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Marykate O'Neil

A Conversation with Marykate O'Neil

Marykate O'Neil: Hey, Frank. It's Marykate. How are you?

Puremusic: Marykate, wow. It's been such a long time.

MKO: I know.

PM: Life is curious, isn't it?

MKO: Definitely.

PM: It was some few years ago now that we used to bump into each other in Nashville and see each other around. I didn't even know in those early days that you were an artist.

MKO: Yeah. I was usually in town working with Brad [Jones] and Robin [Eaton, the two founders of Alex the Great Studios] at that point.

PM: Really?

MKO: One time I was mastering a record at Jim DeMain's [Yes Master]. I think we ran into you at a coffee shop. Yeah. And then I saw you play at that place, the Basement.

PM: Oh, yeah, that was a cool night, I remember.

MKO: It was awesome. That was an awesome show when Swan Dive played with you guys.

PM: That was really fun.

So what kind of a home did you grow up in, and when did music take a hold of you in the indelible way that it has?

MKO: Well, I grew up with a single parent. My father passed away early, when I was probably in like the 4th grade.

PM: Oh, my. How traumatic. What did he die from?

MKO: Cancer.

PM: Before they knew enough about it.

MKO: Yeah, back then it was new. It was a bit newer, I think. And my mom was kind of like a beatnik character.

PM: Oh, to have had a beatnik mom is so great. I had one, too.


MKO: And she wasn't a musician, but she was into music.

PM: She was a Bohemian, yeah.

MKO: Yes. I was always just brought along. I went to all kinds of shows with her all the time.

PM: Was she more of a folkie or more of a jazzer?

MKO: I guess more of a folkie I would say, though I do remember being brought to Rhode Island, to Newport Jazz Fest.

PM: Holy shit! She brought you to Newport?

MKO: Yeah.

PM: Oh, my God, I would have killed to have gone there.

MKO: So I was just like always in tow. I remember going over to her friend's house, I guess it was probably a boyfriend at the time, where he had like hundreds and hundreds of records. And they would just sit around and listen to records.

PM: Remember that? When we'd sit around and listen to records? Wow...

MKO: And I was just a kid, and I would just sit and look at the cover art--so these [laughs] are like my childhood memories.

PM: Wow. I mean, that was great when we used to hang around and listen to records.

MKO: That was what you did for the afternoon, you'd go over to someone house and listen to records together.

PM: Exactly the same thing, except now they play video games.

MKO: Yeah, I guess, right?

PM: It's really sickening.

MKO: Yeah.

PM: Wow.

mkULTRA ep

So it's only really recently that I've become aware of how incredibly cool your music is.

MKO: Oh, thank you.

PM: And I've been really enjoying mkULTRA, I guess the last and still most recent disc. I know there's one on the horizon. But mkULTRA is just a fantastic disc.

MKO: Oh, awesome. Thank you.

PM: Mine came from iTunes, so I lack formal credits. But I could see from your site that some of certainly my favorite people are on that record.

MKO: Yeah. I think you know a lot of people on my record.

PM: I mean, as soon as I heard the guitar on "Map," I said, well, that's got to be Jill [Sobule] playing that guitar--

MKO: It is.

PM: --because her right hand to me is unmistakable.

MKO: Yep.

PM: I hear her strumming--I mean, there are a lot of--and certainly in Nashville a lot of very precise strummers. But there's a very limited amount of people who do sexy strumming.

MKO: Yeah.

PM: And Jill is a very sexy strummer.

MKO: Yeah, I know. That's total Jill, that rhythm.

PM: Jing jing, jukka jekka jekka jing-a-jekka-jekka-jing-jing, jekka-jekka--

MKO: You're right, on that guitar. And that's Mickey Grimm on drums during "Map"--only he's like--there's one point where he's just making noises with his mouth. That was like the main--

PM: I love when he does that.

MKO: That was the main percussion on that song.

PM: Oh, I should have recognized that; I'd forgotten Mickey does that so well.

MKO: Isn't that cool?

PM: I was in a dramatic thing with him once. I wrote some guitar stuff, but he was doing strictly mouth percussion, and it was fabulous.

MKO: Yeah, it was so cool where like this'll be the whole track. We looped it. It was just the coolest thing.

PM: I love how quickly and how easily Mickey Grimm comes right off the chain.

MKO: Yeah.

PM: He's not really that aware of the chain. [laughs]

MKO: He does a great Johnny Mathis. I'm serious. He's really good at it.


PM: Wow. Now, did the basics get cut at Alex?

MKO: The basics got cut with Roger Moutenot, at his place. Studio 491 or something like that.

PM: I've met him a couple of times. He seems like a fascinating character, but I don't really know him.

MKO: Yeah. It was really fun.

PM: What's Moutenot like to work with?

MKO: He's great. Roger is a very even-keeled guy. And of course, Jill and I and then Mickey, we're all manic and jumping around.

PM: Of course.


MKO: So then it became our challenge, of course, to get Roger to jump around with us, and of course he joined right in. So sometimes that's even more fun.

PM: Is he cutting to tape or is he cutting to Protools, or what's he do down there?

MKO: I just did it to Protools because I'm a poor artist. Everyone would love to go to tape, but there's something about Protools that--

PM: Tape has gotten way too iffy, how long it’s going to be around and all that stuff. You've got to cut digitally.

MKO: That's actually true. That's a good point.

PM: We don't know.

MKO: Yeah. But we also use like all sorts vintage equipment.

PM: Oh, of course. Everybody busts out all their oldest stuff. And it's in the tunes, the old spirit is in all those tunes. It's Hags on the bass, is that right?

MKO: Yeah, Hags is on the bass.

PM: He's hard to beat, and what a guy. [James "Hags" Haggerty]

MKO: Yeah, he's really, really fun.  



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