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Megan O’Neill: Surviving lockdown, touring with Tom Jones and playing the Oscars after party

Megan O'Neill on podcast No Chords But The Truth

Written by Matt Spracklen

On May 23, 2020

MEGAN O’NEILL

Well, for the first time in this first No Chords But The Truth series, I’m not strolling into Bertie Blossoms restaurant in Notting Hill to sit down with another British country artist over a glass of something tasty to chew the fat. I am, in fact, sat in my garage sat at the home studio set up I have for Country Hits Radio, Mainly Music in Nashville and of course, No Chords But The Truth podcast. And it’s working well!

I actually like time by myself. Maybe I’m an introverted extrovert at times. I like my own company and so I haven’t found the restraints of lockdown as tough as some. But tough nonetheless. Half of me is ready to break out now. The other half is anxious about the risks of doing so even as the lockdown is relaxed further. Time will tell.

BUT! And I quote a tweet of mine from last week… Without doubt my favourite thing about lockdown has been friends who have called, left voice notes, texts etc simply saying, “how are ya mate – just checkin in”. I’ve certainly been looking for the positives in all this and perhaps our mindsets are changing some. We are appreciating more and taking for granted less. I hope this continues.

Well, here I get to sit down and chat, via the world’s leading connector of people (Zoom) to someone who’s opinion I value greatly. Megan O’Neill has already achieved so much in her time so far as a British country artist. From Oscars parties in LA to touring with Tom Jones to playing the main stage at our very own British Country Music Festival.

I implore you to listen to Megan’s thoughts in all of this and while you’re there, you’ll hear her plans for the new album, how it was recorded and of course those touring stories and lots more. So great to sit with Megan and chat for a while. This episode of No Chords But The Truth podcast is available right now. Enjoy.

And see you soon… 🙂

Matt

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Matt Spracklen and Megan O’Neill

Hello and welcome to No Chords but the Truth podcast in association with The British Country Music Festival (@TBCMF). How much are we going to miss The British Music Country Festival this year? Last year was so much fun but 2021 will be back stronger. This is Matt Spracklen (@mattspracklen) and I’m in my garage, in my little studio I’ve made to accommodate me doing me my Country Hits Radio show and also podcasts like this.

On this episode of the No Chords but the Truth podcast I chat to Megan O’Neill (@meganoneill) who played The British Country Music Festival last year. In fact, we talk a little bit about that. It was so good to catch up with Megan. You are going to love this chat. Hear all about how she is dealing with the lockdown, her time living in Nashville, touring with Tom Jones and so much more. What an incredible artist Megan is. It is always a joy to talk music with her. Enjoy!

Aww so jealous! ..Megan laughs.

Can I get you something?

No, I have a writing session at 4.00pm and it could end up really badly if I start.

Or?…laughs

Or go really well yeah…laughs

Well Megan O’Neil thanks for joining me on the No Chords but the Truth podcast. How are you doing?

I am good. Thanks for having me Matt.

That’s alright. I want to jump straight in because I feel that every interview, every chat, every conversation even just picking up the phone to a mate always starts with ‘where in the world are you and how are you surviving lockdown?

So is that where we are going? laughs

That’s where we are going. Straight in with that … lockdown chat.

I am in Ireland and I am very lucky really. I live in the middle of nowhere and sometimes that can be a pain the a** but actually during lockdown that’s lovely because we have got fields and rivers and lots of space. Lockdown has been…I think in the first few weeks I thought this is great. I am going to get so much done, and now I’m like oh God I’m really sick of it now, I miss playing shows.

I’ve spoken to a few artists that are like ‘yeah, I’ve got time to write and I’ve got all this’ but have you lost inspiration for writing?

Massively.

Have you? Just because there is less going on?

Well I have an album finished. My album is ready to go and is going to come out in September time, so I am kind of thinking by the time I actually get around to recording another album it is a year away and there’s a frustration in that and there is a frustration in even thinking about I’m not going to play a show until next April. Keeping your motivation up when that is where your mind is going is impossible.

Especially I would imagine for artists like you who writing is so important to your craft and to your work and to your music and everything, you don’t stop. So it’s that whole thing that even in normal time when you write an album, even before it’s finished, you know you have got enough. It must be even harder when it’s lockdown? You can’t think of them.

Laughs. Well, I think…

I’m not trying to rub it in.

