Mary-Lynn Neil
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Mary-Lynn Neil

Kingston, Ontario, Canada | INDIE

Kingston, Ontario, Canada | INDIE
Band Country Pop


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"Mary-Lynn's Take on Dad's Dangerous Duty Draws Tears"

By Jay Scott Kanes

KINGSTON, Ontario, Canada -- Mary-Lynn Neil never has stood amid danger and destruction in a war-torn land. But her dad Mike did in Afghanistan. For 12-year-old Mary-Lynn, proud yet fearful, that’s big-time inspiration.

A resident of Kingston, Mary-Lynn wrote a poem, turned it into a song called “A Daughter’s Prayer” and began to sing it. Now she has recorded it with the guidance of Brian Dolph at Café Music in nearby Belleville.

“I love my family, my friends and performing music,” Mary-Lynn said. Her emotional, country-gospel, maybe-a-hit song tells of a daughter’s angst when duty takes her soldier-father overseas to a place buzzed by bullets and blasted by bombs.

“One night Mary-Lynn wrote a poem about her dad (a Canadian soldier) who was serving in Afghanistan, after talking to him on the phone,” said Brian, who praises her mindset, creative spark and strong potential. “She was worried, couldn’t sleep and decided to write her thoughts in her journal. With a little help from her mother and then from me, those thoughts later became a song.”

As Mary-Lynn explains, “I thought about what my dad was doing over in Afghanistan and all the children he was helping there. The first thought that came to me was that he’s really someone to be proud of and that I wasn’t going to be scared because other children needed him.

“Still, I was scared because I had to think about what would happen if he died and what I would do. I did cry a little bit. It took me about an hour to write how I felt.”

Newly recorded, “A Daughter’s Prayer” has started to attract attention. Already released across Canada, it’s entering the United States market too. Details about Mary-Lynn and her song graced the front page of her hometown newspaper, The Kingston Whig Standard.

“He’s not just a soldier. Remember he’s my dad.
Other children need him. I’ll try not to be so sad.
He’s not just a soldier, so keep him in your care.
Bring him home. I’m so alone. That’s a daughter’s prayer.
I miss you, Daddy, and I pray for you each night.
I just want you to hold me, and tell me everything’s alright.
I know they need you, but Dad, I need you too.
Please come home. I’m so alone. That’s a daughter’s prayer.
Yes, please come home. I’m so alone. That’s your daughter’s prayer.
I love you, Daddy.”
From “A Daughter’s Prayer”, written by Mary-Lynn Neil, D.L. Neil and Brian Dolph, recorded by Mary-Lynn Neil, 2009

Powerful public reactions jolted even the song’s young writer. “The first time I performed it was at the RCHA club here in Kingston,” Mary-Lynn said. “It was kind of shocking because a lot of people in the audience were crying. I didn’t know what was happening or what to do and thought I should stop singing.

“Later people came up to me and said how beautiful the song is. It’s like that whenever I sing ‘A Daughter’s Prayer’. I regret making people cry, but I’m happy and grateful that it’s because they like my song.”

So far, Mary-Lynn copes well with public attention. “It still surprises me that so many people like the song and know who I am,” she said. “It’s strange, but nice, when I’m out shopping and people I don’t know talk about the song and tell me how inspiring it is.”

For Mary-Lynn, writing the song felt logical. “When I’m worried or stressed, I write things down,” she said.

“At first, I didn’t think that anyone else, except my mom, would hear my poem. When I brought it out for Mom to read, it was because I felt sad and wanted to talk about my dad. I didn’t expect her to like it as much as she did. When she said it could be a song and started to work with me on it using a guitar, it helped to take my mind off my dad.”

The song “gives a voice” to military children. “I don’t claim to know much about war,” Mary-Lynn said, “but I’m from the fourth generation of a military family on my Dad’s side, so I have a deep respect for military men and women.

