Local Artist Spotlight: Karrie O’Neill carrying on lifelong passion for music

August 8, 2018

Karrie O’Neill is a testament to the places passion can take you. After living and performing in Spokane for many years, O’Neill has relocated to Maui, Hawaii, and is still playing music while enjoying the island life.

She has loved music her whole life, she said, and fondly remembers singing along to the radio even as a small child.

“I am constantly in awe of this journey of music,” O’Neill said. “Music is timeless; it’s a beautiful thing.”

She’s back on the mainland visiting home for the summer, so we caught up with her.

Q: How would you describe your sound for someone who has never seen you perform?

A: I kind of struggle answering that every time somebody asks me… When I play covers. I “Karrie-fy” them and I do them different. It’s my interpretation, how my ear is and the way I play guitar… I love playing everything. I play things as subtle and quiet as “Fade,” by Mazzy Star and then I’ll play things as blue-sy and soulful as B.B. King and then I’ll play some rock. My first CD was kind of eclectic, folky, maybe borderline poppy, whereas the second CD is very blues and soul.

Q: What styles of music/musical artists do you take inspiration from?

A: I would say the old school ’70s … The folky guitar-y Bob Dylan (sound). Those guys, that’s legit. There’s no altering of the voice, there’s no altering of the guitar. They sat down, and what they played, you heard. As far as females go, Phoebe Snow, Karen Carpenter were big ones. I love a lot of new stuff too, like Kendrick Lamar’s album is phenomenal.

Q: What are the biggest challenges and biggest rewards of playing music?

A: The biggest challenges would be, from a musical standpoint, it’s still a very male-dominated world, the music industry … It’s men who get consistent gigs … Asking to play at a location or trying to contact somebody, and they just completely blatantly ignore you and don’t even give you an opportunity or chance, those times are challenging too. I have not experienced that in Maui; Maui is phenomenal… They’re like “Yeah, come and play.” It’s been a wonderful experience, the ability to touch people with my music. I don’t care if I walk in a room and there’s two people and I play for two hours, that’s amazing. Or if I get to play in front of 1,400 people, that’s amazing, too.

Q: What are your favorite songs to perform or which songs appear to be crowd favorites?

A: I play Alanis Morissette. People are always asking for that. I play “Country Roads,” by John Denver, people always ask for that… I sing a lot of Jewel and Norah Jones. My voice is very flexible, so I can do a lot of different things. My favorite is blues and soul and that passion when you start singing and you start playing guitar and you’re just getting into the song and I can really belt it out … People have the standards they love, and people request my stuff, too, which is really super cool. Coming home, there’s songs like “Moonflower” that everybody loves, that’s off my first CD (and) people request (it) here a lot. It’s cool when people are like “Play your song,” I’m like: “What! My pleasure.”

Q: What advice do you have for any other Spokane locals who might be interested in pursuing music or starting a band?

A: I’d say number one, if you are coming from a genuine real place in your heart and soul and you’re not doing things to manipulate other people or manipulate the environment to benefit you, you will succeed in anything. Stay true to who you are. Stay true to what you believe in without trying to alter what your belief is just because you think somebody else wants you to be a certain way. We all kind of get caught up in that a little bit… Believe in what you’re doing.

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