worst of sinners. If you could be the greatest saint, could you treat me like a brother for tonight, we could be on in the same”. The lyrics to this song, and every song on the EP, are dripping with insight. This song is like a prayer and McGuigan sounds like an angel. The vocals are complimented by a crying guitar solo with an ethereal sounding reverb. The track ends with a softer acoustic section and the line “Im gonna read the world the letter, and I’ll be on my way” making for a powerful ending to an emotional track.

The last song on the EP “Desperate Eyes” is nothing less then what is expected of an adept songwriter such as McGuigan. The song begins with an eerie drone of what sounds like synth strings accompanied by soft guitar. The vocals enter like a whisper asking you to listen closely as the song continues to build with layers of composition as he asks, “Where does the truth lie behind these desperate eyes?” The sound is captivating and cinematic. The most intriguing section is towards the end. McGuigan speaks a poetic line “All that I need is right here, right here in front of me” before switching back to the eerie atmosphere heard at the beginning.

“Dissociative' is a testimony, a voice, and an emotional gift. There is a little something for all of us in each song. McGuigan offers a story and a voice to relate to and somehow, you are no longer alone. The musicianship, production and mix are great. This EP is a must have to play on a rainy day, when you need a friend who can relate to what you are going through.

After becoming a finalist for the VH1 “Save the Music” Songwriting Competition, McGuigan signed with veteran management company, MTS. The EP ‘Dissociative’ is available for purchase on iTunes, Amazon, and all major online music retailers.

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