“I’m very happy that now a lot of people know how it feels to be a military child and about the worries we have when our parents are deployed overseas. I feel like ‘A Daughter’s Prayer’ belongs to every military child, not just me.
“When my dad was in Afghanistan, I thought about him all the time, always worried that something might happen to him. We live near the Highway of Heroes and the place where repatriation ceremonies are held. Sometimes we went to visit my mom’s best friend and drove on that highway. Every time I saw the Highway of Heroes signs, I’d wish for Dad to come home safe.

“A few weeks before I wrote ‘A Daughter’s Prayer’, my dad called, and I think he was a little scared too because he mentioned some things that had happened to him over there. That’s when I started to really worry about him.”

What does Mary-Lynn’s father think about the song? “He’s proud of me,” she said. The first time he heard it, he cried too.

Mary-Lynn has dabbled in music for a few years. Her mom Donna’s family has a musical history. Donna and Mary-Lynn’s grandmother were singers. Like Mary-Lynn, her two brothers, 14-year-old Jacob and 11-year-old Michael, play guitar.

“We have family jam sessions,” Mary-Lynn said. Her favorite music comes from the likes of Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn and Johnny Cash. “I grew up listening to old country, and my mom always sings it.

“I’ve been surrounded by music. Singing and dancing make me the happiest. I think of my guitar (nicknamed ‘Little Blue’) as a best friend because I spend a lot of time playing.”

Has Mary-Lynn written other poems or songs? “Yes,” she said. “My favorite so far is called ‘Different’. It’s about people who don’t quite fit in because they’re different. My youngest brother has a disability, and I wrote it after he had a hard day at school.

“Another one I really like is called ‘Wishing Stars’, sort of about kind of liking a boy, but not really. Then there’s ‘I’m Gonna Fly’ about a little girl living big dreams.”

More than a singer, songwriter and Grade 7 student, Mary-Lynn also does a little modeling and acting. In 2007, she acted in Milo, a Canadian movie. At home, she enjoys the company of a pet cat named Nashville.

“In school, she’s a grade-A type,” said Brian. “In person, she can be quite shy until she warms up to you, but she has no fear of the stage.”

As yet, Mary-Lynn hasn’t finalized her career direction. “I’d really like to have a career in music or modeling,” she said. “I’d also like to be a marine biologist.

“School and friends are my favorite things. I’m studying in French immersion and want to go to Memorial University in Newfoundland because it has the best marine-biology program in Canada.”

Now Mary-Lynn’s dad, a master corporal, has returned from Afghanistan. He did three tours of duty there and may return on a fourth, but this time with “A Daughter’s Prayer” to take along. For a soldier, that’s close to the ultimate motivation.
- Cairns Media Magazine - Hong Kong

"Local country singer's star is on the rise with the release of a new single"

EMC Entertainment - Kingston's own country music sensation, who last winter sang about wanting a boy for Christmas, is back - and she has a few things to say about all those tactless teenage "players" out there.

"I think this is probably my favourite song so far," says 13-year-old Mary-Lynn Neil of her latest single, "He's a Player," which will be released internationally June 1.

The catchy, upbeat song chronicles the misdeeds of a two-timing young man who is about to have his ego crushed by the girls he has wronged.

"I've just been sitting back and watching people my own age in their relationships and (seeing) how they're being mistreated," she says, noting that one in five high school girls experience some form of abuse from the person they're dating, resulting in low self-esteem that can last a lifetime.

"I wrote the song for them to kind of empower girls," she says.

The timing of the single's release coincides with that of Mary-Lynn's debut EP, Fly, which will feature the songs "I Want a Boy for Christmas," "A Daughter's Prayer," another new single called "I'm Gonna Fly," as well as both dance mix and regular versions of "He's a Player."

Mary-Lynn's manager, Brian Dolph, notes that the young singer has continued to grow and improve tremendously over the last couple of years.

"The growth that Mary-Lynn has gone through since I first met her has been nothing short of incredible," he says. "Not only has her voice matured since the recording of her song "A Daughter's Prayer," her song writing has as well."

Mary-Lynn has come such a long way that she has even begun to co-produce other artists' music in addition to her own.

"I get the demo of a song and then I make another demo of how I would think it would sound best," she explains. "Then I pick the instruments that I think would go well and add little notes."

