Though it’s been close to a decade since her last album, Jamie O’Neal — who releases “Eternal” on Tuesday — hasn’t exactly been idle. She’s had a few singles during that period, and has also lent her time and support to many younger female artists, such as Rachele Lynae. She tells Billboard that’s an aspect of her career that she thoroughly enjoys.
“I’ve had so many young female artists come up to me at fairs and festivals asking to sing for me or to show me their lyrics. A lot of times when you’re out there playing five shows a week, it’s hard to do that. But, as I slowed down a bit being a mother, it just made sense. My husband is an engineer. We have a recording studio, and we’re always playing music. It made sense to find those people with real talent, passion, and drive, and take them into the studio and help develop them. I get in there and produce, and really enjoy the whole process.”
What does O’Neal see in many of these young artists? “I see a lot of me when I first came to town – just that burning and aching desire to get up on stage. I also see sometimes where it’s more of the parents dream than it is the kids. I kind of back away from that. You’ve got to want it so much that it’s all you can think about.”
With the exception of Eternal’s first single, the playful “Wide Awake,” the set is a collection of songs that has inspired her – from the likes of Emmylou Harris (“Born To Run”), Juice Newton (“The Sweetest Thing”), and Connie Smith (“Just One Time”). She said these songs took her back to a different place.
“These songs had a lot to do with my childhood. My mom always sang ‘Help Me Make It Through The Night.’ I love that song. It reminds me of growing up around country music when we opened for people like the Gatlins or Ronnie Milsap,” she recalls, adding that she went to the Gatlin well on the album. “I had to do the Gatlins’ ‘I’ve Done Enough Dyin’ Today.’ It’s one of my favorite songs. When we worked with them, I was about ten years old. I had never even had a crush in my life. But, the song was so heart-wrenching, and their harmonies were so beautiful. That was one of my first choices. I think I based the album what I loved and listened to when I was a kid. I think it’s so important to keep the heritage alive in this technological world is so important. It’s so easy to get away from where we came from. It’s important for me to keep those songs alive.”
One track on “Eternal” that offers O’Neal a chance to show her explosive range is “Leavin’ On Your Mind,” a 1963 hit for Patsy Cline. “I love in that song how she says ‘if you’re going to break my heart, go ahead and get it over with. It was just real,’ she said. “I love Patsy Cline. I love those old movies like ‘Coal Miners’ Daughter’ and ‘Sweet Dreams.’ The education of watching those movies and seeing what they went through is amazing. They had it hard, and that heartbreak comes out in their stories. You believe them, because they’ve been there.”