How to Break a World Record is a new documentary feature that follows the band Brother Oliver as they attempt to break a Guinness World Record for the mandolin. The reality-style doc showcases the entertaining backstory and personalities of the group as they try and overcome a series of challenges on their way to doing the unthinkable. 

Stephen Oliver, the mandolin player at the helm of the endeavor, shares his thoughts below on the whole experience—and how it was even more impactful than the film could portray in a sub-90-minute window. 

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As a child, I would spend hours reading through the Guinness World Record books and seeing all the incredible, insane, and downright bizarre records and I was enamored by the idea of one day seeing my name in those pages. As I grew older, that thought mostly faded away in my memory—until February of 2022 when I saw there was a record for ‘longest marathon playing mandolin.’ As a professional mandolin player, the lightbulb immediately turned on in my head. This was a record I could break, or at least that was my first thought. So I applied…

Little did I know, this was the start of a year-long journey that would take me through a myriad of ups and downs, all for the goal of writing my name down in world record history. 

It’s Harder Than It Looks On Paper

When we first researched this record, we found that Kuntal Raj Chakraborty from Assam, India, had played his mandolin continuously for 26 hours and 41 minutes in December 2018. As someone who has played hundreds, if not thousands, of shows with my band, Brother Oliver, I thought that the biggest challenge would simply be the ability to stay awake that long. Playing for over 26 hours didn’t sound particularly fun, but it didn’t initially strike me as something that would be nearly impossible.

As we got deeper into the process and my application to attempt the record was approved, we realized that this attempt would involve an absolute abundance of personnel and resources. The guidelines we were sent looked more like a book than a set of rules. Every little detail surrounding this record had to be accounted for, documented, and ultimately proved if I was to succeed. It took 10 months of planning and coordination just to get to the day of the attempt.

That day was the most physically and mentally painful thing I have ever done. Seconds felt like minutes, and minutes felt like hours. The pain in my fingers was unbearable before I had even hit the halfway mark. We had all terribly underestimated what we would experience—26 hours and 42 minutes was a world record for a reason.

Your Friends Matter

As I mentioned, this world record attempt involved a team of people, and in my case, many of those people were my closest friends. As the planning and preparations were under way, we kept uncovering more jobs and more roles that needed to be filled logistically to pull this off. If I didn’t have the support of my friends and community, there’s no way we would’ve been able to gather as many people and volunteers as needed. 

But beyond the logistics, seeing my people there with me every step of the way was probably the most motivating factor to keep pushing through. Many of them drove or flew from out of town, booked hotels, and took time off of work…all in support of me and my mandolin. How could I stop?

People Love Guinness World Records

When we set out on this journey, we had no idea just how excited people would be about it. I was taken aback by the amount of care and support I received from people in my life I hadn’t talked to in years or people I didn’t even know. Whether it was seeing people posting about the attempt online or people approaching me in public to talk about the world record attempt, it was eye-opening to see that you can do something that brings entertainment and excitement to people beyond your immediate circle or influence. It felt bigger than life simply because it was a Guinness World Record. It created a connection—something that everyone could understand and get behind.

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My favorite part of it all is that we decided to film the entire journey too, so that we could share it with the world—whether I failed or succeeded. My hope is that the story of my world record attempt inspires people to take up a challenge in their lives and go for that thing that they’ve been hesitant to try. We named the documentary How to Break a World Record, and it’s a living memoir of everything that took place—every challenge, hurdle, and curveball—and I hope it’s as inspirational as it is entertaining.


Stephen Oliver is a professional mandolinist for the band Brother Oliver. He is the main character in the documentary film How to Break a World Record, which was produced by Forthright Records and directed by Andrew P. Oliver & Dan Johnson. Watch How to Break a World Record—out now on Apple TV. 

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