Recently, Mary-Lynn had her first experience criticizing the work of a more mature artist, Canadian country musician Don Murdock.

"I remember the first time I was in the studio after the music had come back from Nashville, I had made a suggestion about something they could maybe fix about the song," she recalls. "I just felt so terrible because...I know what it's like to be criticized or given a suggestion to."

Yet the young singer's modesty is arguably somewhat misplaced given the high praise she has recently received from several music industry giants - including Shania Twain's first manager, Stan Campbell.

"He said that Mary-Lynn has a future in show business, and that she reminded him of a young girl who walked into his Richmond Hill studio 31 years ago named Eileen Twain," says Dolph. "Mary-Lynn got to chat with him a number of times and they've become friends."

"It's so exciting," notes Mary-Lynn. "It's such a huge compliment, especially coming from her very first manager. Shania Twain has always been someone that I've looked up to."

Indeed, there are many signs that Mary-Lynn is well on her way to following in the footsteps of Canada's country music queen. More people than ever will hear her songs next month when she is slated to be the "featured new artist" for June on a pop station in Wallaceburg, Ont.

"He's a Player" will also be included with songs by some of the biggest names in country music on an ERG Music CD, which is to be distributed to DJs and radio stations across Canada.

"(Songs) have to be accepted (to be included on the CD), and it has to be something that has hit potential otherwise they don't put it on," explains Dolph.

In addition, Mary-Lynn recently voted for the first time for the Canadian Country Music Awards, which are currently in their nomination round.

"That was exciting," she says. "I nominated a few different artists - some of my favourite ones like Johnny Reid and Victoria Banks."

When she's not making a name for herself singing and producing hit songs, Mary-Lynn will be starting high school next fall in the LEAP program, held at LCVI.

"It's a music program that you audition for and are interviewed for," she says. "I just found out a little while ago that I got accepted." - Kingston EMC

"Young Kingston singer earns high praise"

Kingston singer Mary-Lynn Neil is featured in the August edition of Chatelaine magazine, which calls the 14-year-old country music artist "the next Carrie Underwood."

Neil, who is profiled on page 30 of the magazine, is garnering plenty of national media attention this summer. In mid-June she was featured in a story that appeared in Sun Media newspapers across the country.

Her latest single, He's A Player, is receiving airplay on more than 300 radio stations around the world.

Neil wrote and recorded her first hit song, A Daughter's Prayer, two years ago after her father completed his third tour of duty in Afghanistan.

Her second hit song, released in November 2010, was I Want A Boy For Christmas.

Neil is the youngest professional member of the Canadian Country Music Association. - Kingston Whig Standard

"Reaching out to a military dad"

Being separated from your dad on Father's Day can be very difficult, but even more so when your father is serving overseas in the military. Not being able to spend time with him or speak to him regularly is a challenge thousands of children with military fathers face on a daily basis.

Mary-Lynn Neil, a 13-year-old singer/songwriter from Kingston, Ontario, knows all too well the pains that come from being separated from her father. Actively serving overseas on and off again for the last few years, Neil's father inspired her to write a song called A Daughter's Prayer. The song was a way for Neil to tell her father just how much he meant to her and how proud she was of him, despite their being apart.

"It was pretty hard because we only got to chat every once in a while by email or video chat," says Neil. "There were even times that we couldn't communicate because he didn't have access to anything."

Having gone through this experience herself, Neil understands just how tough it can be for families during certain holidays. Though she can sympathize with the sadness that will come from not having their fathers around this Father's Day, Neil encourages other military kids to remember what an important job their dads are doing.

"Kids should keep pride in their hearts for their dad because it's not everyone who could be a soldier and be away from their families," says Neil. "It's very difficult to not be with the ones that you love. Always know that your dad loves you very much, even if he has to be away."

Jennifer Stadnyk, Public Affairs Officer with the Canadian Expeditionary Force Command, says that there are easy ways for children to keep in touch with Dad this Father's Day. Though video chats and Skype will certainly not take the place of having Dad at home, they are a great way to bridge the gap and ease some of the angst that comes from such lengthy separations.

