Todd O’Neill grew up in Hammond with parents and older siblings who all liked different kinds of music. Under one roof, O’Neill heard contemporary country music, classic country, classic rock, pop and doo-wop.
And at the future singer’s grandparents’ house, his grandmother played classic country albums by Marty Robbins and Jim Reeves in her kitchen.
Although O’Neill, who’s performing at 4 p.m. Saturday at the St. Aloysius Parish Fair, classifies himself as a country singer, a rainbow of influences colors his sound.
“We’re a country band with a little bit of everything thrown in,” he said this week. “We play anything from Stevie Wonder to Kings of Leon to Conway Twitty and Jason Aldean.”
O’Neill’s versatility fits today’s country, which often features heavy strains of classic rock, hip-hop and rhythm-and-blues. He also has an affinity for classic soul.
“I hate saying this, but my voice, it’s not very country,” O’Neill confessed. “I grew up listening to Otis Redding and Al Green. I love Sam Cooke. And I just took all these influences from the different genres.”
O’Neill’s Southern-soul sound is especially strong in his recording of “Somethin’ With Some Attitude.” Gary Nichols, a Muscle Shoals, Alabama-based songwriter, penned the song, and O’Neill recorded it at Muscle Shoals’ historic Fame Studios.
“It was incredible, the history on the walls in there,” he said of the latter experience. “Otis Redding, Bonnie Raitt, the Allman Brothers, Bob Seger.”
After overcoming his shyness about singing in front of people, O’Neill moved from talent shows and karaoke nights in Louisiana to Nashville in 2005.
“I learned real fast it’s a big world up there,” he said. “So many people with stars in their eyes trying to do the same thing.”
Alone in Nashville, O’Neill used his time to get serious about playing guitar. He also got a deal with a small indie label, but it didn’t go anywhere.
O’Neill moved home to Louisiana but returned to Nashville in 2007 and got a gig in the touring production, “Conway Twitty: The Man, The Music, The Legend … The Musical.”
Staying with the show a year, he understudied the production’s lead role, performed many other roles on stage, sang high harmony and played acoustic guitar. When the show stayed put in Branson, Missouri, O’Neill, who’d enjoyed the touring life, left it.
Back in Louisiana, frustration over getting his own band off the ground led O’Neill to accept an offer to sing with the New Orleans cover band the Chee Weez.
“That gave me a break from doing the business aspects of my band,” he said. “I focused on singing, which I loved doing.”
O’Neill left the Chee Weez after two years.
“It was great, but it wasn’t where I belonged,” he said. “I tried the Todd O’Neill Band again. I’m glad I did. The past two years have been great. We got a stellar band, great harmony and it’s really working out.”
O’Neill wants his next recording to be an all-Louisiana project.
“Nothing but Louisiana artists,” he said. “Because we’ve got so much talent in this state.”