Born in Flushing, Queens, NY, drummer Peter O'Brien inherited his musical talents from his father, drummer Bill O'Brien. Peter literally began playing as soon as he could sit at a drum set, and commenced his formal studies with his father at age five. The prodigious O'Brien was accepted into his grammar school orchestra at the age of seven, and played alongside seventh and eighth grade students. This experience led to a musical scholarship in high school and five years of formal study with Charlie Perry. In 1976, at age16, O'Brien attended a drum clinic held by Perry at Hofstra University. The last week of the clinic featured studies with Jack DeJohnette, whose interest in Peter led to a recommendation and referrals to John Abercrombie, Bill Connors, and Miroslav Vitous. After graduating high school, O'Brien decided to forego college and dove head-first into the New York City jazz scene. There he garnered the attention of drummers Jo Jones, Jr., Al Foster, Jimmy Lovelace, and Michael Carvin. Peter studied with Carvin from 1978-1979.
In 1982, O'Brien toured the U.S. with Brother Jack McDuff and, from 1984-1985, performed all over the U.S. and Canada with the Edgar Winter Band. The band featured the legendary singer Jerry LaCroix (the original lead singer for White Trash) and is the only band to perform the jazz-inflected fusion material from Edgar's first ground-breaking record Entrance, as well as his rock and blues music. During this time, O'Brien also performed several dates with Roy Buchanan, including a sold-out show at the Beacon Theatre with Johnny Winter, Buddy Guy, and Junior Wells. From 1986-1987, O'Brien toured Europe with Mark McMillan.
A move to Woodstock, NY in early 1988 signaled a change in O'Brien's work ethic. He began working with John Hall, and in1989, he became a member of Hall's band Orleans. Their big hits, "Still the One" "Dance with Me" put O'Brien on the pop music scene in a big way. He appeared on seven CDs (four with Orleans, three with John Hall), did three tours of Japan (two with Orleans, one with Hall), and countless U.S. tours and dates (including Woodstock in 1994). He was the subject of a feature article published in Modern Drummer's Rhythm and News (Japan), and has has toured with Orleans as recently as 2002.
O'Brien joined Eric Person and Meta-Four in February of 2001. Led by saxophonist Eric Person, the quartet recorded Live at Big Sur at the 7th Annual Big Sur Jazz Festival to a sell-out crowd. The recording had its premiere in N.Y.C. at the Blue Note in January 2003. O'Brien is also a member of the John Esposito Trio, with Ira Coleman on bass. In addition to his busy performance schedule, O'Brien maintains a limited private teaching practice and freelances as a studio session player. He has played on national commercials for Continental Airlines, AT&T, Macy's, and Burger King. He has also worked as a clinician at Bard College, SUNY New Paltz, and Western Connecticut University.