Thursday, February 16, 2017

Jamie O’Neal: Sound ✓ Arizona Tennessee




by K.W. Poole 2/2017 for WMMW    http://www.4womenofmusic.com




Jamie O’Neal has achieved iconic country - not only as an artist but as a mentor for women in the industry.  Based on her own fortunate history of learning from some of the best she is paying it forward in spades and with style.  To kick off CRS she held a showcase with Sound Check introducing us to the her latest project: New from Nashville Tour.   A beautifully weighty line up of new female artists for whom she is the proud mentor.


Jamie was one of the lucky ones and now she is creating opportunity for others. Her talent and willingness to learn, along with gracious perseverance brought her performance to heights many dream of; helping other women to reach for those dreams is her latest endeavor.


What is the New From Nashville Tour?  It is all women of music.  It is in short and long what the organization WMMW stands for; a natural and serendipitous fit for the Women in Music Wednesday Spotlight. Basing the approach on her expertise, experience and some sound advise, Ms. O’Neal is the champion of budding female country artists.  It is an educational and career boosting version of an un-televised and un-sensationalized live-stage version of The Voice. With all the coaching and promoting - without the voting and gloating - it is truly inspiring.  Guiding new artists to reach for humble-filled heights is the basis of this project.  Find the talent, teach the talent, share the talent.  What a gift.

The Showcase at Sound ✓’s studio D featured four new female artists whom she has been coaching and collaborating with for the past couple of years. Each of these young women posses the talent, ability and presence to make a mark on the Nashville and global scene.  This was immediately evident in the individual performances and the collaborative finale.
The event kicked off with a video intro and in true O’Neal style a live performance.
The video shared the ideals behind the project, in which Jamie expressed her gratitude for the opportunities she had when first arriving in Nashville; chances to talk to and take stage with “a lot of empowering female artists” helping her “to feel comfortable in the world of Nashville.”  Performance opportunities with the likes of icons including Reba McEntire and Martina McBride. 

Throughout the showcase video clips reminded the audience of the focus; a concept in hopes each of the girls will feel supported and confident while becoming expertly crafted professionals.  In turn, Jamie’s goal is to spread the career wealth by not only introducing the world this talent but additionally to  - "Help them command the stage and feel comfortable in front of the audience. “  She adds: “It is the best feeling world!”

The opening song brought us all back, as she took the stage boldly bearing chunky black glasses, decked out in velvet and leather; Jamie demonstrated all she teaches.  ”There is No Arizona" may be a classic, but Jamie still has it, the performance is ever timeless.  Spot on.  Her voice is full of elegant power and soulful softness.
As she introduced the artists, Jamie referred to herself as the ”Mother Hen…nervous and excited for them.”  The pride was both evident and warranted.



First up, the fourteen year old, Meghan Woods (http://meghanwoodsmusic.com/index.html.)  That’s right 14.  This tiny blonde opened muscling through a mic dysfunction with more adept performance than recent veterans of noted awards shows.  Though we could not hear her at first, the audience was mesmerized by her rock star stage presence. She never skipped a beat.  She commanded the stage so that when - in procuring O’Neal’s mic in an expert wing pass-off - the sound came up, we never felt like we missed a word.  This project is obviously working for her.

And then Her song: Let it Rain, poured over us.  Meghan’s strength is apparent in softer surprisingly gritty vocals which are youthfully beautiful.   “Let it rain ’til the sun comes out…
Wood’s introduction to her second song: (Perfectly Imperfect) spoke to the plight of women of all ages; words beyond her own experience of years.  ”So many people define themselves by the one mistake they make in life and that is not what defines you...I Promise you...it's how you get past that mistake that defines who you are.”
The lyrics create a positive spin on the challenges of the human plight: ”You're everything god made you to be. Perfectly imperfect, like me.””
Number two in the line-up Brittany Ray (http://brittanyraymusic.com) was the strongest and most compelling performer of the night.  She is a self-professed product of living room family singing.

“I grew up on natural, female, country powerhouse vocalists...karaoke in the living room...always knew I wanted to be a singer."
She starts her set at the keyboards with a song that speaks to the repetition of relationship history.  “I Should Quit you” the words are full of double entendre in her
sultry and soft delivery.  A bit Martina McBride, a little Tara Nevins but all her.  Through her lyrics the listener is pulled into the timeless story of love - even when we know it is not right we repeat…

She cranks it up with the stellar Read My Hips.  This single has it all.  A Gretchen Wilson, tongue in cheek approach to brilliance, delivered with class and humor.  Brittany moved out from behind keyboard seamlessly to rock the stage.  This song took the night to a new height.  “Read my hips as I'm walkin' away, Hope I look good leavin’ ‘cause I ain’t gonna stay.”  Ms. Ray - It goes like this - don't walk off the stage, keep singing.

