A Fall Chat with Irish Singer and Songwriter, Megan O’Neill
Originally from County Kildare in Ireland, Megan O’Neill is one of the UK and Ireland’s most exciting Americana artists. A long-time musician and song-writer, Megan has previously lived in Nashville but now resides full time in London.
Seele Magazine: What was it like growing up in Ireland?
Megan O’Neill: I grew up in this tiny village where my mom’s family had been for generations, where everybody knows everybody and it’s picturesque and rural. I was very lucky because I had a very nature- outdoorsy upbringing.
SM: How did you become interested in Country Music, especially with growing up in Ireland?
MO: Country Music that comes from America has a lot in common with Irish traditional music, with the presence of the fiddle and the violin. There are similarities. Growing up in Irish culture, where music is such a big part of life, and growing up in a home where music was a focal point in my family has influenced my life.
I always loved performing. Being on stage was and is a comfortable place for me. My mom used to play a lot of the classic Country Music artists around the house, some of my favorites being Reba McEntire and Trisha Yearwood.
SM: What non-Country Music artists influence your music?
MO: I cannot stop listening to Ryan Adams and Brandi Carlile. I listen to a lot of music that’s not Country at all, but that has Country elements- like Ryan Adams, Brandi Carlile and First Aid Kit. I take inspiration from a lot of different places, but at the moment Ryan Adams is at the top of the list.
SM: You’ve lived in Nashville before, as a Country Music artist, why are you living in London and not Nashville?
MO: I lived in Nashville for about a year and a half and I loved it out there, but there were issues with visas and I was so far from my family. I really really missed being in Europe.
But now that I'm engaged to an American, my fiancé and I have had talks about living in America again, but we have no solid plans on that yet.
But one reason I chose to live in London is that I don’t just love Country Music only. London has a wider pool of artists to work with. And, I write music for other artists who are folk and k-pop singers.
SM: What is your favorite part about living in London?
MO: I have a love hate relationship with London. It’s very tense and busy. You never have a moment to yourself. But it’s got amazing energy with amazing people and opportunities. You can do anything you want to do in this city. One of my favorite things to do when I have a day off, which is very rare, is to go down to SouthBank and people watch. Everyone has their own story and to see people is wonderful.
Megan released her debut EP ‘Coming Home’ in May 2015, reaching #1 in Irish country charts and was awarded ‘UK EP of the Year’ by public vote. In 2016 she released a single ‘Can’t Put a Price on That’ and in February 2017 her mini-album with a 6-piece band ‘Megan and the Common Threads’ was recorded.
SM: As you look back on your music career, from when you released your debut EP, to releasing singles, to your mini-album coming out earlier this year, how do you feel? How do you take it all in as your music career is growing?
MO: I’ve been trying to take it in strides. It’s hard to know if you’re on the right path. Being an artist there’s no rule book on what to do. Sometimes I feel like I’m shooting in the dark. But I love what I do and I love the people I work with, and my career has been growing. I’ve been working my ass off, focusing on creating.
This year especially, I’ve been trying to not look too far ahead. I’m trying to enjoy where I’m at and work where I’m at.
SM: How do you stay motivated in the Country Music industry?
MO: There are a few things that I do that are my coping mechanisms. I work with other people. I collaborate with as many people as I can. This industry is about sharing and collaborating with as many people as you can.
Usually when I go into a songwriting session with someone, we spend the first 20 minutes expressing our frustration with the music industry because it’s really really hard to break into. And it makes you feel that “I’m not alone in this business!”
My advice is to collaborate with as many people as you can. Because it’s a tough industry it can be hard to switch off because you feel that you have to keep creating constantly, so I have coping mechanisms like running, to deal with the stress.
Megan has had her song ‘Don’t You’ featured on hit ABC TV Show, Nashville; she has had three slots at the O2 Arena London for the C2C Festival; she has performed at JJ Abrams’ private A-list Oscar Wilde party in LA; she has performed at the Nashville Meets London Festival and the Harvest Festival in Ireland in 2017 alongside Miranda Lambert, Kip Moore, Nathan Carter and many more.
Megan’s focus with her music career is not to reach a certain level of fame or wealth. It’s just to continue creating the music that she loves, and making enough money from it to live the life that she wants to live. Also, to make enough money to be able to give to charities that means something to her.
SM: How did you get your first big break?
When I signed with my management company. I’m no longer with them but they picked me out of nowhere and really believed in me.
SM: What did you feel when you heard one of your songs on the TV show, Nashville?
MO: That was amazing. Even more so because I didn’t have a record label or a publishing company. To get that independently is quite an achievement.
It was one of those things that the show told me it was going to happen but I didn’t believe it until it happened. It wasn’t until I watched the show and heard my song that I got all excited.
SM: What do you think of the C2C Festival being in London? That the UK has a festival weekend just for Country Music at an arena like the O2?
MO: It’s an amazing organized festival and that has to do with AEG doing an amazing job. The first time I performed was in 2015 right after I arrived to London and I didn’t know what C2C was all about. I got there and I felt like I had been transported back to Nashville. There’s a huge huge audience for Country Music in the UK, which is just great.
The festival keeps going from strength to strength. It’s growing into other Country Music events like the British Country Music Awards, which was just this past weekend and, which I performed at and was great. And AEG has Country Music Week, in October, which is great because things are being birthed from the C2C Festival.
SM: How you stay humble as your career grows and as you perform next to other influential artists in Country Music?
MO: My family would never let me get too big for my boots, even if I tried. They would always bring me back down to earth.
I think I’m always unsure of myself and what I’m doing. I always question what I’m doing. It can be a good and bad thing but it keeps me humble and hard working. As an artist I’m always trying to improve and do better.
But, no matter how big or successful you get, there’s always going to be someone else who is bigger and more successful. I’m a firm believer that no one should ever get too cocky.
In February 2017, Megan was selected as one of the top 8 Americana songwriter’s in the UK and performed at the Americana Music Awards in London. She also travels to the US twice per year for touring, recording and song writing.
SM: What do your fans mean to you?
MO: My fans are amazing. They are the people who come out to my shows, they wear my t-shirts, and they want a photo. It’s wonderful to have people support what you do. Just like with your magazine, it’s amazing to have people support you. I’m really lucky to have people support me.
The most beautiful thing after I play a show or release a song is to have people that are open with me and they’ll tell me what a specific song means to them. For me, that is the most rewarding thing.
I have a song on my last record called “Walls,” and it’s about a traumatic break-in that I had in London last year where I was living. I’ve had women come up to me, saying that the song for them is about domestic abuse, and it helped them leave their husbands. That’s huge and overwhelming for me. And, it’s all I could ever ask for.
Megan has played the prestigious Bluebird Café in Nashville three times to date and continues to collaborate with the top writers and musicians between the UK, Ireland and the US. Live radio appearances and performances have included BBC Radio 2, BBC Radio London with Gaby Roslin, 2fm, Dublin City FM, Today FM with Ian Dempsey, BBC Radio Wales, Marie Crichton’s Country Show on BBC, Nevis Radio, and Amazing Radio.
SM: How do you hope to finish out 2017 with your music? What are your goals for 2018?
MO: For 2017, I’ve finished my album and I’m in the process now of mixing and matching. I have been selected to participate in a big song writing competition in Ireland, in November. So, I’d really like to win that. These would be really good close outs for 2017.
And next year, my goal is simple: to release the album and tour in the UK, Ireland and the US.
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