Megan goes back to her Roots

David Hennessy talks to Kildare Americana singer-songwriter about touring with Tom Jones, swapping London after five years for home and going full-time with her music.

Fresh from touring legendary ballad singer Tom Jones, Kildare’s Americana songstress Megan O’Neill is set to release her latest single Rootless. Megan’s next album, due in 2020, is eagerly awaited after her debut Ghost of You went to number one in the Irish singer-songwriter iTunes chart.

As the single’s title hints at, Rootless is about Megan feeling rootless in London while having strong roots in Ireland. Megan told The Irish World she decided it was time to move home after five years in the English capital: “I moved back to Ireland the end of last year. A lot of my work, band and everything are all in the UK so I spend quite a lot of time over there still. I missed so many things about living back here, I just got to the point where I felt this was where I had to be.

“It’s been a bit of a whirlwind this year, a bit bonkers but all good things. It’s a really exciting time with a lot of change going on. It’s all really positive.”

It doesn’t get more positive than touring with Tom Jones himself: “He was amazing, pure gentleman and really lovely to invite me to do those shows. That was obviously a huge opportunity and great exposure for me.

“He’s such a legend in the industry. Sometimes people will say you don’t want to meet people you really admire just in case they’re not very nice but Tom Jones was really lovely, really kind and just a wonderful man.”

Before coming to London, Megan spent two years in Nashville which was a culture shock but where she learned a lot about the industry: “It was great because I really wanted to learn the art of songwriting and I felt like that was going to be a really good place for me to do it.

“I come from this gorgeous rural town in Ireland where everybody knows everybody and then we land in big town America and it’s like, ‘Holy crap’. Nashville is full of talent. There’s so much competition, it definitely makes you stop and think, ‘Do I actually want to tackle this career?’ It definitely made me a better songwriter and taught me a lot about the industry. It was really powerful for me in that sense.”

After always working part-time jobs in admin and psychology, Megan was able to give these up last year to concentrate completely on music. This was a proud milestone for the Ballymore Eustace singer-songwriter: “I had done it. I had gotten to where I wanted to be for a long time.

“Trying to balance a full-time job with your own music and also a part-time job for someone else was a struggle for very many years so I was glad when that was done. Sometimes you get home from a day of that and you’re too tired to even look at your guitar then. You’re like, ‘Ah, go away’.”

Did Megan ever think of trying any reality TV shows like The X Factor or The Voice which her mate Tom Jones is a judge on? “It’s normal to be tempted by those type of things because it’s such massive exposure if it goes your way but there’s also a very probable chance that whatever way they edit that TV show will not make you look good. It’s a massive gamble to do it. I’ve been asked a few times to go on those shows but they don’t really champion original music and I didn’t want to go on and sing covers. Also, a lot of people look at shows like that and think, ‘That’s how people get famous’. But it’s not, there’s so much work involved if you want to have longevity in your career.”

Megan O’Neill’s single Rootless is out now with her album out in 2020.

For more information, go to her website here.

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