Songtrust Spotlight: Megan O'Neill

Irish-born singer-songwriter MEGAN O'NEILL released her second full-length studio album this year (March 12th, 2021) - titled "Getting Comfortable with Uncertainty," featuring Top 10 charting, Netflix hit single "Time in a Bottle." This beautiful, haunting Jim Croce cover was featured on the Worldwide hit TV show, Firefly Lane, starring Katherine Heigl and Sarah Chalke. O’Neill performed the song on the RTE Late Late Show, reaching an audience of approximately 2 million, and the single charted that same weekend in Ireland across all genres. 

Deemed a “rising star” by uDiscover and Timeout Magazine London, Megan’s songs have received great attention over the past year, including her recent single Ireland, which was playlisted across Irish radio and shared by none other than Olivia Newton-John (a self-proclaimed Megan O’Neill fan).

Alongside her releases as an artist, Megan writes for many other artists and sync projects across the world in multiple genres and styles.

To date, Megan has toured the U.K., Ireland, the U.S., and Germany. She has performed at private Oscars’ parties in LA alongside Gavin James (on an invite from JJ Abrams) and has had her song 'Don’t You’ featured on ABC’s hit TV Show ‘Nashville(Season 3). Megan has opened for the likes of Sir Tom Jones, Lighthouse Family, and Jamie Cullum (to name a few).

Photo credit: Andy Teo Photographer


WHAT OR WHO INSPIRED YOU TO GET INTO MUSIC?

I suppose my Mam would have been the big, initial inspiration. She’s a huge music lover and a musician herself, so she opened my eyes up to this world at a very early age.

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR STYLE OF MUSIC AND PERFORMANCE? HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR PHILOSOPHY AND STYLE AS AN ARTIST?

My style and performance have actually been going through quite a transformation over the past two years – which I think has happened for a lot of people! We’ve all had this pause in life and suddenly this time to rethink, reinvent and readjust. I would say that I’m predominantly a storyteller and whatever way I decide to go with the production around a song, the story is still the most important and prominent thing. I started out in the Folk / Americana world and that is still really close to my heart, by the new music coming in 2022 (very exciting!) has much more electronic and pop elements. It’s a new era and I’m really excited to share this with the world!

My philosophy as an artist, especially lately, is that growth is not just necessary, it is actually essential to survive. 

WHAT DRIVES YOU TO CREATE, AND HOW DO YOU DEFINE SUCCESS FOR YOURSELF IN MUSIC?

For me, the songwriting process is such an amazing art form. I’m obsessed with it! And I’ve gotten more obsessed with it this past 18 months without the ability to tour and play shows. I’ve had a lot of time cooped up in my studio writing and recording and I’ve absolutely loved it! Going to bed at night and knowing that you created something that day that didn’t exist 24 hours ago is so special to me and I think that process, that creation, that musical storytelling drives me for sure. I know it’s cliché to say, but it is a need. I’m a very vocal and open person and so communicating my feelings, my stories, my highs and lows through songs is something that feels like therapy. I don’t know where I’d be without it.

Success is a really hard thing to define in music. The goalposts are always moving and it can be really, really hard to be present and appreciate how far you’ve come because there’s always so much further you can go. There is no ceiling in this career. There are so many layers to what you can do and what you can be – so it’s hard to define what success is but also really vital that we do, as creatives, do define it for ourselves. 

For me, a lot of the time I do feel successful in what I do and where I am right now. I work with incredible, talented, wonderful human beings on a daily basis, I write and create the music that I love, and that rings true for me, I have a beautiful studio space where I feel creative and whole and I wake up every day doing something I love. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely don’t always feel successful and like every artist (so I believe) I have a lot of self-doubt and anxiety about my work sometimes, but overall I’m happy with how far I’ve come, I’m so excited about what’s coming next and that feels like success.

THROUGHOUT YOUR CAREER, WHO WERE THE MOST BENEFICIAL PEOPLE IN GETTING YOU TO WHERE YOU WANTED TO BE? WAS IT MANAGEMENT, ASSISTANTS, A&RS? HOW DID THEY HELP?

My current management team is amazing and I’m so lucky to have them on this journey with me. They definitely help me so much with navigating through this transitional time with my music, with a post-pandemic gigging world and so much more. As the artist, it can be hard to see things from the outside looking in, so it’s really important to have people in your corner that have your best interests at heart and can be real with you – people that can tell you you’re going the wrong way or barking up the wrong tree when you are and who push you further up the ladder when you’ve found the right ladder. So yes, within the industry having a great team is super important and I’m really lucky to have that now. I’ve had people around me in the past that I didn’t necessarily trust – and that is so draining. 

