Spotlight features interviews with musicians and industry professionals who contribute to our success.
This week we’re proud to feature singer, guitarist and songwriter, Annie O’Neill. We talked about Annie’s fantastic new release, Wild Card, the arm injury that nearly ended her guitar playing, her formative music years and much more.
Tell me a bit about your formative music years. Where did you grow up? When did you become musically active?
I grew up in Spokane, Washington, the youngest of 7 children in an Irish- American household. I sang on stage the first time at age 6, with my big sister Beth at her high school talent show. She played guitar and we sang John Denver’s Music Makes Pictures as a duet. I remember that performance and our practices vividly; the matching ‘70’s dresses we wore with the butterfly print …the spotlight…singing with my big sister was very inspiring.
The vocal melodies and harmonies came naturally to me from a young age.
That’s really cool. What instrument did you play? How did you learn it?
Inspired by my big sister, I got my first guitar at age 6 or 7. I taught myself how to play and began writing songs, stories and poems as a child . I was always very involved in my school choirs, and I developed a deep love of jazz music as a teenager. All this, while wearing my beloved purple Converse high tops, on which I’d lovingly inscribed in ink ‘Rolling Stones’ ‘Billy Idol’ and ‘peace’. Purple Rain by Prince was an anthem of the time and I loved dancing and rocking out just as much as sitting down with my journal and writing. Some things never change, I guess.
I moved to Seattle in 1987 and attended Cornish College of The Arts for 2 years as a Vocal Jazz major. I had great music mentors during that time – and I am still friends with several of my Cornish class mates and teachers.
How long have you been playing professionally?
I started songwriting more on the guitar again around age 21 -performing with bands and busking at Pike Place Market, amongst many other places. Some may call me a ‘genre jumper’ because of my eclectic musical styles, but I am just being true to myself-dancing to the beat of my own drum , you might say.
You very recently released “Wild Card”, a five-song collection of new tracks. Can you tell me about the recording process?
I’d been planning to record for a while but then I suffered a catastrophic injury just over two years ago, shattering my left arm. The surgeon put two metal implants and 15 screws in my arm, which are now permanent fixtures.
Fast forward over the past two grueling years of physical therapy sessions, arm braces and learning how to make a fist again…healing…not knowing if I’d ever be able to play guitar again…and here I am, very happy to say I AM playing guitar on this EP.
Wow, that must been a terrifying time. I’m so glad you were able to fully recover. So once you started, how did the process work?
I recorded Wild Card in Seattle at Two Pines Studio with my talented nephew Patrick O’Neill at the helm. It’s a really cool feeling, creating & recording music with my family. Patrick has mad skills in the studio. He’s also a singer- songwriter and we work well together. His technical ability plus a damn good set of ears, combined with my sometimes very organic recording process… we end up having a sort of telepathic connection when we work together, which is wonderful.
It’s great when that happens!
We had so many guest artists come in, and he did a great job adapting the room and the mics for each one.
The album was recorded over the course of about 6 months, during this past winter and spring. The studio is just a couple miles away from my house, so some mornings I’d walk there … with a coffee in my hand and music swimming in my head.
In order to get a good idea of the sound of this EP, I’ll list the players here:
Amy Denio (Bass & vocals)
Rick Friel (Bass)
Thaddeus Turner (Electric guitar)
Dan Tyack (pedal Steel guitar)
Christine Gunn (Cello)
Madeleine Sosin (Violin)
Abel Rocha (Venezuelan Harp)
Beth Wulff (Keys, bass)
Jim Wulff (Drums)
The 2020 pandemic arrived just as Patrick & I were putting the finishing touches on the project, so we had to do our last meetings via texts and emails, of course. I enlisted more artist friends to complete the EP, including an unforgettable ‘social distance photo shoot’ with awesome photographer Mike Savoia! I’m also lucky to have on board Lisa Allen (cover art) and Kitty Friel (cover design).
That’s quite a team! So, as you mentioned, your album is finished and now we’re in the middle of a global health crisis. How has it felt to release your record during such a strange time in our history?
Everything has recently become so surreal and strange both locally and all around the globe…I just have to trust in the process and remember the healing power of music and community. I’m tapping in to my roots and reaching for the stars, even during the storms of life!
Where can people find your music online?
What else would you like to say to those listening to “Wild Card”?
Thanks a million to everyone who worked on Wild Card. One of my goals now is to get some radio play, especially on some of our great local stations here. I am so excited to share my music with you and with the world! My other hope now is for ‘unity in the community’!