The Irish singer-songwriter talks about moving to London, her new album and Americana music.
Originally from Co. Kildare in Ireland, Americana artist Megan O’Neill is a rising star on the country music scene. She’s now set for her headline show at London’s Borderline for the first ever Country Music Week on 6 October 2017.
Megan has had her song Don’t You featured on the hit TV show Nashville, three slots at The O2 in London for Country To Country, a performance at JJ Abrams’ Oscar Wilde party in LA alongside Gavin James and at Nashville Meets London Festival. In February 2017, Megan and her band The Common Threads released their debut EP Stories to Tell, which was recorded at Mark Knopfler’s British Grove Studios with the legendary Guy Fletcher (Dire Straits, Roxy Music, Mark Knopfler) producing.
Megan is currently recording a full solo album in the US, set for release in early 2018. We chatted to her about her recent move to the British capital and her upcoming album.
How are you doing?
I’m good! It’s a bit early here, any other week I would have been under the same time zone.
Are you currently in Nashville?
Yeah! I landed here on Tuesday and so I’m here until near the end of September.
How come you’re there?
I’m recording an album. So I usually come out here and two, maybe three times a year if I’m lucky, and just write and gig, but this time I’ve said no to loads of writing sessions and loads of gigs so I could just get the album done.
So what can we expect from the new album that you mentioned?
It’s still going to be in the Americana lane, the first one was quite country pop, but that last one was very Americana. So it’s staying in the Americana realms, that’s kind of where my heart lies. It’s the first time I’ve done a full album, so it’s quite new to me and a lot to think about. But it’s songs that I’ve written over the last two years and a lot of it is about my journey in the music industry, and about growing a little bit in your twenties. There’s some love songs, some songs about heartbreak and then there’s some songs about Nashville or London. It’s very therapeutic to make an album like that. But it’ll be 11 tracks and the plan is to release a single in October, and probably release another single in November or December and then the full album will be out next year.
You used to live in Nashville and have now moved to London. Do you feel both cities have inspired you in different ways when it comes to writing music?
Absolutely. I went to UCD in Dublin and studied psychology in college. And when I graduated, I said, “ I really want to give my music a go and I want to learn how to songwrite”. So I felt like the best place for me to do that was Nashville. I wanted to come here and, almost, give myself a year to just soak everything up like a sponge. It definitely made me write and think about things in a different way. Before I came here (Nashville) the first time I thought I would write when I felt inspired – whereas in Nashville you schedule your writing sessions, you do two a day sometimes. Most of the times, you do two a day. You may not always write a great song, but at least you’re exercising that muscle and you’re learning how to write. It was a real steep learning curve for me when I came here first because I was really fortunate to be thrown into the room with some big time writers and I had no idea what I was doing! I learned very quickly and it only gets better, it’s like playing an instrument – the more you practise the better you get.
For your recent EP you teamed up with The Common Threads – how did that collaboration come about? Tell us a bit more about it.
When I moved to London I started working with two guitarists, Tom Smith and Dan Clark, and I’ve been doing my solo stuff with them for about three years. So when it came around to releasing the last record we put out in 2016, we had a big chat about releasing it. Would we release it again as a solo record or would we make it as a band and bring in drums, fiddle, bass? We made the decision together and I’ve been working with them for such a long time that it felt like the next step for that record. They’re amazing! Amazing musicians. It was really fun to make that record, especially with Guy Fletcher in British Grove. It’s a specific sound when you work with a specific group of musicians which is why I’m doing this one solo because I’m going for a different sound. But I think we’ll continue doing stuff as The Common Threads, at the moment I’m just kind of focused on the solo stuff.
There’s a track on that release called London City Ghosts – what inspired you to write this song? It sounds a bit like a love letter to the city with a tint of respect for its size.
I think you’ve hit nail on the head. I’m from a tiny town in Ireland, like 500 people and everybody knows everybody. Moving to Nashville was one thing, but then moving to London with that many people is intense. It’s really intense. I love London for so many reasons but I think when I moved there first I cried every day for a month. Like, this is not for me. And I think it’s funny because people never talk about it. But everybody does that, everybody finds it difficult at the beginning. It’s kind of like a love letter to the city, a little bit of a love-hate relationship that everybody has with it.
Let’s talk about your headline show at The Borderline in October for the first ever Country Music Week. How are you feeling about it?
I feel great about it, I’m very excited to be back at the Borderline. I love that venue! I’m doing a show with Sonia Leigh and Sam Wickens who I really respect as musicians and they’re just really good at what they do. I’ve done Country to Country at The O2 two years running, so I love that they’re expanding it to another week in October because it’s so popular.
Tell us a little bit about how you got into music in the first place?
I grew up in Ireland, and like everyone in Ireland whips a fiddle out of their bag and plays some kind of instrument. It was in my blood from being a kid. I just loved being on stage, it was just my comfort zone really from when I was a kid. I started learning the piano when I was about six. I learned various instruments but piano was the only one I stuck out for a good 15 years. It all just stemmed from my family really, from my mother who’s a musician too.
How would you describe your sound to someone who might not have heard it before?
Ooh! I would say Americana but a lot of people actually don’t know what that is. So I’d say in the country-folk lane but I take influences where I’m from – I take a lot of Celtic influences in my music too. So if I say country-folk-Celtic they might get it.
On 6 October, you can catch Megan O’Neill at the Borderline as part of the first ever Country Music Week in London.
Tickets are on sale now via Ticketmaster.co.uk.