Brian Hugh O'Neill
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Brian Hugh O'Neill

New York City, New York, United States | SELF

New York City, New York, United States | SELF
Band Pop




"Featured Artist"

Van Morrison and the Beatles are two of his influences and you can certainly hear their pop sensibilities in this singer-songwriter's wonderful work. His smooth tenor, like a young Billy Joel, is great for his slice-of-life stories. He's also a playright; indeed, his lyrics read like a good scene in a play.

"Goodnight America" features an acoustic guitar and drums, but also a charming accordion, giving it a rootsy feel. "Free World" starts with just an electric guitar and his voice; later on other instruments join in, effectively building the emotion. The stand out cut by far is "Rise - September 12th, 2001." O'Neill is a New York City resident, making it even more poignant. It starts with a mournful keyboard and faint sirens, like a requieum. It's joined by acoustic guitar and more with lyrics that talk of ashes, smoke and the din of angry voices. He doesn't leave you there, though, and brings up the energy with the hopeful mantra of "Rise, you will rise." Beautiful and inspiring. - Jamie Anderson

"Unsigned Treasures"

Unsigned Treasures: Brian Hugh O'Neill - Free World (2010)

Posted: 2011-01-24
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This syndicated blog entry appears courtesy of Something Else!.
Copyright © 2011. All rights reserved.

By Nick DeRiso

New York City-based Brian Hugh O'Neill can't get away from hard truths on Free World. “The light's not very kind in this place," O'Neill sings in the anthematic “Careful What You Want." “There's a shadow moving over your face." That shadow is moving, really, over the whole record, as O'Neill's characters toss and turn through a very long night.

There are repeated themes: Girls leave, or else they are run off. Life deals us a bad hand, or else cheats a few extra cards up its sleeve. Free World doesn't seek to solve these very adult realizations, so much as illustrate how we might sort through them along the way.

O'Neill does that with a writerly specificity that resonates long after the songs are over: “Through the rain, the vineyards, and the flashing yellow lights, the only sound was the tapping of the wipers on the windshield," he recalls, during a slow drive after the end of a tumultuous relationship. “Moving on is easier said than done."

“Veteran's Day" explores a mannered, soldier's rhythm, like stark poetry, as O'Neill's sad and bereft character searches for a faraway girl. Guest guitarist Thor Fields' solo, angular and all edge, arrives like an angry internal rebuke, but even that can't break the spell for this lonesome traveler: “It's November again," O'Neill sings, “and I'm counting the days, the names and the faces that have faded away."

He tries with an unrepentant, almost violent insistence to convince himself of his version of events on “Patty Loved Me." Alas, she, too, is but a memory.

An unflinching reverie can be found on the harmonium-driven “Warhol, Nixon and Abbie Hoffman," as O'Neill fondly remembers how the late yippie-protester “laughed in the face of their lies, as he was dying inside." About Nixon, O'Neill says: “So far to fall, the earth takes us all." Then, there's Warhol: “I have to admit he was right about the 15 minutes." A reflective moment about the 1970s perhaps inevitably leads O'Neill to larger questions about this world's more difficult turns. “It's starting to bother me; I see it almost every day," O'Neill sings. “First, they promise you everything then they take it away."

There are times during Free World where O'Neill makes a determined attempt to lift himself up from the gloamy malaise that's all around.

The album-opening “It's A Free World" blasts off with a cacophony of guitar, organ and drum before settling into a singer-songwriter strum as O'Neill makes a clarion call for believing in something, even in the face of dizzying odds.

O'Neill similarly tries to buck himself up on “Lucky Days," a heartfelt duet with Tracy Sallows. It might be, as O'Neill sings, like taking a swing at the moon but he's not giving up on the dream of setting things straight. And he's not giving in to regret. “I've got a feeling," he sings, “that I am just a roll away from when my number finally comes in."

He indulges in brief daydreams about getting away from it all, about fully exploring the gifts of freedom, on “Almost Anything," and on the title track. But heading off to Paris, or buying that long-hoped-for piece of country heaven, those are only moments in time. The things that pain us can't be obscured forever by these fleeting distractions.

