Arts & Entertainment

Susan O’Neill (SON)

Although much of the city/country is in lockdown, meaning international artists are unable to come here and perform, Sydney is in for a treat this week. Luckily Irish sensation Susan O’Neill has been in Australia for almost a month now, so here scheduled live performances are still able to go ahead as planned.

On Wednesday O’Neill will join award winning jazz pianist Matt McMahon for an intimate candlelit evening of music fusing soulful Irish folk, jazz and a plethora of other styes/influences. Ahead of this performance City Hub spoke to O’Neill about living life on the road, her new album – Baby Talk, and the challenges of being compared to the legendary Janice Joplin.

O’Neill’s tour of Australia officially kicked off on February 28 and sees her travelling throughout the country until April 26. With such an extensive tour on the horizon O’Neill told City Hub, “I feel like I’m built for this style of tour. A lot of people can find the road long and hard but I find total excitement and freedom in touring.” Although she is also quick to add that there are challenges to touring for such a long period. “Especially with this up coming tour being two months you have to remember that within any two month period in life you’re going to have your up and down days, so it’s important to allow for those wavers.”

Despite the challenges O’Neill is so grateful to music for allowing her to travel so far abroad.

“With the touring what makes it special is that you start to realise that you’re not living a life that anybody else is living… there is no other way that I could get this insight. It’s a sharing of experiences that no amount of reading could ever give you, so to get that with music is truely humbling.”

Prior to embarking on this tour O’Neill spent much of 2019 recoding her new record, Baby Talk, which she explained saw her expanding her musical horizons even further.

“I’ve really branched out into some new sounds with this record. There are some folk sounds, some jazz and a little bit of African tribal influences. I was really trying to branch out into the range of possibilities in terms of the sounds we can make.”

For this record O’Neill also worked with a range of new producers to encourage further experimentation.

“They each had totally different approaches which helped take the music in directions I could never have imagined,” O’Neill explained, “Now that it’s finished I’m already thinking about how to perform music differently simply from having met them all.”

In terms of this week’s show O’Neill also believes that the recording process has influenced her live performance, saying, “I think my approach to gigging has evolved a bit more, so I’m really looking forward to exercising that to its fullest for these gigs.”

One thing that will never change though is the power of O’Neill’s voice, which has been compared to that of Janice Joplin in the past. A comparison which rather than placing more pressure on her actually fills O’Neill with confidence.

“I embrace that comparison with open arms and gratitude,” O’Neill explained, “I try to display as much of the full range of what I am capable of during a gig so that I’m exercising the muscles of my vocals to their full ability. I always try to pick songs that use and utilise many aspect of the voice because the voice can have these beautiful, vulnerable and tender moments where the crackle and the breaking of it is gorgeous. But then sometimes you just want this guttural roar that people can relate to. Both levels are important.”

Mar 25. The Doss House, 77/79 George St, The Rocks. $65+b.f. Tickets & Info:

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