Laughs. I’m just going to leave now. No, I have been writing and at the beginning I was doing loads. I was doing a couple of sessions on my own a week and I was doing Skype writes every week and I was ‘this is great’ thinking this would only go on for a month. So I was like this is amazing, I am going to get loads done.

I’m going to write the next record but then, as the weeks go on I’m still probably writing one or two songs every week but that wouldn’t be much in comparison to what I would be used to. I am trying to busy myself in other ways like create video content and do behind the song videos and live acoustic videos for all the new album tracks and stuff like that.

I was going to say are there benefits from it? Are you turning any negatives into positives in that way?

Yeah, I’m trying to say to myself ‘look Megan you have written songs every other day for the last decade, so enjoy an element of this break where actually you can’t do anything’.

This year for me was going to be my busiest year ever as a touring musician. I had shows solidly from mid-February to mid-November, so that’s a kicker (laughs). I am trying say ‘look this might be the only actual break that you get’ because we know the music industry is an absolutely dog fight so when all the wheels are turning you can’t take a break so there’s an element of me being you know what, if I want to take a day off, I’m going to take a day off’.

How many livestreams have you done?

I did one a week for the first four or five weeks and then I did three in one week and I was like ‘f*** this’ so …laughs

So yeah this is what I mean. You can over saturate yourself but also you need to stay relevant. I find one of the things, the common sort of thread, through a lot of the conversations I have had is staying relevant, so when you come out the back….it’s almost like this whole thing whether you are a musician or whether you are a writer even from my side of things being a presenter and doing what I do, you have to stay relevant because it’s going to be like an open playing field when it’s all over.

Do you know what I mean? Everyone is going to be jumping into the fray, so you do have to find that balance.

You do and unfortunately the music industry, being an artist or being a presenter, actually being anyone creative, it all feeds off momentum.

Yeah.

So when you have that momentum and I really felt like I had it before this all crashed. I had so many shows. I had two records coming out this year. One I was featured on all the tracks and one which is mine and we had tours in New Zealand and Australia and everywhere that were not even announced yet. You have booked those shows 8-12 months in advance, so I was definitely at the beginning of this year being ‘yes’ – so much momentum.

I signed with a new agency, I signed with a new lawyer. It was me seeing loads of managers and I was ‘this is it! This is the year’ and when that’s taken away from you and you have absolutely no power, it’s not your fault, it’s just gone, that’s a) difficult but b) you have to be like… I need to find a way to still make this work for me and whether that’s releasing new songs which I have done, which has actually worked quite well for me, or creating video content or just doing something actually totally different like I don’t even know.

I have started doing behind the song videos which I probably wouldn’t have done because I would have been on tour and not had the time, so it’s trying to find other ways but you know you get p*****d off as well. It’s hard. There is so much. Every time I go on Instagram and there’s 20 live streams happening. It actually makes me come off Instagram. It’s just in your face all the time.

Yeah, that’s the thing with social media. There is obviously a point for everyone when right at the beginning because obviously the shows have trickled out as well. It’s not just been right everything’s off until a certain date. Festivals have been dropping bit by bit, so obviously so many artists are going live streaming and they fill up.

I think you have got to be clever in that way and distance yourself. People panic about not creating enough content. People panic about creating too much content. I think everyone is feeling this out. The thing is it’s never happened before. No-one has ever had to stay in their house forever before. It is all new and it is fascinating because it seems that everyone I talk to has just got a different way of looking at it which is brilliant really.

There is a producer that I’ve worked with and he is literally the best musician I have ever met. He can play every instrument. He is an insane producer and engineer and he has done nothing since this stopped and he was ‘I just can’t, I just cannot find that motivation and inspiration’ and so everyone’s feeling it out really differently and yeah the longer it goes on the harder it gets to motivate yourself.

I am playing guitar everyday and guitar is a newish instrument to me anyway. I only really started playing it live a year and a half ago so I’m like ‘great I can spend an hour a day improving this instrument’ and then I’m like ‘I’m not going to f****** play this instrument live for a year – what am I doing’?

But think how good you will be then though?

Laughs. I will be unbelievable!

There’s definitely I think a need to feel relevant but there’s also a need to give yourself a break. We are all doing our best and there is this pressure which is always in this industry. There is always this pressure, but you know there is this pressure to be like creating more, writing more, being better, coming out of this with new skills but people are losing people they love. People are getting sick. It’s not just a time to improve yourself. Whatever you need to do to get through this, do that and if you can do some live shows in the middle – great! Laughs.

