Since the release of her debut album in 2000, Jamie O’Neal has been impacting country music with her soulful voice and the immense amount of passion behind every word she sings. O’Neal became a household name with her single, “There Is No Arizona,” which set her path to stardom on fire with multiple No. 1 hits and many career accolades to follow, including four Grammy nominations. As she enters into another year in her illustrious career, O’Neal finds herself venturing into new territory as she launches her new independent record label, Momentum Label Group. While O’Neal will serve as the label head, she will also produce music for some of the label’s roster. She has a strong team surrounding her, including her father – veteran music industry great Jimmy Murphy, who has been hands on with his daughter from age eight when she began singing with her family.
“My dad has been talking to me about starting our own label because there’s so much undiscovered talent out there, and the major labels in town are getting smaller and smaller,” notes O’Neal. “Today, there are more advantages to what a small independent label can do for the artist, like allowing them to have more creative input and to retain ownership of their recordings, unlike the majors, where you just sign everything over. This is a real partnership for us. We’re all involved as a team.”
While she humbly says she is learning as she goes, O’Neal leans on her own career and businesswoman expertise to guide her along in this new chapter. “Things have changed so much since I moved back to Nashville in ’96 and got my record deal,” says the singer-songwriter who has called Music City her home since she was a child. “It’s so easy now to discover new music and new artists on the web. That’s exciting because you can build a real fan base and connect with your fans so much easier now, not just based on whether radio plays you or not.”
The label’s flagship artist, Rachele Lynae, will release her debut single this spring, with O’Neal serving as producer on all the new tunes. O’Neal has plans to expand her roster at Momentum Label Group in the future and also has intentions of releasing new music of her own in the coming months.
“It’s inspiring to see other artists like Usher and Toby Keith who are very much involved with playing music and writing their own songs and recording, but they’re also working with other artists to further their careers and dreams,” says O’Neal, who literally grew up with a microphone in her hand, singing in her family’s band.
“From a young age, I had a bird’s eye view as entertainers like Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson and Crystal Gayle performed,” she says. “I watched from the side of the stage at the way they connected with a crowd, and that’s what made me want to be a performer.”
Soon after she realized her heart would forever be in music, the young girl from Sydney, Australia, stumbled into the world of songwriting, which only made her thirsty for more. “I kept writing the songs I wanted to write about – who I was, and what I wanted to talk about,” O’Neal explains, who has had her songs cut by LeAnn Rimes, Martina McBride, Reba, CeCe Winans, Lari White and Kristy Lee Cook. “Performing was so exciting for me, but ultimately I knew as an artist that if I didn’t write and record my own music, I would regret it, and I didn’t want to have any regrets.”
And Nashville certainly had no regrets when O’Neal came to town with her powerhouse vocals and unique flare for the craft of songwriting, which opened many doors and created countless contacts. After crossing paths with Keith Stegall (Alan Jackson, Clay Walker), the famed producer helped the young rising star land her first record deal with Mercury Nashville. O’Neal released her critically acclaimed debut album titled Shiver in 2000, that spawned her hits “There Is No Arizona” (No. 1), “When I Think About Angels” (No. 1), and “Shiver” (No. 18). She released her sophomore album in 2005 with Capitol Nashville and scored more hits on country radio with “Trying to Find Atlantis” (No. 15), and her anthem for mothers everywhere, “Somebody’s Hero,” that went all the way to No. 3 on the charts.
O’Neal went on to earn the title of the ACM’s Top New Female Vocalist award and was named the Top New Country Artist by Billboard. Two of her four Grammy nominations came as a songwriter, for Best Country Song for “There Is No Arizona” and its chart-topping follow-up, “When I Think About Angels.”
She has toured with Reba McEntire, Kenny Chesney, Martina McBride, Alan Jackson and Toby Keith, and has landed songs on the soundtracks of Bridget Jones’ Diary and When We Were Soldiers, as well as on the ABC smash Desperate Housewives.
It is a measure of the respect she has earned that after Celine Dion was unable to sing “All By Myself” for Bridget Jones, the producers searched country music for its most powerful vocalist and chose O’Neal. When Carrie Underwood won American Idol, a search for a top-flight duet partner led once again to O’Neal.
O’Neal has appeared on numerous national television programs, including multiple appearances on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Late Show with David Letterman, Entertainment Tonight, Access Hollywood and many others.
With the beginnings of this new chapter in her career, O’Neal looks forward to continuing to make an impact on the world of country music through many musical facets.
“I love touring and playing my shows where I get to reach the fans,” says O’Neal. “Being on stage is one of my main passions with what I do in my career. With the new label, I know there may be challenges ahead, but I think anything worth having requires hard work. Nothing in life comes easy. It does take a long time, and we’re just getting started to build ‘momentum.’”