When 21-year-old Brian O’Reilly decided to embrace his life to the fullest by challenging himself with a bucket list, he never thought that a million people would be watching. Brian is the founder of “Things To Do Before You Die,” a YouTube channel that features videos of the Irish musician skydiving, getting a tattoo, or going on a blind date; he is now taking his project abroad, traveling the globe and bringing his viewers with him. Beyond the massive undertaking of constantly doing things he’s always wanted to do, Brian is a young man who cares deeply about his surroundings and is eager to make the world a better place: when one of his closest friends, Ross Nugent, succumbed to cancer a year ago, Brian set up a foundation to fund oncology equipment. Listen to one of Brian’s catchy melodies, watch one of his videos, and find out what is the one thing Brian would not be willing to do before he dies. (It might not be what you think!).
Hey Brian! Or should I call you Bribry? How did that nickname start, by the way?
It’s actually an acronym! Not many people know that but it stands for “Be Relentless and Inspire But Remain Yourself.” I felt like it should stand for something.
Should we turn on the camera or just do audio?
It’s 8 a.m. and I just woke up, so let’s stick to audio. [laughs]
I first wanted to ask you a few questions based on the lyrics of your songs: “I’ve been writing love songs for as far as I know.” Is that accurate?
Absolutely. I used to write love letters for girls I liked in the elementary school. They didn’t like me back, so the letters were not as effective as I would have liked them to be. Those poems got burnt in the great fire of bad literature. Musically, at that time, I was drumming with pens and played the keyboard.
In another song, you write: “Let us go to Outer Space.” As of next month, you’re taking “Things To Do Before You Die” around the word, right?
I’m very excited to travel outside Ireland and visit a whole bunch of different countries. I’m going to Australia, New Zealand, and Asia from May onwards. The challenge I’m setting for myself is that I have to stay with viewers, people who watch and follow the YouTube channel. It’s a challenge, because I have to find people in places like Thailand.
So you’re couch surfing, or more accurately, YouTube surfing.
Exactly! I make sure to Skype them before to make sure they’re not creepy. Most of them are females, which I prefer since they’re so much more trustworthy in that regard. Anyway, I’m the most excited about the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, because it will most definitely challenge my fear of the ocean and it is pretty much the only place where I have no idea what to expect at all.
Finally, you write: “but she will change, because that’s what people do.” How has this experience changed your life?
It’s made me become, at the risk of sounding like a crappy cliché, myself. It’s great, and the best thing I’ve ever done.
Why don’t you tell me about the origins of the project.
I didn’t know what I wanted to do in life, so I decided to start doing all the things that I wanted to do before I figured that out. The first few episodes are rubbish and silly, but as soon as the tattoo one came, I started getting daily emails telling me I inspired people. You know, the first videos were only of me talking on my webcam about those experiences, and it wasn’t until a great user told me that all of it was “rubbish until you show us” that I decided to take a little film crew with me. Before that, I was literally showing pictures of my skydiving to the camera.
You’ve done everything: from bungee jumping to getting your legs waxed, from being on TV to getting naked for New Years. Personally, what was the funkiest thing you ended up doing?
Make a scene in the airport. It was the only one I nearly backed out of because I was so scared. The idea is that I would pop my actress friend Lisa at the check-in queue at the airport en route to Paris. I would storm in the airport with a megaphone pretending to be her boyfriend, and like at the end of romantic comedies, I would ask her not to get on the plane. It ended up working out brilliantly and we left the airport under a round of applause from everyone.
This bucket list would not have happened if you didn’t have the support of your readers. You have 15,000 followers, so how are they influencing your content and how are you interacting with them?
It’s actually gone up to 18,600 in the past few days, and my videos have nearly reached a million hits. People always compliment the fact that I reply to every single comment and emails, and I don’t understand why most YouTubers do not do that. It started what seems to be a fruitful relationship with my followers. I also do blog TV shows where I ask for ideas, for episode concepts, or if they have anything on their own bucket list that they’d like me to take on. It’s like a community, and I have a promotional team as well all around the globe spreading the message.
Is there an end date, or a set amount of numbers of videos you wish to produce?
No! In fact, my biggest wish is that my YouTube channel is not simply a trend, and that ten years down the road people will still be following me as I grow old with them. It’s infinite.
Let’s talk about your music. Tell me who your idols are and what your style is?
I love Bright Eyes and Simon & Garfunkel. One of the distinctive elements of my music is simply that I sing in my Irish accent, which seems to be a big plus for people. I never got why foreign people sing with an American accent, sounding like someone from Texas. Otherwise, my lyrics are very honest and straight-forward, with people always being able to relate to what I’m talking about. I’ve performed live in front of large crowds, and I’m known for talking in-between songs and cracking jokes. It’s a mix and music and comedy, which might not be as ‘cool’ as someone just doing their set and looking pissed, but that doesn’t matter.
You’ve done your share of crazy things, so answer whether or not you’d do the following by simply answering yes or no. Would you ever write a book?
Yep, that’s the ultimate plan!
Crash the White House?
Drive a motorcycle?
Listen to Miley Cyrus 24 hours non-stop?
And finally, not speak for three straight days?
That would be hard. I’ve had sore throats from talking so much, so I wouldn’t last a day.
Let me get this straight: you’d be able to crash the white house, but not speak for one day?
How can our readers contribute to your success?
They can get familiar with the series, and can also become part of the promotional team over the globe by emailing me. Finally, they can go on my website and donate to the Ross Nugent Foundation.