The Keith Urban Drive-in Show, did you see that? That was crazy.

Yeah I’m actually doing a drive-in show here.

Oh really?

Yeah, yeah with Hudson Taylor and Jamie Lawson.

Amazing…

They just announced it the other day in the paper, but yes things like that are coming out of it are super cool.

That is cool.

A new way of looking at it.

Well I feel we’ve known each other for a year or two and I know a fair bit about you. I want to get into it all. Where did it start? Have you always, I don’t know this about you…did you grow up…I was talking to Jake Morrell on one of these podcasts and he said ‘oh yes I started learning guitar when I was about 16 or 17’ and I was ‘what? really?’ and that felt late but what was it for you? Do you come from a musical family? What is the whole background?

I grew up in a typical Irish family where everybody sings and everybody plays an instrument.

Ah amazing.

You would go down to the pub when you were 10 years old with a bag of Tayto and playing pool in the backroom and everyone would be playing instruments. Pulling fiddles out of their bags. That’s just how it is here, so I really gravitated towards music as a kid and when I was in primary school I remember when I was five, and that would have been junior infant here, I distinctively remember standing up on the tables in my classroom singing and I have absolutely no idea what prompted that, maybe nothing (laughs) but I always gravitated towards singing and performing.

I was always in plays and shows and I was big, big into musical theatre as a teenager. I did a bunch of shows every year and instrument wise I started playing piano at six and I did all of my classical grades actually because my mam wanted all of us to have an instrument, but as you are 12, 13, 14 obviously you don’t want to, you are like ‘why do I have to do these exams, they’re stupid?’ but now I am very grateful that I did all of that and yeah I genuinely thought my route was going to be musical theatre but I can’t dance so …laughs

That’s a blocker.

It’s a little bit of a blocker.

How did you know you can’t dance? Did you just realise it or did someone say ‘that’s rubbish’ laughs.

Laughs. Well on a lot of the shows that I did I got the lead role but that was due to my voice. That was completely due to my singing and they would just minimise the amount of dances I had to be in and I was like …this is a sign.

When it came to going to college, I was 18 and I wanted to do a course in drama and acting but the course that I actually wanted which is in Trinity College, shut down the year I wanted to start it, which is such a shame because it was ….a lot of amazing actors went through that programme and came out of Ireland. But anyway, I went and I studied psychology at UCD University College Dublin and I was there three weeks and I got a scholarship for singing, that I didn’t even know existed before I went to the college. Again it was my mam ‘Megan, did you know they have a singing scholarship at UCD?’ and I was like ‘no, I didn’t’ and she was like ‘well the auditions are this week so you better get you’re a** down there’ laughs. So I went down and I auditioned and I got it for three consecutive years I was at uni and that was kind of the ….I have been writing songs since I was about 14 and I have been in punk bands and rock bands.

Really?

Oh like everything…I’ve tried everything…

See, I didn’t know this about you

Yeah, I did rock bands but I never really looked rock. The blonde hair and the blue eyes didn’t really make me stand out in the rock world really. I should have dyed my hair black, but I did all of that and when I went to uni the scholarship singing took over and we did competitions and travelled around the world singing as this small choral group and that was like insane training. It was like an intensive course in singing for three years.

Amazing.

My psychology degree completely fell by the wayside but singing got way more attention, but I did finish it and then when I graduated I was like ‘right, I’ve gotten my real degree’ as my parents wanted me to get because in Ireland its free. Further level education is basically free so they were like ‘just go, go to college, get that education and then you do whatever you want’. So I came home when I was 21, I had finished uni and I was like right, I am moving to Nashville. My parents were like ‘what ..is …going …on?’ Laughs

That’s where it kind of all started for me. The day after my graduation in September of 2012 I believe, and I moved out to Nashville and from there I moved to London so it all kind of rolled from there really.

So how long were you in Nashville for?

I was there for two years.

Right, just what? Writing? Playing in bars? Doing the whole thing?

