Musical style: Americana/California/Country/Jam
Region: National Touring
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.
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 cappuccino 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 career 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.