My family, friends, and my partner are also all incredibly helpful and supportive. A career in music definitely isn’t always an easy thing to support. I’ve had years of being flat broke and insanely frustrated so I’m really grateful to everyone along the way who has put up with me.

SOMETIMES BEING IN THIS BUSINESS CAN BE REALLY OVERWHELMING. DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR MAINTAINING PERSPECTIVE AND NOT SWEATING THE SMALL STUFF?

Oh God, it really can be overwhelming! It’s really hard sometimes to not sweat the small stuff and not get carried away inside your own mind. The music industry is motivated by money, whereas music itself is all about emotion and feeling and energy so very often, you’re mixing two worlds that don’t mix very well together! Like oil and water sometimes. It can be tough and you have to be super thick-skinned.

My advice would be to always have stuff outside of music – hobbies, friends, things you like to do that mean you can escape from music if you’re feeling overwhelmed by it. I love running, yoga, meditating, journaling and hiking. Spending time in nature or being active gets me out of my own head and gives me perspective. It doesn’t help to stay in the studio and keep banging my head against the wall, sometimes I need a good long hike or run to shift my perspective and clear my head. Also, so many of my best creative ideas come to me when I’m "off the clock." I get great song ideas when I’m running or hiking or having dinner with a friend… So it can be a double win.

DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR YOUNG ARTISTS AND MUSICIANS JUST STARTING THEIR CAREERS, BASED ON WHAT YOU’VE EXPERIENCED?

Be really careful who you decide to work with in terms of management, label, producers, etc. Be patient and trust your gut – it’s important to choose the right people at the right time. Also, be yourself. People won’t "buy" into your brand and your artistry if you’re not authentically you.

IN ADDITION TO WRITING YOUR OWN MUSIC, YOU ALSO WRITE FOR OTHERS -- HOW DO THESE CONVERSATIONS BEGIN? WHAT IS IT LIKE TO WRITE ACROSS MULTIPLE GENRES? WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT UP-AND-COMING ARTISTS MAKING WRITING FOR OTHERS A STANDARD PART OF THEIR CRAFT?

I love writing for other artists and to brief for TV and movies. I find it exhilarating to write someone else’s story and help other artists bring their own stories to life. This happens in many ways – you can be introduced to another artist or songwriter through mutual friends, meet at a gig or songwriter’s retreat, be put together by management or publishers… There are loads of different avenues into these relationships. Writing across multiple genres can definitely be tricky. There are certain genres I’m not that comfortable writing still, but over time I know I will be. It all just takes time. Time and lots and lots of sessions! 

I think artists making songwriting for others a part of their craft and career is a smart move. It’s another string to the bow and it opens up a lot of doors that can actually help build your artist career in tandem. 

HOW HAVE YOUR TOURING EXPERIENCES BEEN? WHAT ARE THE BEST AND LEAST FAVORITE PARTS OF BEING ON TOUR?

I love touring. It is definitely a lot of hard work though! I’ve just finished my touring cycle for this year and toured in Germany, the U.K., and Ireland which were all amazing. It was weird getting back into it after the pandemic and everyone was struggling with the long drives and late nights – none of us are match fit anymore! But we powered through.

Favourite parts of touring – the gigs themselves, meeting fans around the world, seeing new cities, and testing out new material in a live setting.

Least favourite parts of touring – the lack of sleep, terrible road coffees (!), and lugging around a lot of heavy gear!

WHAT'S NEXT FOR YOU? ANY UPCOMING PROJECTS OR PLANS FOR 2021-2022?

Next year is a really exciting year for me. I’m going to be releasing new music which is (as mentioned above) really different from anything I’ve ever released before. There are more pop and electronic elements and there’s a lot more sass! In 2022 there will be a single release every 8 weeks and more on top of that. There are also going to be some really exciting releases with other artists and projects around the world. 

2022 will be less about gigs for me and more about these releases and working on new material, but I do have a few shows planned so people should definitely make sure they can come along to those. The first show in 2022 is at the Brunswick in Brighton for Independent Venues Week and people can get tickets now here: https://www.fatsoma.com/e/qdls35v2/ivw-megan-o-neill-brighton

The new shows will be taking on a new vibe altogether – sonically and visually. It’s a time full of change, but thankfully I find that quite exciting!

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