Yeah, I didn’t even do that much playing. I just wrote like a maniac. I just wanted to really understand the craft of songwriting and I felt like Nashville…I loved country music, but I hadn’t really decided that was where I was going to go at all. I grew up listening to a lot of country and a lot of American country because my mam was big into that. I knew I always kind of leant more towards the more folky Americana country, so it wasn’t like the straight down the middle, but I just loved that style of songwriting and I loved so many of the songwriters there so I was like ‘great I’ll just go and try get into as many rooms as I can’. I was really fortunate with the people that I met. I got completely taken under the wing of some publishing companies there and they just put me in two rooms a day, everyday of the week and I just wrote loads and I came home a couple of times in the meantime for visas and renewal of visas and that kind of thing, but it was an amazing experience. It was very humbling because I came from actually getting…everything I went for in Ireland I almost got you know?

Yeah

Because Ireland is small and I’m from a small part of Ireland, so when it came to shows or that scholarship or being in bands, it was easy for me and then I went to Nashville and I was like ‘oh s**t this is the real deal’. (Laughs)

I mean I know a lot of people would say ‘why go Nashville if you’ve been to Dublin?’ that whole feeling of walking down the streets and people are playing bars and anyone who hasn’t walked around Temple Bar on a Thursday/Friday night. It’s up there for me. I love it. I love stuff like the Irish descendants and obviously Dublin and all that sort of stuff, but did you find that or do you still find that background and the sort of rock you must have been into to be in those bands coming in and out of your songwriting still? Was that a thing you had to differentiate yourself with in Nashville when you started writing more in the country way?

Yeah I think Nashville really moulded my songwriting for quite a few years. Nashville really is the majority of what has been written there back then definitely was country and I kind of just threw myself into it and I was ‘I’ll just learn what I can learn from this’ but it moulded my first two records. The first two EP’s I put out, the first one was very country pop and the second one was quite country blues with the band Megan and The Common Threads, so yeah it moulded that for me and then the more time that I was in London and I was seeing loads of different live music, listening to loads of different live music, writing with loads of writers that weren’t country writers – then I was ‘this is more of me’ you know? I then started to bring that back in with the ‘Ghost of You’ record and way more, so with this new record, I don’t know if this new record can be termed country. I mean if Kacey Musgraves can be old country then this could be old country.

Oh yeah, old country can be anything you want and if it’s not that just call it Americana and you will be fine laughs.

Exactly…it’s grand. This one has got a lot more rock influence and even some pop influence and yeah with the Ireland song that’s a very folky song.

I was going to ask you about that. That is a little bit of a side step isn’t it? Back to that real roots that you feel. I love it.

Yeah, it is funny because that was the first song I had written completely on my own in years. That was the other thing with Nashville. Nashville makes you…or with me, I shouldn’t speak for everyone…it made me become really dependent on co-writing because that’s just how it works there and I kind of had… after so many years of co-writing, I was like ‘I can’t write by myself’.

Even if I go into a co-writing session and I would write 99% of the song, I still felt the songs I wrote by myself were not good enough, but when I wrote ‘Ireland’ I just loved it and I was like..this feels really me and it feels like a love song to a place that means so much to me.

So I played it live for a year and every time I played it live, it was the one song that people were like ‘that’s the one, you have to record that, you have to release it’, so I did and it’s done really well. I put it out three or four weeks ago now and it’s doing really well, but I think a lot of the time when you are an artist, if you are really honest and you write what is really from your heart – that totally seeps through.

People hear that and they love that and they resonate with that, so that song is definitely that for me.

I guess that’s why artists and people they write with a lot continue to go back there, because that other person hears so much of what’s inside of you get out?

Yeah absolutely. I think having one or two or three people that you work really well with…. The Dunwells are definitely that for me. We have had so many deep, meaningful chats at this point, we know everything about each other.

They’re great.

They’re great yeah. So I think having that relationship with the writer is really important.

Going back to what we said earlier on about so much of 2020 has been taken away. Looking back on 2019 – I know some of the stuff you did last year was crazy. What were some of the highlights?

Last year felt like a real turning point for me. Kind of when I released ‘Ghost of You’ that was summer 2018 and from there until now really has been super busy, but last year I did a bunch of shows, I toured in Germany and I toured in Ireland and I toured in the UK and I didn’t really release very much music other than ‘Girl Crush’ which did really well on the Spotify world, but I toured with Sir Tom Jones.

I know. That’s crazy watching those Instagram stories pop up every day. What are you doing?

