We had the good fortune of connecting with Angela O’Neill and The Outrageous8 O’Neill and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Angela O’Neill and The Outrageous8, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking.
I often think about how risk plays into..creative endeavors. There is so MUCH risk involved..playing in a music market like Los Angeles The reason I came up with the name Angela O’Neill and the OUTRAGEOUS8…is a tip of the hat… to that time in music…when the level of musicianship was sooo high.. and the amount of music being made..with Frank Sinatra and Nancy Wilson and Peggy Lee and Nat King Cole…was stupendous. I’m told you could go out ANY day of the week, back in those days, to the Copa or any of the clubs around town…and see an incredible dance band playing. A lot of those acts..played from the forties…all the way through the early 60’s…and the songs were so well written, and the lyrics so emotional…I still find today, that the audiences that come see us…are really captured by the music of this era. I was really lucky, because I got the rare opportunity to sit in with some really famous and amazing Big Bands, some that have been AROUND since the 60’s. The music brought back memories of my Dad, a history teacher, correcting papers and listening to Buddy Rich and Stan Kenton and Ella. I really never considered the risks at hand, when I started talking to a few of the players…about starting a Little Big Band… I just knew I LOVED the music? And the people I talked to…they loved it too! As we started to develop as a group., our Trombone player, Harry Smallenburg…took risks with me…and started writing arrangements…that cannot be heard with any other band.. they were custom arranged for us. As we continued, each member of the band, has continued to take ENORMOUS risks to stay with it. Some couldn’t. 5 of the 8 members of the band are founding members…as well as our male vocalist, Al Timss…who has been with us since the very first reheasal. As I look back…I realize how it is a TINY market of people who still love Big Band Music and what an incredible risk it was to get a bunch of strangers together…and try and make a go of it…CRAZY:) But good luck, way more practice and sweat equity than anybody imagined , and talent..have guided us the entire way. Don’t misunderstood me…it has not all been carviar and roses… not like I’ve never made a mistake or sung a terrible note or messed a song up…there’s THAT kind of risk too…to get up in front of an audience…and sometimes do 3 sets of music.. (13 songs is a set..more or less)..and risk humiliation. But…the risk is worth it to me and to the 8? Because? The people who come to our shows….get SUCH pleasure..and we get the amazing opportunity to make music together…and that is worth all the risk in the world…to us..
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
As an artist…I began my education in music…when I picked up a kid sized guitar in 1st grade…and learned every folk song that you can play with 5 chords.. My sister Macella and I used to entertain both sides of the family playing our guitars and singing..throughout our childhood. In 3rd grade…I decided to join band class. I very strangely was attracted to the oboe..and played it all the way through college. I sang a little bit with some jazz groups in my teens..but I was a super duper times 10 BAND GEEK…and yes, went to band camp every summer…(tee hee)and tried my hand at every woodwind except clarinet and bassoon. I left high school on the GED and transferred to UCLAs theater arts program…and ended up in front of the camera, for a number of years….but keeping my hand in music by singing with a couple of not very famous..rock n roll bands:)…until I landed in Big Band. I think there are a couple of things that set me apart from others…I’m pretty happy and comfortable in front of an audience or in front of a camera..(I’m not perfect…I just don’t mind it) I’m relaxed and really have a good time. As a result, I’m told by people who come see us perform…that is one of the things that they like most about the band….is our very relaxed and improvisational demeanor..and of course, the kick ass band:) I am most proud? Of the one of a kind SOUND…that our band has. Harry and Rocky, (the two arrangers in the band, along with Dan West) create these spectacular arrangements..that are really difficult musically…but it is TRULY joyous to do them well. As a female band leader, I will not say that the path has been easy….but I am not a person who likes to concentrate on obstacles, or the past. The band members themselves? Sam, Harry, Rocky, Michael, Paul, Phil, Rich, Ron, Al and Jackie? Have supported me…through thick and thin. Have stood shoulder to shoulder with me…even when they sometimes disagreed with decisions I’ve made. As the Band leader, for the most part, I have taken the financial risks. That hasn’t