Photographer: Luz Rodriguez
Like Domanique Grant, Heather O’Neill is another singer-songwriter who has spent much of her life embracing new homes, cultures, and sounds. That has all culminated into a powerful sound that is made that much stronger by her vocal abilities that could carry the weight of the world. Heather shared with us the decades, places and other things that influenced her latest Transmute as we got to talking. Now it’s time for you to read and discover a new artist to take your own home.
Kendra: Ireland born, Chicago raised. You also lived almost in two dozen places before you celebrated your 30th birthday. We often hear that food is the best way to get to know a place. For you was it about the culinary delights, or always the music scenes?
Heather O’Neill: Sometimes both at the same time! I used to live in Boyle Heights, it’s a Mexican neighborhood in East Los Angeles. On Friday evenings, I would treat myself with authentic cuisine and watch the mariachi bands in action.
Kendra: When I clicked “Nicotine and Neon” I instantly thought of the ’70s and Jefferson Airplane. The power in the vocals was undeniable. Is that a decade you pull influence from musically at all?
Heather O’Neill: It’s funny, I have heard that before, as well as comparisons to artists from the ’80s. I came of age in the ’90s so that is really the decade that had the most impact on me. From grunge to hip-hop, to Brit-pop and neo-soul. However, the way I spit back that influence sounds different than the source and I’m happy about that.
Kendra: Thinking back, not as far back as say – the ’70s, where were you when you penned “Nicotine and Neon?” Your usual writing space, or somewhere else?
Heather O’Neill: I have been trying to really push myself, this time around to let music that I love but not necessarily write to influence the track. I primarily write on acoustic guitar. I’ve changed that. I started writing on electric and using effects pedals. Pedals have been blowing my mind lately. I used to be very intimidated by them. Now I’m realizing putting a delay effect on a guitar can create a really futuristic sonic space.
Kendra: When it comes to your latest, Transmute, you said it covers the idea that you like to walk between the “good and the wicked.” What’s the greatest example of that currently in your life?
Heather O’Neill: The quote “Enjoy your time equally with both the good and the wicked” has always really resonated with me. Life can be mean and it’s bittersweet. It is a reminder to myself to try to enjoy all of it. To appreciate this plane of existence.
Kendra: What’s on your plate in the coming months? Touring?
Heather O’Neill: What’s next on the docket is more writing. I usually record things quickly. I’ve always liked a live band feel. This time around I would like to be more laborious in the studio.