I know it’s crazy. It was absolutely amazing ….last July it would have been. We were actually pitching to tour with him again this summer because he was supposed to be over in Ireland doing two or three really big shows, but not anymore. We did 15,000 people a night which was bonkers, and I think the first show was in Bristol. Yeah, the first show was Bristol which was 15,000 in a cricket stadium or something.

Really?

I was so anxious all day. I wasn’t really getting nervous right before I walked on stage, but I was really stressed. I couldn’t eat anything, (laughs) but then once you get on stage and you sing that first song you are ‘ah ok, I’ve done this 100 times, this is fine’ but it was really surreal and just mad… mad.

Did you get to meet him much on that tour?

I did yeah. We had the third show, we were in Colchester and we had a really lovely chat and he took one of my albums and he said he had heard a few songs on the set and he really liked them. He was an absolute gentleman. A really lovely man, but you know when you stare at someone like that in person and they are a complete legend and you are like ‘I don’t actually know…this is weird’ (laughs).

I come back to what I said earlier on and I know a fair bit about you and that, but I still went to your website today and I thought I am just going to pop up on a few things. What’s this about private Grammy party? Was it a private Grammy party or something in LA?

Oh yeah.

What’s that about?

(Laughs). This is a few years ago and there’s an organisation called the ‘US-Irish Alliance’ which brings together people who work in …it’s across a lot of sectors but a lot of creatives who are Irish that are working in the US, or American but work in Ireland or have Irish ancestry, whether living or working in America and they throw this big Oscar’s party every year in LA and I played at it. It was incredibly pinch me moment, because it’s J.J. Abrams Bad Robot Studios which is in Santa Monica and the party is on his rooftops and it’s just crazy and there’s cocktails…it’s insane. That particular year they were honouring Stephen Fry and is it Jeremy…… Corbyn? No? Corbyn?

Corbyn? What the labour politician?

No. I got that wrong. It will come to me.

Jeremy Beadle?

No, he presents one of the late-night shows in the US.

James Cordon?

No, isn’t he not UK?

Yes, he’s U.K. Jimmy Fallon?

Oh no, but we’re getting closer though.

Oh, I know who you mean. I know exactly who you mean – I can see his face.

(Laughs)…I can see his face as well.

I’m going to Google it.

And Carrie Fisher. So this was the year, it was year 2015 that the brand new Star Wars were starting to come out and obviously JJ Abrams, so the security of this party was absolutely insane, because there were loads of Star Wars fans trying to break in to the studio to get sneak peaks as to what was happening with the new movies and everything. It was crazy. We were on and all the Stars Wars cast was there, old and new and at the time, I hate to say it because I actually hate myself for it now, I had never seen any of the Star Wars, any, so I didn’t know who anybody was, but now years later I’ve watched every Star Wars and I’m kicking myself that I didn’t get to have a photo with everyone and say ‘hi’.

Oh man, have you watched them all now?

I’ve watched them all now. They are so good.

I don’t think I’ve watched any since…the first three and then that time they brought the first one out which was obviously the first which I saw but I haven’t been to see any since.

Oh, you are missing out Matt.

Yeah the thing is though if you watch them now, have you got to watch all the others one first again to get it?

No.

Really?

No.

Ah Okay, maybe I will watch one at some point. (Laughs)

Matt you have all the time in the world now. You should probably do it. (Laughs).

Exactly yeah. I have not got all the time in the world that’s the thing. I’ve found myself busier than ever. It’s crazy.

Jimmy Kimmel? Was is Jimmy Kimmel?

No

Oh, in that case I’ve got absolutely no idea. David Letterman?

No. He took over David Letterman though…I think

You can google it.

Who took over David Letterman? Stephen Colbert! That’s him!

Oh, he was there. I didn’t know he had a beard.

He grew a big, big beard the year of that party for whatever reason.

How did you find the British Country Music Festival?

Ah, I thought it was amazing!

It’s cool to play the first one.

Yeah, really cool. I actually spoke about this in an interview the other day as well and I am so sad that it’s not back this year with Corona, but I think they did an amazing job for the first year of the festival and just brilliant acts. I love seeing a festival that is actually championing local artists, because you have all these other country festivals and they are just all American headliners and you are like guys c’mon you know support the actual acts that you have here and I felt like The British Country Music Festival really did that. The setting was amazing.

Yeah that big room.

Oh just stunning. Really cool.

