“. . . earthy, solid song craft. It has a gentle but solid groove. It inspires. It mourns. It carries the listener through a range of emotions, always engaged and entertained. . . . a knack for telling a story that is simple, deceptively personal and universally understood.”
Michael ONeill. Showcasing a new collection, this singer/songwriter with a “roots-rock” history and a soulful ease carries his listener into a time and place reminiscent of steel strings, guitar heroes, and great story-tellers like Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson. A living music legend, ONeill comes armed with vignettes of open-eyed romance, highway drama, and hard-earned tenderness – vocalized with the assurance and attitude that comes only from experience.
One of 13 children, he got started in music early. At the age of 24, he cut his teeth opening his first tour for a then-unknown band called U2. By the time the tour ended in Los Angeles, ONeill found himself signed with legendary manager Don Arden (father of Sharon Osbourne). A record deal followed soon after. ONeill put together a band that featured a young John Shanks (now superstar producer of Sheryl Crow, Alanis Morrisette, Vertical Horizon, etc.), Kenny Gradney (Little Feat), and jazz saxophonist, Boney James. He spent the better part of the next ten years touring with the likes of Stevie Ray Vaughn and penning songs with Bob Weir (Grateful Dead), Steve Cropper (Booker T. and The MG's), and Jason Scheff (Chicago). His band held down a weekly gig at the hottest club in town, The Central (now The Viper Room), playing to packed houses. As the '90s approached, ONeill left Southern California for his hometown in the Pacific Northwest to raise horses and focus on his family. “I retreated to gain some perspective and try to keep my family together,” ONeill says, “I did pretty good on the perspective part.”
Quietly working on material for nearly a decade, ONeill found himself happily remarried and content. In 1999, he released “Dream On” to critical acclaim, garnering nation-wide airplay. His current work, “From the Beginning” is an uncommon album that documents an artist in his prime, a man who knows himself, strengths and weaknesses alike. Part country crooner, part haggard storyteller, ONeill makes a noise that is refreshingly classic. Drawing on heroes like Roy Orbison and Bob Dylan for inspiration, “From the Beginning” plays like old-time rock and roll, deceptively simple yet focused on craft and execution.
Songwriter Michael ONeill Looks for a New Life back in America.
New York City, New York: After years of travelling Europe and Africa, his hair has retained only a touch of the dark brown that most remember, replaced instead by a wisened grey. Surprisingly, Songwriter Michael ONeill doesn't look haggard, he looks rejuvenated. Well, as rejuvenated as a man who sings mostly about love, loss, death, and Mexico.
Fifteen years ago, ONeill was a man on the run, trying to outrun success and a string of hits, brawls and lawsuits that threatened to drag him straight offstage to the slammer. It seemed the closer he came to stepping into the spotlight, the more he tried to shoot it out. The whispers of friends and colleagues, some of Country Music's greatest musicians and business minds, tell tale that the only thing that saved him was a short-lived religious conversion that got him out of "bad company" and out of the country. The truth is, only ONeill knows for sure why he walked away from it all leaving unanswered lawsuits and questions...echoing the chorus of his downer cult country hit, "I Never Tried".
Having returned to America with his court records sealed and his conscious clean, ONeill still has much to muse about. His voice has a sweet sadness to it, like a man who has lost everything but bears no grudge. He waves away questions about the past, instead focusing on his cappucino and his plans to step back into the studio to put down a new batch of songs, a "come to" album as he calls it. It has been 5 years since his last recording. Next week he is headed to Texas to, as he vaguely puts it, "get a few things straightened out" and maybe, while he was at it, put some new songs down on record.
"I have a lot to look forward to and a lot of work to do", ONeill declares. He is reconnecting with what is left of his scattered family tree and old friends, trying to make good on the promise of a life and carreer interrupted. "It took me a long to realize that I am the only biological Father my daughters will ever have", he grins. "That has gotta count for something".
Nearly oblivious to his cult status in the States over these last years, ONeill has been surprised by the response to his return. His old recordings are out of print and nearly impossible to find, mostly traded by fans via cassette tape and now the internet. ONeill laughs, "the iron ain't exactly hot but the time is right". He hopes to have a new album on the streets by Summertime.
Reprinted by permission.
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