It's been too long since country fans have heard from platinum-selling artist Jamie O'Neal. But finally, the Grammy-nominated songstress has returned to the performance forefront with her first new disc in nearly a decade, the 11-track "Eternal."
Produced by O'Neal and her engineer/musician hubby Rodney Good, "Eternal" is described by her PR camp as a "song collection that infuses great country classics with fresh energy," complete with the once-Arizona-based artist's unique take on iconic tunes such as "Leavin' on your Mind" (Patsy Cline), "The Sweetest Thing" (Juice Newton) "Help Me Make It Through The Night" (Kris Kristofferson), "I've Done Enough Dying Today" (The Gatlin Brothers) and the George Jones and Tammy Wynette classic duet, "Golden Ring," the latter of which features O'Neal crooning with Andy Griggs.
"'Eternal' is a little different for me," O'Neal said via a May 24 email shared with Examiner. "I grew up listening and looking up to all these incredible artists who helped pave the way for singers like me. These songs helped shaped me into who I became as a performer.
"I was already singing some of these songs in my show and just loved the way I could wail on them," she continued. "Those traditional, big emotional ballads are hard to come by these days, which is why it was such an honor and a challenge to record such great music."
In addition to its 11 classics, the forthcoming album also includes a bonus track, "Wide Awake," released by Shanachie Entertainment, which is the lone original by O'Neal on the new effort. O'Neal penned the tune with her dad, Jimmy Murphy, and she has described it as an "ode to all women who have to sleep beside a snoring moose every night."
As many country fans may recall, O’Neal became a household name in 2000 with her back-to-back No. 1 singles, “There Is No Arizona" and "When I Think About Angels." From there, more hits followed, such as "Shiver," "Tryin' To Find Atlantis" and "Somebody's Hero,"
From its onset, O'Neal's path to stardom was in high gear, with coveted career accolades, including four Grammy nominations, winning ACM and Billboard Awards, and appearing on numerous national television shows such as "Access Hollywood," "Entertainment Tonight," "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" and "Late Night with David Letterman," among others.
By her own admission, O'Neal largely "grew up with a mic in her hands." She's performed on stage with her family since she was 8 years old, opening for many of her idols such as Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, Barbara Mandrell and The Oak Ridge Boys, to name a few.
"I always knew from the moment I first stepped on stage that country music was in my blood and that I would make my way to Nashville, come hell or high water," said O'Neal, whose "Eternal" CD is set for release May 27.
Beyond inking tunes for her own album's, songsmith O'Neal has also created hits for such notable artists as Reba McEntire, Martina McBride, Leann Rimes, Cece Winans and others. Plus, when the music supervisors needed a vocal range powerful enough to cover Celine Dion's version of "All By Myself" for the movie "Bridget Jones' Diary," they chose O'Neal to perform the song.
Most recently, however, O'Neal has ventured into new territory with the launch of her new independent record label, Momentum Label Group, of which she serves as the label head and produces music for some of the label's roster, including flagship artist Rachele Lynae.
“There’s so much undiscovered talent out there, and the major labels in town are getting smaller and smaller,” O’Neal observed. “There are so many more advantages to what a small independent label can do for the artist these days, like allowing them to have more creative input and to retain ownership of their recordings."
As for her work on the business side of of operating an indie label, O'Neal said she is getting hands-on experience in this new phase of her life and career.
“Things have changed so much since I moved back to Nashville in ’96 and got my record deal,” she noted. “It’s so easy to discover new music and new artists on the Web, and that’s exciting because you can build a real fan base and connect with your fans so much easier now. It's no longer exclusively based on whether radio plays you or not.”
Nonetheless, O'Neal said that whether she's writing hit songs, running a record label, producing or performing on stage for fans, she's grateful for the journey and that which is still to come.
"All of these opportunities have come to light because of the musical path God put me on," O'Neal said. "I am so fortunate to be able to do what I love, which is making music and sharing it with anyone who will listen."
As for the music on the classic-filled "Eternal," O'Neal said, "Just like going to the Grand Ole Opry is a special experience and takes us back to our roots of country music, I hope my new album will take people back to that era and also introduce new fans who may never have heard these songs."
- Video bonus: To see O'Neal talking about her new"Eternal" album, with music samples included, please access the clip embedded with this post.