It was great for me because sometimes I feel like Country Hits and stuff I feel like I should know everyone, know who they are, but when you go to a festival and you find some names you are ‘ah I didn’t know these even existed’. Amazing. I loved it and I am going to miss it this year as well. I really will miss it.

‘Ghost of You’? I feel that is a defining song. Only for me because it’s the first song I’ve ever heard of yours and I think I told this on Country Hits, you may have even heard me say it, but that was more like a long journey on a train and it was one of those things coming back to Spotify where it just recommended you after I listened to something else and I was like ‘Megan O’Neill, I keep meaning to listen to Megan O’Neill’ and it popped up because of you and I was whoa this is amazing. I do feel there is something about that song as a listener of your music, but has it been one of those sort of defining songs for you as an artist or has it just been one that is on the record and that’s that?

No I think it has been a really defining one. It’s definitely the one that sometimes when you play it at a gig people are ‘ahh yes’ and they all recognise the intro and they all love it and its funny because I don’t think it was the one I would have thought, that happens a lot though. I feel like I have bad judgement on which of my songs are actually going to do really well. Yeah I mean I love that song and for me, its’ funny, because it definitely sounds like a break-up song, but for me that song was very much about needing to shed layers myself and almost needing to deal with ghosts of my past, ghosts of myself, but yeah I love it and I love that whole record. That whole record for me was the first record that I made without compromising at all. I had no management at the time. I had no band that we could all share ideas and I worked with a really close friend as a producer, so I wasn’t afraid to say what I wanted or also (what I wanted it) to be. I think sometimes when you work with people who are so far ahead of you, or you certainly feel like they are, like when you work with a producer who has do so much, you are almost like ‘oh probably shouldn’t say anything’ because he probably knows better than me, ..but with this I didn’t feel that, so the songs became way more of me and what I actually wanted rather than any compromise.

That is a whole other conversation as well isn’t it because as an artist you want, not that it’s controlled, but it is, but also there is no-one else. I know the first thing a producer will say is ‘oh I can hear it all going off in my head’. No-one has heard it the way you have heard it in your head, so when you have got that level of control it’s a lovely thing, because you can just water it can’t you and let it grow and grow and grow, but on the flip side, what is it like when you are working with the producer that has got all this experience and you know that there will be moments when he’ll do something and you will go I never even thought of that, that’s brilliant’?

Hmm I think it depends. When I made the ‘Stories to Tell’ EP with the band, we were with Guy Fletcher who was in Dire Straits and produces lots of stuff for Mark Knopfler and he is insane! Incredible, but Guy has a really calm way of working. He will never push any ideas. He is just ‘what if we just try this and what if we maybe try this bassline or whatever’ and you are just ‘I love you, that is amazing!’.

Yeah.

I’ve never really worked with a producer who has bullied me into certain things, which I know there is plenty of them out there, but that wouldn’t be kind of what I would go for.

In what way? Oh I suppose if you haven’t really worked with any …but I guess what you are saying is, it could be anything from shortening a song because its too long, to changing the directional and music and all sorts but that’s good that you have not had that.

Yeah, when I made my very first EP ‘Coming Home’ I worked with Philip McGee ,who is an amazing Irish producer and he has worked with Kodaline and Snow Patrol and Delta Goodrem and so many people. The list is very long and he made some suggestions on my very first EP that actually changed songs completely, but were definitely what needed to happen. So, there is that as well. I think if you entrust your music in a producer you have to try. …you are paying them for that expertise, so you have to be open to suggestions they are going to make and things they are going to want to try, as well as they have to be open to things you want to try. It has to be collaborative.

Is that what it was like on the record that you’ve got ready to come out?

Yeah.

How much do we know about that yet?

Well I’ve released four songs from it already, ‘Ireland’, ‘Devil You Know’, ‘Winter Sun’ and ‘Rootless’ and the plan was to put out six singles and then put out the full album, so I will probably do two more singles, maybe one in June and maybe one in August and then full album in September, but it’s my favourite thing that I have ever created.

Rootless’ did so well as well didn’t it? Well and ‘Devil You Know’.

Yeah. They’ve all done quite well.

They all have.

