“Everything that I write begins at the piano.”
This simple musical philosophy is the foundation on which singer/songwriter/pianist, Phil O'Neal has based his sound. A simple philosophy doesn't mean simple music though, as his mixture of R&B, soul, gospel, jazz & hip-hop is delightfully unique and complex. Instead of relying on intricate production techniques and studio trickery, Phil O'Neal embraces real musicianship in the form of complex harmonies, smooth progressions, and grooving bass lines; all played as acoustically as possible. These beautiful elements are set to lyrics that are as real as the instrumentation, touching upon the love of life, family, and God.
To say that O'Neal grew up in a musical household doesn't do justice to the role that music had in his family and his upbringing. His mom was a vocalist in the Mt. Gilead Baptist Church Choir of Galveston, TX and his father had a record collection that numbered into the thousands of albums. Singing came along quite early in O'Neal's life and percussion came along shortly thereafter when he was in 6th grade. After embracing the joy of performing for live audiences by singing for his fellow classmates at his 8th grade prom, O'Neal knew that this was the path he wanted his life to take.
“I believe that a Christian musician can appreciate more than just gospel and spiritual music. I am an avid music lover and I listen to and perform R&B, soul, gospel, jazz, & hip-hop music.”
The diverse genres of music that O'Neal listened to while growing up, had a profound impact on his path to being a musician. His respect and admiration for artists like Stevie Wonder, Donnie Hathaway, & Brian McKnight, led him to begin playing the piano when he was eighteen so he could accompany his own voice. Given his growing love for vocal groups such as Boyz II Men, Take 6, and Commissioned; it should be of little surprise that the first song he learned to play by ear was Boyz II Men's, “End of the Road.” The piano would continue to shape O'Neal's life as he found himself enrolled in the Historically Black University, Prairie View A&M University. Not only did he graduate from there with a Bachelor's of Arts in Music (specifically the piano) but he also performed in the drum section of the school's “Marching Storm” marching band, toured as a soloist with the University Choir and was the pianist/keyboardist for the Baptist Student Movement Choir there as well.
O'Neal's time at his alma mater was not just a learning experience, it was a life experience; everything he took from there served to help make him more dedicated to his craft and even more talented as a musician. But Phil O'Neal's music experience hasn't been confined to the walls of classrooms and churches; he's performed professionally as well. His first vocal group, GQ Sound, was awarded the Sammy Davis Jr. Award in the R&B group division back in 1991. O'Neal's talents found themselves three years later within the group, Adagio, which then got noticed by Mathew Knowles, otherwise known as Beyonce's father. The connection with Knowles introduced the members of Adagio to a little known group named, Girls Tyme. Not too long after that, Girls Tyme turned into a more well-known group called Destiny's Child.
While Destiny's Child would go on to become a household name, internal tensions eventually drove Adagio apart before they could complete their first album. The brush with fame was fleeting and frustrating, but in hindsight, it further cultivated O'Neal's desires to make a name for himself in the music industry. This is in part, why O'Neal so fiercely threw himself into his education, to give himself the opportunity to become the talent that he wanted to be; the talent that he heard in the music that he loved. After graduating from Prairie View A&M University in May of 2001, O'Neal moved to the Dallas area and began his graduate work at the University of North Texas in their Jazz department, focusing on jazz voice.
“I love the way that music makes people feel and the power that it has. It can invoke emotion in someone and instantly bring back faded memories of yesteryear.”
Phil O'Neal has been passionate about music for his entire life. This passion has driven him to create music that is real in every sense of the word; filled with real talent, real musicianship, real emotion, and real meaning. The journey to making it to this point has been one filled with learning and growth, but every step of the way has made Phil O'Neal into a distinct musical presence, with a sound that is all his own and it all begins with a man, his voice, and his piano.