been easy either. One of the things that has helped us enormously? Is that our drummer, Michael Rosen, is also a Mixer/Engineer/Producer, and has recorded and mixed the band on our Cd’s…throughout. Also, A founding member of the band, he has never wavered in his support. I have to say, I have overcome the challenges that I faced? ..thanks to the incredible support of family and friends and the band, themselves. The lessons I’ve learned along the way? I’ve been happy and surprised to learn…that just by working my ass off and concentrating on how much I love what we do with this band…we have been very busy! Some of the tougher lessons I’ve learned… I’ve been ignored or insulted by some people….who are very…connected in the music biz… I think to myself?….I’m just over here doing my thing. I’ve also learned some very painful lessons when people have left the band…those occasions have been heartbreaking for me. I felt totally guilty and responsible…and wish I could please everybody, all the time. I’ve learned, it’s actually not possible …That’s a big lesson to learn…and has made me appreciate even more, the members who have stuck with me……and makes our friendships ever deeper. I’d like the world to know…that live music is amazing. Our band has ZOOMED every week of Covid…because we really enjoy each other’s company. But we really miss rehearsing and performing together…and can’t wait to see you at one of our next LIVE in person performances:)…we have a mailing list on the website: angelamaeoneill.com. If you’d like to know where we are performing next? please sign up for mailing list…we do artist profiles of players in the band? And announcments of where and when the band is playing!
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I LOVE being a tourist in Los Angeles! The BEST…I have people visit quite a bit? And I never tire of showing them around. OKAY..I don’t know if I could put together a whole week here…but I’ll hit the highpoints. I love the beach…Venice Beach is an experience that an out of towner MUST HAVE. I actually worked for a long time as a waitress at Sidewalk Cafe’ in Venice…and have lived in that area a GOOD part of my life. The Mullholland drive. You cannot visit LA without driving Mullholland. The grand views of both side of the hill are mind blowing…and it you happen to catch a sunset and the see the sparkles at night…wow. I’m a girl of simple tastes…so I love to take friends to the Tallyrand Coffee shop in Burbank…I KNOW it’s not fancy…but it truly is a one of a kind experence…and not a chain …a family owned restaurant…in the movie capital of the world! I love hikingin Griffith Park…any of the trails…combine with the horses and jogger and drummers that you run into..? that is an amazing experience… Our band rehearses at the Music Union…and I have taken a couple of friends over to the union…when I’ve sung with various bands…and it is just MIND BLOWING…the amount of talent that walks in and out of that door…it is a truly one of a kind , experience. I work in Props…in film production , so I LOVe taking friends to Prop houses with me? It is a sight to behold…and of course my Prop truck is super fun to hang out on too:) Those are some of my top things to explore with friends…but I really base any plan with friends on what THEY are interested in about LA
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
.I would love to do a SHOUTOUT to Kathryn Hopkins, who does the Social Media and website and often sits in with us also.! She is the one who introduced us to Voyager LA…and we couldn’t be more grateful.. She is also from a musical background, her father was a drummer and band leader…so she has a great deal of knowledge and really promotes the band with heart…and deep belief . Also would love to SHOUT OUT to a couple of other people who really have encouraged and supported the band. Terry Cole, live sound mixer and lighting design…really supported the band..when we first began looking for gigs… he introduced us to Nichole at THE GARDENIA room…one of THE longest running Cabaret/Jazz Clubs in Los Angeles…we give a huge Shout OUT…to the Gardenia. A SHOUT OUT…to Ed Minnasian at THE MIXX on Colorado in Pasadena. He has supported the band, all the way…and we recorded our album..LIVE AT THE MIXX…there at the Mixx on Colorado. Also SHOUT OUT….Tiffany and the gang at THE MYRTLE TREE CAFE…in Monrovia. We love playing there…and there is always a packed HOUSE at that place…it is JOY to go there and perform. It’s a little nieghborhood Cafe’ in old town Monrovia..and we love how the audience gets down…to our music… .Our future SHOUT OUT.. is to Feinstein’s at Vitellos…where we will be playing September 13th…2020..if the gods look down upon us ..and the creek dont rise :). SHOUT OUT… also to our OUTRAGEOUS8 SAINTS.who prefer to remain nameless…but we love and adore having them with us…:
Kathryn Hopkins Craig Cochrane