Which is amazing obviously and I loved so much. I knew I wanted to work with The Dunwells on this record. I had so many life changes and difficult, personal life changes throughout the 18 months of making this record and initially when we spoke about making this record, so the summer of 2018, right after ‘Ghost of You’ came out and we would have talked about would we go for it? I was still living in London at that time, so we started recording the first week of October and I moved back to Ireland that week, which was completely unforeseen and was not in my plans at all but I have a sick family member.

I called The Dunwells and I was ‘guys I can’t make this record’ how am I going to do this? I’m living in Ireland now. We were supposed to do it in the space of 2-3 months, and I was going to be up in Leeds quite a lot. Joe and Dave are just the most amazing…. they are two of my favourite people on the entire planet. They were ‘Meg, its grand, if it takes us a year to make the record, it takes us a year – just fly in when you can fly in. We will make the time. It will be fine’. So from October 2018 until January of this year we were making that record. Actually, until really until March this year because that is when we finished all the mixing and mastering. I just flew to Leeds for a week out of every month, which was mad but actually amazing. It was so therapeutic and so exploratory. I went in there with about 40 songs I think and I went in ‘I don’t know if I’ve written a full album, but here’s loads of songs’ and they were like ‘f*** sake Megan that’s like three albums’ (laughs).

We picked our favourite 14 that then became 13. The album is 12 tracks and one bonus really and they were amazing to work with because they let me totally take my time and also making a record that way meant we do a load of work in a week on three songs and then I would go away and I would listen to those for four weeks and then I would go back and be like, I actually don’t like that anymore or I want to change that lyric, or I have a different idea for that and there was never any time pressure. There was never any pressure like ‘oh we can’t redo that’. It was whatever we needed to do it was ‘great lets scrap the whole thing and start again – lets just forget about four days work’, so it was an amazing way to make a record and there was so many wonderful people involved. We had Lucy Revis coming in to do live cello on a couple of tracks. Todd Doyle in Ireland, he did drums. Dave and Joe obviously went above and beyond and played loads of different things.

All over it.

Yeah and their vocals all over everything as well was just amazing. We had Lewis Warren come in and play electric guitar and everything from the creation of it, to then the mixing and the mastering which was done in Ireland and the US. There was just so many good people involved.

I can’t wait to hear it in full.

Yeah I’m very excited.

Have you got a release date for it?

Not yet.

Not even in your head? I’m not asking for a secret. (laughs)

For a sneaky preview…

The plan originally was September/October, but then because of everything that happened with Corona, I spoke to my team about it and we were ‘do we put it out?’

If the whole process has been that chilled making the record, then you have got time haven’t you? You don’t need to feel that pressure, I guess?

Yeah, but I also feel like that unfortunately with an album it does get old in your own head.

This is the thing yeah. This is what we kicked off with.

There is definitely an element of needing to put it out for me. I need that to be just out in the world now because to me it’s done and I don’t want to put it off another six months and then put it out, but in my head actually already wanting to put out newer material, so I’ve just decided I’m putting it out either September or October. We are just going to do it. It’s going to be great. (Laughs)

We will know a lot more by then.

Yeah exactly.

What are you listening to at the moment? What’s inspiring you or if you just had to sit down and put a record on now and you’ve got your glass of wine or whisky or whatever, put a record on – what’s your go to?

I’ve actually been listening, this will probably surprise you, I’ve actually been listening a load in the last year to The 1975. Love them so much and they are so vastly different from anything I do but I love them. I listen to a lot of Brandi Carlisle, Ruston Kelly. Ah amazing.

I really want to get ‘Dying Star’ on vinyl because I feel like I’ve exhausted it so much and yet I still haven’t found its full potential. I need it on in the dark on vinyl, so I need to get that at some point.

Yeah I feel that. I actually had to take a break from it, because I listened so much when it first came out and I didn’t want to get sick of these songs. I need to stop.

He is one of those for me that I can’t. I don’t know about you but I have this bank of artists that if I don’t know what to put on but I need to put music on but I don’t know what it is, Ron Sexsmith, Ruston Kelly are two artists I can go to straight away and put them on. Greenday randomly, like…. old stuff.

Oh cool. I feel that way about Ryan Adams and I am so sad that all of that s**t came out with him.

I know.

It makes me sad. His music is that for me and has been that for me for a decade. Anytime I want to listen to anything, I’m like yeah that’s the one. I hate when something like that is tainted for you because you almost feel guilty for even thinking about listening to it.