"Some Military Family Resource Centres located on Canadian Forces Bases offer deployment support programs where they arrange live video teleconferences with deployed loved ones," says Stadnyk. "Children can also send care packages to their deployed parents through Canada Post to a military post office, which are then transferred to theatre on military cargo planes. There is also Internet access at Kandahar Air Field and in Forward Operating Bases, which allows members and their families to interact via email, instant messaging or video messaging."

This Father's Day, Neil hopes children will do everything they can to get in touch with their military Dads. Celebrating the holiday as though their father is still around is something she feels is an important part of keeping things normal at home.

"Make [Dad] a card or something special for Father's Day, and if they can, send it, "says Neil. "Maybe make breakfast in bed and celebrate with mom if that's what they do every year. Just keep doing the same family traditions, because if you don't you'll miss him more. Then you can tell Dad about it when he comes home." - Toronto Sun


1. He's A Player
2. I'm Gonna Fly
3. A Daughter's Prayer
4. I Want A Boy For Christmas
5. He's A Player - Dance Mix (featuring T-Manny)



Hollywood icon Kevin Costner recently discovered Mary-Lynn music while on tour in Europe and immediately became a fan and twitter follower.

Stan Campbell, Shania Twian's original manager and first producer had the following comment about Mary-Lynn after chatting with Mary-Lynn and hearing her Christmas song. "This girl has a showbiz future. I said that 31 years ago about a young girl who came to my little studio in Richmond Hill. Her name was Eilleen Twain."

Stan Campbell also made the following comment after hearing He's A Player, "...Mary-Lynn is a gifted writer and excellent singer."

Chatelaine, Canada's top women's magazine, has called Kingston's own 14 year old Mary-Lynn Neil the NEXT Carrie Underwood! (Aug ed. pg.30)

Mary-Lynn Elizabeth Neil is 14 years old and was born on June 18th, 1997 in Kingston, Ontario. Growing up, Mary-Lynn showed a deep love for music, including new and classic artists alike. At the age of 10, she sang on a local talent show and took first place. A love for performing was born and she began to perform in and around Kingston. The stage was a natural place for Mary-Lynn to practice her love of singing and dancing.

At 11, Mary-Lynn got her first guitar, which she nicknamed "Little Blue". It quickly became her constant companion and she soon began playing it on stage. It was a natural progression for Mary-Lynn to move into songwriting, and she began to write her own songs. Her first song, "A Daughter's Prayer" was written for her dad who was serving overseas in Afghanistan at the time. This song is very important to her because she feels that it gives a voice to military children everywhere.

People are the most important thing to Mary-Lynn. Her favorite times in life are spent with her family and friends. She knows the value of a good friend, and holds on tightly to her "Besties".

In addition to singing, playing guitar, and songwriting, Mary-Lynn has branched out into acting and modeling. In 2007, she was fortunate enough to act in a Canadian movie called Milo. When people are asked what the one thing is that they notice about Mary-Lynn on stage, they say they are floored to see such incredible stage presence in one so young.

The past 2 years have been exciting for Mary-Lynn and many things have happened in her young career. In August of 2010 Mary-Lynn became the youngest professional member of the Canadian Country Music Association (CCMA). She is now also a professional member of CARAS, the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (The Junos). Her song A Daughter's Prayer is part of the WE SALUTE OUR HEROES national campaign in support of our troops. It is also included on a special CD for the troops along with Randy Bachman and Natalie MacMaster. In 2010 Mary-Lynn was invited to be part of Wayne Rostad's highly acclaimed and successful Christmas In The Valley Tour where she helped raise over $25,000 for CHEO, the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario.

He’s A Player is the much anticipated follow up to Mary-Lynn’s Top 10 DMDS download holiday hit, I Want A Boy For Christmas. The song has already being added in rotation at a number of Canadian country radio stations. A dance version for He's A Player has just been recorded and is scheduled for release early in 2012 along with her country/pop son I'm Gonna Fly. Mary-Lynn’s first EP/Album is expected to be ready in teh spring of 2012.