We had the good fortune of connecting with Nikki O’Neill and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Nikki, how do you think about risk?
Risks have lead me to rewards I never could’ve imagined. I took the risk to move from Sweden to New York City in my late 20’s. It was an excavation of myself, digging through the rubble of my childhood and 20’s… discarding what wasn’t real. I found out who I am: what my beliefs and values are, what my talents are, and what I wanted to do with my life. It also sharpened my intuition.
I took the chance to complete my bachelor’s degree and study music at The New School. I was broke, but took the chance to fly out to Seattle to attend a music conference, and met the co-workers of my future husband. A few months later, they invited me to a music trade show in LA. I scrambled together money for a plane ticket, went… and met my future husband. After six months, I bought a one-way ticket and moved in with him. We have been together for 14 years, and just celebrated our eleventh anniversary.
Every album I’ve recorded has involved financial risk, but it has also attracted great musicians to work with; great connections and collaborators, and opportunities for my art to evolve. I took a little risk to sign up for an artist workshop a few years ago… and met my lyric-writing partner. So risk has played a very significant part of my life!
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I’m an Americana singer, guitar player and songwriter, who’s deeply in love with soul music. I play lead guitar as well as rhythm guitar, and I’m inspired by guitarists like Pops Staples (The Staple Singers), Teenie Hodges (Al Green), and Prince.
My new album, “World is Waiting,” is coming out early this fall. It’s a bit like a tapestry of rhythm & blues, gospel, americana, and blues, woven together by myself, my lyric writing partner Paul Menser, my five-piece band, and a number of great guest artists. It’s produced by me and Joshua “Cartier” Cutsinger, mixed by Ethan Allen (Mavis Staples, Ben Harper,) and mastered by Gavin Lurssen (Robert Plant & Alison Krauss.)
I also love to teach, and have a teaching channel on TrueFire.com called “Twang, Soul & Rock ‘n’ Roll.” It’s for intermediate and beginning guitarists who are into soul, rhythm & blues, and Americana.
I had an earlier opportunity to tell Voyage LA about my life in music, growing up in a tri-lingual household with my mom and grandmother in Stockholm, Sweden: http://voyagela.com/
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
For the last couple of years, my husband and I have been doing this great cultural and culinary exploration that we call “Around the World in LA.” We are exploring all the countries of the world in alphabetical order right here in LA, (and write a post and share photos on my Facebook page.) We’ve been to Little Armenia and Little Cambodia; checked out a capoeira training for kids at a Brazilian cultural center; seen the biggest Chinese supermarket of our lives; sampled pastries at a Greek festival and a Danish bakery; visited African drum shops, and dined at the best French restaurant in town. So we would invite our friends to join us!
We’d also take them hiking in the mountains, ride bikes along the beach path, and show them Joshua Tree National Park.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
-Rich Lackowski, my husband
-Lindsay Kroupa, Alan Gottesman, and Lisa Swarbrick. My three close friends in New York. They played a very important part at my wedding.
-Alfred Music Publishing, who released my book, “Women’s Road to Rock Guitar,” and their CEO, Ron Manus.
–TrueFire.com, the host of my guitar lesson channel, “Twang, Soul & Rock ‘n’ Roll,” which is a great guitar education resource.
-Guitar Girl Magazine, who do a great work of covering, inspiring and educating female musicians of all genres and philosophies.
-Joshua “Cartier” Cutsinger, a fantastic recording engineer and owner of Hayloft Studios in LA.
-Chris Moseman, who’s helped me with my album artwork many times, and who’s the frontman of a great indie rock/post-rockband, Freefall Rescue.
-Dapo Torimiro, multi-platinum producer/songwriter, who helped me record and arrange my first demo in LA.
– My lyric writing partner, Paul Menser
– Rob Fresco, Joshua Pessar, Doug Organ, Jon Gold, Halina Janusz and Lisa Malsberger, who played many shows with me and who play/sing on my new album, “World is Waiting.”
-Manda Mosher, award-winning singer-songwriter. We’ve done several shows together; she’s connected me with many inspiring artists and collaborators, and is a really kind and wonderful human being.
-Deb Morrison-Littell, who hosts the Americana showcases by Prickly Pear Presents; is a great photographer, and a very talented singer and bassist with Morrison & Company. She’s another kind, genuine, and wonderful gem.
-Sue Foley, internationally known blues guitarist/singer, who’s always been encouraging, given great advice, and she shocked me by interviewing me for Guitar Player Magazine in their Nov, 2019 issue.
-Jennifer Batten, guitarist (Michael Jackson, Jeff Beck), who’s also been really cool and encouraging.
Other: My guitar lesson channel on TrueFire: https://truefire.com/channels/twang-soul–rock-n-roll/h2513
Deb Morrison-Littell, Chris Moseman, Rich Lackowski