It’s a really strange one for me because for everything I love so many of my friends for years have been saying ‘ah look’ and every time it’s a different Ryan Adams album and I’ve tried everything and it just hasn’t clicked with me yet. The Taylor Swift thing was quite cool. Do you know who I liken him to and it’s not necessarily sound wise, but I liken him to Brian Fallon. Do you know who Brian Fallon is?

No.

He sings in a band called The Gaslight Anthem.

Oh, I’ve heard of them.

He is very sort of Springsteen which is where I think I make that sort of leveller but yeah it’s good to have it so you can put it on anytime, but that Ruston Kelly album…man I can’t wait for album three, its going to be amazing. He’s calling it album two I guess, but technically, it’s the third I suppose.

Pheobe Bridgers as well. I’m completely obsessed as of late.

She’s amazing.

At the moment I have two bands which is really quite weird because I can’t fly so I’ve abandoned London and I’ve abandoned Ireland, because when I tour here its just easier than flying people everywhere, but my guitarist in my band in Ireland is a massive Phoebe Bridgers fan and he introduced me and I was ‘I can’t stop now’. (Laughs)

She is so good. The debut album…has she done anything since that album or is it just the one album she has still got, or has she brought something new out recently? She’s done something?

What’s with the other thing with Conor Oberst, it’s got a really long quite pretentious name?

I don’t know, sounds about right though.

She has done quite a lot with him as well which I wouldn’t like as much as her solo stuff, but it’s still quite good.

Well, I was going to wrap this up on one final question but actually I’m not going to because that was such a fun chat and my last question was going to be what’s your biggest struggle and I like I don’t want to end it on a downer …(laughs)…as in with the lockdown and everything going on. I don’t even want to talk about struggles so I’m going to wipe that out. It’s just been great to catch up with you.

It’s been really great to catch up with you too Matt.

You looked like you were poised to say something then?

We could end with it with really funny struggle which is…my biggest struggle at the moment is trying not to drink a load of wine every night because I need to mark my evenings somehow. (Laughs).

I don’t struggle with that at all. I’m really good at that. I literally just had a case delivered this morning. Both laughing.

I’m well jealous, it’s so hard.

Nice one! Thanks Megan.

Thanks so much Matt.

Thanks for listening to this episode of No Chords But The Truth in association with @The British Country Music Festival. We would love it if you could subscribe to make sure you never miss an episode and an extra love if you would give us a lovely 5-star rating. You can even review the podcast and leave a comment with who you would like to see on. You can find me on social media @MattSpracklen. See you next time.

Credits

Host:
Matt Spracklen is a radio and television presenter as well as a reputable music blogger. Matt currently hosts his own show on Bauer Media’s Country Hits Radio and having studied music in Nashville, he is seen as one of the UK’s leading authorities on all things country and Americana. He is known for championing British artists and continues to provide a platform on his radio show not just for headliners, but also emerging talent. He was a judge on BBC One’s All Together Now, he is the main presenter for the main stage at The British Country Music Festival and is in demand as a host for corporate events and music awards shows. Matt is an avid blogger and social media guru and has a considerable social media following, ensuring he is on most PR companies VIP lists for key music industry events. @mattspracklen

Producer:
Sarah Bishop  is a well respected radio producer who has worked with names including Edith Bowman and Arielle Free. She is currently the producer of The Frank Skinner Show on Absolute Radio as well as The Times’ podcast Walking the Dog. Sarah also works closely with high profile talent on television programmes such as the award-winning sitcom Catastrophe and award shows including The BAFTAs, The Brit Awards and MTV’s Europe Music Awards. @sarahbishop92

Commissioned by:
The British Country Music Festival  We are delighted to bring you No Chords But The Truth and we would like to thank all the talented artists who will be contributing to the show.  When we first discussed the podcast with Matt and Sarah, it was clear that we all shared the same passion to provide a voice and platform for UK home grown country & Americana artists and songwriters.  Please follow, subscribe, review, comment, fill in those little stars and join our community. Thanks for listening. Martin & Marina @TBCMF  #NCBTT

Venue:
Bertie Blossoms, An intimate neighbourhood dining concept, owned by Ed Sheeran, nestled at the end of the bustling Portobello Road, London  @bertie_blossoms

Transcripts:
The Virtual Temp, Debbie is our go to resource for transcriptions, minutes and admin services.  www.thevirtualtemp.com

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