Here’s How a Group of Strangers With the Same Name Started a Virtual Band—And Friendships to Last a Lifetime

Four men with the same name who all love making music? Baltimore Paul had an idea. Wouldn’t it be funny, he asked the other musical Pauls, if they formed a band called The Paul O’Sullivans?

Paul O’Sullivan lounged around his Baltimore apartment one evening in 2014, feeling bored. So, like a lot of people with nothing better to do, he logged on to Facebook to find out just how many others on the social network shared his name. Moments later, Paul O’Sullivans were popping out of the woodwork as dozens of name twins from around the world filled his screen. On a whim, the then-27-year-old human resources employee decided to send friend requests to them all.

Many of his fellow Paul O’Sullivans ignored him, but a few felt too curious to pass up his invitation. “My first reaction was ‘Who is this guy and what does he want from me?’ ” says Paul O’Sullivan from the Netherlands—now known as Rotterdam Paul.

As Baltimore Paul scrolled through the other Paul O’Sullivans’ profiles, he noticed something four of them had in common: They were all musicians. Like Baltimore Paul, Rotterdam Paul sings and plays guitar. Another Paul in Manchester, England, plays bass. And Paul from Pennsylvania is a drummer. Four men with the same name who all love making music? Baltimore Paul had an idea. Wouldn’t it be funny, he asked the other musical Pauls, if they formed a band called The Paul O’Sullivans? Yes, it would be, they all agreed. And so they did.

Beginning a virtual band

Starting a band across multiple time zones proved to be tricky. Shaky Wi-Fi and other technical difficulties meant they were often out of sync. And being even half a second off from one another wrecked their sound. To fix this, they created a sort of musical assembly line. Baltimore Paul and Rotterdam Paul write and record a basic track, then e-mail it to Manchester Paul.

“I listen to the song over a few days,” says Manchester Paul, “to get a feel for what bass arrangement seems most appropriate.” Once he records a bass track, he e-mails it back to Baltimore Paul, who then builds it into the main song. Later, Pennsylvania Paul adds the drumbeat. Round and round the track goes, with each member adding on his own layer until they achieve the sound they want.

The Paul O’Sullivan Band released its first original song, “Namesake,” in March 2016. It’s an upbeat track about long-distance relationships—not romantic ones, but friendships like those they had begun to develop. Don’t miss more heartwarming stories of the most unlikely friendships.

More than just the music

But just months after the song’s release, Baltimore Paul began experiencing health issues that forced him to take time off from making music. The other Pauls decided to take a break too—from the band, that is.

Pull Quote reads “Writing a song with someone across the ocean makes you feel less trapped."

But they didn’t press pause on their friendship. Instead of supporting one another on bass and drums, they supported one another more generally. The other Pauls made sure Baltimore Paul never felt alone, even with the miles (and ocean) between them. They shared family pictures, chatted live on Instagram, and checked in on Baltimore Paul and on one another.

“The other Pauls are gentle, dear, caring people,” says Pennsylvania Paul. “They are a fountain of joy.”

These incredible stories about the kindness of strangers will definitely make you tear up.

Internet fame

It was about four years before Baltimore Paul was well enough to start making music again.The first thing the band did was create a music video for “Namesake,” which debuted on YouTube in February 2020. In its first two weeks online, the video pulled in more than 20,000 views.

And when COVID-19 slowly shut down the world just weeks later, the Pauls didn’t miss a beat. After all, the band had already gotten the hang of remote work. But now their international connection took on new meaning. “Writing a song with someone across the ocean makes you feel less trapped,” says Baltimore Paul. They used their time during the pandemic to record their first EP, or short album. Titled Internet Famous: A ­Retrospective, it was released last April.

Half of the proceeds from the EP will be donated to the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, which supports the World Health Organization’s work.

“Life is tough sometimes,” says Pennsylvania Paul. “When you have an opportunity to generate joy, you have to put aside the other stuff.”

A new source of joy for the Pauls is getting to spend time with each other in person. Last fall, Baltimore Paul surprised Pennsylvania Paul at his home after coordinating with his fiancée. It was the first time any of them had met face-to-face without a computer screen in the way. The two spent more time together this past summer and hope to add the other two Pauls to the mix soon. And when schedules allow, they plan to embark on a whirlwind four-stop world tour—one ­concert in each of their hometowns.

“What are the odds,” says Baltimore Paul, that a random Facebook request would lead not only to new music but to lasting friendships as well? “Some things are just meant to be.”

For more inspiring stories, check out our Nicest Place in America 2021: The Quality Inn in Kodak, Tennessee.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest

Emma Taubenfeld
Emma Taubenfeld is a former assistant editor for Reader’s Digest who writes about digital lifestyle topics such as memes, social media captions, pickup lines and cute pets. When she’s not working, you can find Emma reading corny young adult novels, creating carefully curated playlists and figuring out how to spice up boxed mac and cheese.