That sense of impending fate is only underscored by the following track, “Rise—September 12, 2001," which begins with a requiem's keyboard moan and the first responders' searing red wail. O'Neill eventually finds comfort, soon after the skies have fallen, alone with a loved one, just holding on tight.

Still, even the gentle romanticism of the countrified rocker “Mara" is betrayed by a stinging resignation to the reality of his plight: He's in for another evening spent apart, mulling over something that's long been lost.

There's a final requiem for truth on “Goodnight, America," and then a hidden bonus track about the historical figure “Wallace Stevens," featuring an alluring turn by flutist Brent Stanton. Yet there's no getting away from the bleak disquietude surrounding Free World.

That's not necessarily a bad thing. It can be disturbing, this unyielding realism, but maybe there's nothing more appropriate for these often dark times.

"Acoustic Roundtable Featured Artist"

While looking a bit like Paul Simon (the middle aged PS) and sounding a bit like James Taylor – Brian Hugh O’Neill brings a unique perspective to his lyrics and music. The former front man and co-founder of acclaimed NYC based acoustic ensemble, “Minus Ted” – O’Neill is no stranger to the World of Acoustic music.

O’Neill is also an award winning actor and playwright who has been working steadily in all aspects of the entertainment business for over 25 years. He has appeared in guest star roles in television shows such as “Law and Order,” “The Sopranos”, “Damages” “Third Watch,” “The Corner” (Emmy Award Best Mini – Series) “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit,” “Law & Order: Criminal Intent,” “The Jury,” and “The Good Wife”.

Brian Hugh O’Neill has also appeared in feature films including “The Lost Words”, “Laws Of Attraction” (with Julianne Moore), “Brooklyn Rules” (with Alec Baldwin), “Chapter 27” and “Burn After Reading”. O’ Neill is a multi-talented musician, actor, playwright and father.

While O’Neill agrees that his acting roles have kept food on the table over the years, his true passion is music as evidenced on his solo debut album titled, “Free World.” Here you’ll find O’Neill composing beautiful, often off-beat, melody driven acoustic tunes that cleverly employ fine poetry, verse and prose to tell literate, touching stories through personal observation of life's most intimate details.

Although O’Neill was born and raised in NYC, you might be made aware of his Celtic bloodline on a few of the chorus arrangements, but keep in mind that this album is far from a Celtic album. It’s more like the Indigo Girls, Dave Matthews, REM and David Grey were thrown on a tour bus with O’Neill. They were told that the only way off the bus was to come up with a new set of songs – and they did just that.

In the late 90’s early 2,000’s, Brian Hugh O’Neill had been writing and performing songs with an acoustic trio known as, “Dad’s Big Weekend”. The trio, or, should I say eventual duo, were comprised of O’Neill and fellow actor and musician friend, Skip Sudduth along with Ted Schulz. The trio often found themselves performing their popular acoustic driven sets in and around New York City minus Ted, the very person that introduced O’Neill and Sudduth in the first place. Thus the name and the band were born, Minus Ted.

It wasn’t until recently that O’Neill found the time and the opportunity to record those songs and a few that he had written along the way. Influenced by the like of the Beatles, Costello and Morrison, O’Neill’s, “Free World” clearly indicates that this seasoned acting veteran is also a veteran Singer/Songwriter.

We thoroughly enjoyed this album especially the song titled, “It’s A Free World”.

For more on Brian Hugh O’Neill’s acting background check out this link:

For more on his music and to listen to songs off of Free World follow this link:


Hope and Damage - This Is This Music 1994

Really, Really - This Is This Music 2000

Free World - Independent release, Spring 2011



Former front man and co-founder of acclaimed NYC based acoustic ensemble Minus Ted (, Brian Hugh O'Neill composes beautiful, off-beat, melody driven acoustic tunes that cleverly employ fine poetry, verse and prose to tell literate, touching stories through personal observation of life's most intimate details.

He is also an award winning actor and playwright who has been working steadily in all aspects of the entertainment business as a musician, actor, writer, director and filmmaker for over 25 years. Mr. O’Neill lives in New York City with his wife and daughter.

You may also find him online as a regular guest host for the Onion News Networks show In The Know (