Megan O’Neill Speaks To Steve Holley At the Long Road Festival

Megan O’Neill is an award winning singer songwriter from Ireland who the Irish Times called, “The Irish Carrie Underwood”. She’s won awards for her previous music and has had one of her songs featured in the hit TV show ‘Nashville’.

In June this year she released her long awaited album ‘Ghost of You’, and the first single ‘Why I Need You’” hit over 100,000 views online in less than a month. The album itself also hit #1 on the iTunes singer/songwriter chart.

To relax Megan likes to run and is currently on day 65 of her own 5k challenge involving 5k and 50 press-ups a day. She is planning her new album and is hoping to fund it using the innovative platform PledgeMusic. Megan played the inaugural Long Road Festival Of Country, Americana and Roots Music last weekend and I was lucky enough to chat to one of the hardest working and nicest ladies in Country Music. This is what we chatted about.

EP: So Megan, the Long Road Festival. Why is it important to have UK Country music festivals?
Megan: I think it’s hugely important to give artists the outlet to play actually. Obviously as Country and Americana artists we don’t get booked for those big pop festivals or dance festivals or rock festivals. And even at the likes of the huge festivals like Glastonbury there’s not very many opportunities to get on the right stages but something like this is purely for what we do. It’s unbelievable and to have Long Road and Black Deer pop up this year has been really cool.
EP: Did you look at playing Cornbury…
Megan: I played it this year on the Friday on the Café Nero stage.
EP: Of course you did, I didn’t get there early enough to see you. My fault. I was really disappointed to miss you. It would have been great to see you on one of the big stages.
Megan: I was actually asked to play but I was travelling to America on the Saturday but next year for sure!
EP: I’ll look forward to that Megan!
Megan: Me too.
EP: So – Pledge Music? For people that are unaware of what it does could you explain how important and innovative it is?
Megan: Yes, it’s basically like a fan engagement/funding platform for artists. This will be my second time using it. The first time was with my EP, ‘Stories To Tell’ which I did with Megan & the Common Threads. And now this will be for my next album which I’m just about to start recording. I think a lot of the public probably don’t understand what goes into a record especially when you get to this certain point.
I’ve put out three records and I want to make sure this is top quality, the best record I could possibly put out there and that costs a lot of money and artists don’t always get paid a lot of money so it’s a great way for artists to basically say “hey I would love all of my supporters to help me and get involved in the process of my next album”, and in exchange for you pledging a certain amount of money you can get super cool exclusive merchandise or CDs or framed handwritten lyric sheets or an acoustic gig in your house all at different tiers of pricing. Really cool things that otherwise the artists wouldn’t do and that, in exchange, helps the artists fund their record.
EP: It’s a brilliant concept. Is it a new thing?
Megan: I don’t know how old it is. Maybe 5 or 6 years old. But it’s so important, I know so many artists that couldn’t have made a record without doing it. It’s really special, really good.
EP: So you played a couple of new tracks today, they sound great. How long would a new record take to get out there?
Megan: I’m in no rush which is a nice thing because I’ve literally just released an album but you always have to think a year in advance as it takes a long time to record, mix, master, write, all those things, artwork, everything and I’d ideally like to release it September 2019. A year from now. Maybe in conjunction with the Long Road Festival next year, that would be a great idea but I’m thinking a year in advance so I can take my time with it. I always try to challenge myself to write better songs and think about the album in the best possible way.
EP: Would it be recorded here or maybe Nashville?
Megan: I’m doing it in Leeds actually as I’m doing it with the Dunwells who are from Leeds. So we’d do part of it in Leeds and part of it in Ireland.
EP: I hear you used to live in Nashville, what brought you home?
Megan: I did live there. A few things. I love Nashville. Everyone who goes there who has a love for music is going to love it but I was there for the guts of two years and it was incredible for me. The education of a songwriter and artist is second to none but I reached a point where I was very far from home, I missed my family a lot and I didn’t get to come home very often and visas were a struggle for me. I hadn’t really climbed very many rungs of the ladder in my career so getting an artist visa was impossible. So the visa was probably the biggest thing but even though I could pretty easily go back, I really like the UK scene and love working on music here so I’m pretty content.
EP: Perfect. Megan, I’ve seen all three sets that you’ve played at the Long Road this weekend and they’ve been brilliant but I just wondered why in the full band sets you finished with a cover? The main reason I ask is I’ve walked away from the two sets and listened to people singing Maren Morris after your excellent cover of her “My Church” at the end and you have equally memorable songs…wouldn’t it be better for them to walk away with your songs stuck in their head?
Megan: We don’t always end with a cover. We thought though with a festival you don’t always get people that know your music and you’d like them to remember your set and they’re more likely to sing along and get involved and sway and dance to the music if it’s a song they know so I think usually when we do our own shows we don’t do any covers but when it’s something with a lot of people that don’t really know you I like to throw them in.
It’s a good point about ending with it because I hadn’t really thought about that. I didn’t think too carefully about where we were putting them in, just that they were in there. I think it’s just that the set usually builds so it starts with kind of mellow songs and then it grows and by the end of it you want people stomping and maybe the psychology behind it is that they’ll be stomping more to one they know.
EP: Thanks for satisfying my curiosity as a non-performer. Do you know if there are any more Country festivals likely to pop up?
Megan: I played Black Deer in June and I’d assume they’d be another and I hope there’s another Long Road. They’re both such well organised festivals and people seem to be having a great time so I hope they both come back. I don’t know of any others that are popping up at the moment…
EP: Do you think the loss of Carrie Underwood at such late notice as a headliner here will put people off next year?
Megan: No. No I don’t. I mean I think Carrie Underwood is fantastic but I think all you have to do is look around Long Road and people are loving it and having a great time. I think they’ll come back and they’ll all tell friends and family to come back. They’re loving it!
EP: There was quite a lot of negative feedback on line about it?
Megan: Haha, that’s just keyboard warriors. Say whatever and won’t say it to your face but I think the festival organisers here and Baylen especially have done an incredible job of getting some of the best artists. I’m friends with so many of them and it’s been like a reunion for all of us. I think they’ve smashed it!
EP: Who were you looking forward to seeing this weekend?
Megan: I was looking forward to seeing Carrie Underwood. I’ve never seen her live. I saw Twinnie last night who’s a friend of mine and I loved sharing the stage today with Laura Oakes and Danielle Bradbery. Brilliant! But there’s just so many of my friends playing so I’m trying to dash around all the stages to see them.
EP: Finally, Megan, what have you got planned in the near future?
Megan: I’m starting this next album so the winter’s going to be quite calm hopefully. I’ve had pretty much constant shows April to now so this is kind of the end of the show season. I do a lot of running and I’ll concentrate on writing the next album and plan some tours for next year. I’ve got Germany, Italy, maybe New Zealand and Australia, America, Ireland and here so it’s going to be a very busy touring year.
EP: Sounds fantastic. It’s been lovely speaking with you. Thanks for your time.
Megan: You too, thanks Steve.
You can find Megan’s PledgeMusic initiative here.
Check out Megan O’Neill online on her official website, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. Stream and download Megan’s music from Spotify, and iTunes.
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