2016 Nash Next Challenge winner Todd O’Neill is making his debut to country radio with the release of brand new single, “Love Again.” The new track was written by Brett Young, Jesse Frasure and Carey Barlowe, and produced by Rascal Flatts’ member Jay DeMarcus.
“Love Again” serves as a solid introduction to the country newcomer who won the Nash Next Challenge competition last fall, resulting in a record deal with Nash Next Records, an imprint of Big Machine Records, as well as national radio airplay.
Hailing from Hammond, Louisiana, O’Neill is no stranger to the country music scene. The artist has been touring around his region for over a decade, and in 2016 alone performed over 150 shows.
During a conversation with O’Neill, the artist revealed that he immediately fell in love with “Love Again,” however, he almost wasn’t able to release it. Thanks to Big Machine Label Group’s Brett Young, the artist on the rise has released his debut single to country radio today.
“We had to kinda fight to get this single” O’Neill revealed. “We took on a couple of meetings with Jay DeMarcus from Rascal Flatts and the crew over at Big Machine, and was taking in all the great songwriters and the great tunes that the publishing companies here in Nashville had to offer. We heard “Love Again” and I instantly fell in love with it because it’s this upbeat, positive, really fun song that also has the soul side of country, which I love. I fell in love with it and it went into my Top 5 immediately.”
“Big Machine asked me to submit my Top 5” Todd continues. “It went up the chain of command from there to the man himself Mr. Scott Borchetta, and he picked out the one that I wanted, “Love Again.” Fast-forward a few days, we get another email from Big Machine saying that unfortunately we couldn’t cut the song, that Brett Young, who wrote the song [with Jesse Frasure and Carey Barlowe], put it on hold for his next project. We were disappointed to say the least.”
“Fast-forward another two weeks, I was playing at a gig in NYC at a place called Printer’s Alley on a Wednesday night, and we were supposed to fly out Thursday. Well, we get snowed in and we can’t fly out until Friday. My manager called me from the next room over and said ‘Todd, guess who’s playing at Printer’s Alley tonight?” and I said “who” and she said “Brett Young, you should go talk to him” and I said that I can’t go ask him for the song, he don’t know me from Adam. Long story short, she talked me in to it. We went to Printer’s Alley that night and heard Brett. I waited for everything to calm down after the show and I went up and introduced myself. I said “hey man, my name is Todd O’Neil” and I told him about Nash Next and I told him about Jay DeMarcus producing. I tried to cake it on pretty thick. I told him “we’re looking for a single and really love your song “Love Again,” and he said “man, you should cut that song.” I said “I’d really like to but I can’t, you have it on hold.” He said “no, if you are ready to cut, I want you to have this song. It sounds like an excellent opportunity for you and if you want that song and that’s going to be your single, I want you to have it.”
“We got back to Nashville and I told Laurel at Big Machine what happened and that I talked to Brett, and that Brett said I could have the song. She said let me make sure he wasn’t just being a nice guy. She contacted Brett and Brett sent back, “yeah absolutely, let Todd have the song. Let him cut it.” Four days after that we’re at The Grip studio here in Nashville cutting a Brett Young song, “Love Again,” with Jay DeMarcus at his studio.”
Right out of the gate the country newcomer got to work with country superstar Jay DeMarcus of Rascal Flatts. O’Neill has been a fan of the country super group since “Praying for Daylight,” so the chance to get to work with band member DeMarcus is a pretty big milestone in the newcomer’s career. “I’m going to tell you, Jay is probably my new favorite person in life. He’s my new hero” Todd shared. “He’s just the coolest guy, probably the most hilarious human being I’ve ever encountered. I say all the time that he missed his calling as a comedian. As much of a character as he is, and funny, goofy and outgoing, he is also that professional as well. To take an already great song that was written by Brett Young, Carey [Barlowe] and Jesse [Frasure], and take that great song and produce it and coach me to put my own twist to it and make it even better, I think we are on to something really special here and we’ve got a great tune on our hands.”
The past few months have been non-stop for Todd O’Neill. From competing in the Nash Next Challenge contest, winning the contest, signing a record deal and releasing a single, it’s been a bit of a whirlwind over the last six months or so for the artist, but he says, “I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
Entering a competition such as Nash Next Challenge wasn’t on Todd’s radar. In fact, he shared with us that the only reason he entered was because he received three separate emails from people telling him about the contest. “The whole reason I got into this competition was I took it as a sign from the good Lord above. I got three emails from three different people emailing me the contest information and I took it as a sign as something I should do. I’m so glad I did.”
The spring and summer seasons will find O’Neill with a full schedule and he’s excited to showcase his music to fans. “I’m really looking forward to hitting the road, and the transition from regional artist down in Louisiana that occasionally plays in Nashville, to branching out and becoming a national act and getting some real touring dates under my belt, traveling the country and seeing new places and new faces. That’s what I’m most eager to do.” Fans can expect an energetic performance from the rising star, full of emotion. “We’re going to make you sing and laugh, and maybe even make you cry” Todd says. “I think coming to one of my shows your going to leave saying, you know what, that guy left it all on the stage, he gave it 110%. That’s what I want people to walk away thinking.”