Next up, Kaylee Rutland, had a hard act to follow.  Jamie described her as “Positively hard to rattle.”
Her intro was simply based on the experience: “I learned about song writing [in Nashville] and about voice and the dream to be that person.”  She adds she cannot believe Jamie O’Neal is her mentor - “Me? That’s someone else’s mentor.”
Her opener: “Pick Me Up.” is a crowd sing-a-long song.  A bit girl-meets-bro-Country
It speaks to her own positivity and is delivered with crowd inclusion enthusiasm.  She like Meghan was a bit hard to hear.  Vocals a little muddy, due to the sound.  Unfortunate for the showcase.

Her second single tells the story of a relationship transformation; from friends to couple.  The lyrics: "Can't think can't sleep I’m layin' here wishin' I was back there in your arms...I Could Use A Little More of That” speak to audiences of all ages.  That hook and the intro of the song is catchy but as it picked up, again the vocals were lost.  Future development of her stage personality and strengthening of her voice will ensure this performer’s place in Country music; in the moment she would have benefited from better balance between band and vocal sound.

The one issue with this showcase - a showcase with the sole purpose of highlighting female vocalists - was with sound.  Sound can be tricky in these types of spaces, which are great for rehearsal, less for performance.  It is up to the sound technician to ensure that - what should be heard - is.  All too often the balance is placed on the band and not the vocalist.  This was the case last night.  Love that jam sound, guitar heavy, when it is appropriate - but highlight what you are hired for - the girl’s vocals cannot be muddy or secondary when they are the purpose.  Two of the artists were able to power above these issues; two were not - their voices became strained and flat at times - through no fault of their own.

The final artist Rachele Lynae brings pint-sized Alaskan power to the event. She joked as positioning a mic stand twice her height: ”Well this mics a little taller than me.”  A clear and present presence on stage.  Produced and expertly represented by Jamie O’Neal, Rachele is what this night is all about.


Mid performance, she shared: “[It was] so exciting to move to Nashville - but then you get here and there's crazy amounts of talent…”   Talent she represents.  Her credo: ”We have so much to learn as artists or as women!"
Starting off with live video theatrics, sitting on couch with the guitar player, matching lyrics pulled the crowd in as she commanded that couch and the performance.  A Pat Benatar meets Belinda Carlisle, delivering a driving beat of soulful Country-Rock, belting out about “Breakin’ the chains.”

She describes music as "a lot cheaper than therapy.”  Leading into the song about “the love of her life” and drummer of the night, her husband, Tim, she tells a story; she tried to thwart off his advances, but he persisted  until she found herself running out of “Reasons To Run.”

An additional highlight of the night was the stellar Ellen Angelico, (mandolin, keyboards, back-up vocals); would love to see her in the spotlight on the next showcase.  She had the back of every performer on stage.  Though she claims to be a “utility player”  she should be a front liner.


In closing, Jamie O’Neal eloquently delivered the advice she professes to live by: ”Stay calm and always stay centered.  Stay humble and kind.”  The lead in for the first number of the finale, a beautiful rendition of the song entitled by that sentiment.  Each performer taking a brief solo spotlight as well as expertly supportive harmonic collaboration, demonstrated their incredible talents in this moment, all equal in their own right.

The top off, as Jamie called out: "Let's leave ‘em with a party song!” The women picked it up one more time and left the audience wanting more and knowing there will be.

In the words of her signature song Jamie may have been promised a better life out in Arizona.  Though there may not be an Arizona, there is a new and better scene in Nashville for this talent. That is what she is giving these artists. Let it rain til the sun comes out, because apparently there is an Arizona in Nashville Tennessee.

WMMW Mission Statement: Women of Music, Music of Women (WMMW) is a Nashville based International Promotional & Networking Alliance for female Music Industry Independent Artists and Professionals. WMMW offers educational seminars/retreats/conferences, showcasing, guest and 
industry speakers, promotional opportunities and more. WMMW embraces and welcomes all genres of music, seeking diversity in participation. The objective is to provide a networking environment of inclusion, education and cooperation between our members for the benefit of the group and all individuals involved. Form and cultivate long term relationships between industry professionals by facilitating communication among members and with other organizations.  WMMW seeks to encourage member participation and to promote continuing education in the arts. In an effort to empower female artists, we provide the opportunity to network  with other music professionals around the globe through all mediums.

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