Meet Sean O'Neill, the Perth musician pushing the boundaries of folk with I’m Here

Meet Sean O'Neill, the Perth musician pushing the boundaries of folk with I’m Here

Moulding contemporary folk with electronica, the musician finds the middle point between acts like Sufjan Stevens and Godspeed You! Black Emperor.

Words by Dave Gardiner. 

Perth-based songwriter Sean O’Neill has shared his new single I’m Here - which kind of sells it short in my opinion, as it less of a ‘song with a video clip’ and more of an immersive, multi-layered experience that celebrates the magical scenery of his home state.

Using a mix outback footage captured by filmmaker Todd Delfs, the visuals in I’m Here serve as a love letter to Western Australia, presenting a landscape seldom seen by most that coalesces seamlessly with Sean’s hauntingly beautiful songwriting. The sparse melody mirrors the wide open spaces that his footage celebrates, elevating this track to an experience that’s worth rewatching - especially during a time where getting out and seeing the world around us feels so foreign.

Sean O’Neill has been honing his experimental folk over the last few years, with his most recent works garnering attention as he leans into his influences to create songs that use elements from native bird sounds, chimes, strings & whatever piques his musical curiosity. The result on I’m Here almost sounds like a combination of Sufjan Stevens and Godspeed You! Black Emperor with flourishes of Australiana lovingly peppered throughout.

Every now and then I need a reminder, just like this one from Sean O’ Neill, that I do in fact enjoy folk music - because when it’s executed this well, it evokes something within me that lies dormant when I listen to my other favourite genres. Take in I’m Here below before getting to know a little more about Sean O’Neill while you're at it:

Tell us about yourself?

I’ve been making music for quite some time and decided to start releasing again. Focus changed from doing shows to just putting my head down and working of writing and recording. 

Over the past three or so years I’ve also been working on a documentary with a few local friends. We hope to be putting something out in the next year or so. 

What’s the ‘vibe’ music-wise?

Genres don’t make too much sense to me these days and I find it quite tricky to pin down my sound as my influences are quite varied. I’m heavily inspired by musicians who continuously re-invent their sound like Sufjan Stevens and Bon Iver. But to go deeper, I’ve been studying the sacred music composers for a while such as Arvo Part and John Tavener as well as ambient heavy weights like Brian Eno and William Basinski.  

Although some of my music may sound complicated with a lot going on, at the heart of it all it’s quite minimalist.  

What are your production and writing processes usually like?

The way I write music hasn’t changed too much over the years. I usually start on the guitar or piano and build around that. 

Years back I would work on my songs at home and then take them to a studio to record but that model is definitely not financially sustainable anymore for most musicians. So I have a home studio set up where I write, record, produce and do reference mixes of all my tunes. Then usually send off to get a better mix done by a sound engineer who knows a lot more than I do about mixing.  But recording in some world class studios over the years has allowed me to learn some very useful productions techniques from great producers, writers and engineers.  

Can you tell us about your new single, I’m Here?

It was finished over a year ago. And even then, it was slowly worked on over a long period of time. The beauty of having a nice set up at home is that you don’t need to rush the recording and production process. Over time I thought up new ideas that could be added to the piece and was able to go back to it and (hopefully) improve it. There’s over 100 separate recorded tracks on it with a huge range of instruments such as organ, synths, trumpet, trombone, cello, flute, guitar, loads of percussion, clarinet and more.  

Some great local musicians helped out on it including; Phil Stroud, Tristen Parr, Callum G’Froerer, Jeremy Trezona, Matthew Hatch and James Cross.  

What does 2020 have in store for you?

Mainly just focused on pumping out as much new music as possible. 

What do you want people to take away from the project?

Hopefully listeners will find something new there that they aren’t hearing in their current playlists. 

Where can we find more of your music?

Some old stuff is available on YouTube and Soundcloud with an album available to buy on Bandcamp called Visions. New music will be available on all the streaming platforms this year and from here on out. 

Follow Sean O'Neill: FACEBOOK

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