Singer-songwriter Rory O’Neill recently made his first trip to Nashville all the way from the United Kingdom. O’Neill grew up about an hour north of London and says that absolutely none of his friends listened to country music, but he comes from Irish and Scottish roots wherein everyone played an instrument. O’Neill reports that his grandfather was a big fan of Johnny Cash, Marty Robbins, Sidney Divine, Hank Snow, so he grew up with a great love for country music. In time, he picked up the guitar and started singing along with some of his favorite songs, but the song that really inspired him to sit down and start writing songs of his own was “If Tomorrow Never Comes” by Garth Brooks and Kent Blazy.
O’Neill, though also working as a drama professor, continued to work on his writing and performing, creating opportunities where he could spend time with other like-minded songwriters. Fortuitously, O’Neill met Nashville’s phenomenal Leslie Satcher during Country 2 Country Festival, a yearly country music festival that takes place in London and Dublin, at The Troubadour. He took this as a sign, because one of his favorite songs is “Troubadour” by George Strait, which was co-written by Satcher, and here they were together at The Troubadour in London -a sign indeed!
After talking with Satcher, she invited him to send some of his music to her husband and manager, David Allen. When Allen received O’Neill’s EP, he invited him to visit Nashville to write music. O’Neill visited Nashville for the first time just before Christmas in 2018 and the pair wrote songs for three days at Station West Studio in Berry Hill. O’Neill also wrote with Will Robinson and was introduced to John Randall (“Whiskey Lullaby”) and wife Jessi Alexander (“I Drive Your Truck”), as well as several other songwriters who he’d long admired. What an incredible week! He had started his week off by performing Monday night at the Bluebird Café and then co-writing all week with top writers, but he didn’t know there would soon be icing on the cake!
When he and Satcher were leaving Robinsons’s house on Friday after a day of writing, Satcher was talking about the Battle of Nashville, and while in mid-conversation, she mentioned Blazy and that he lived nearby. O’Neill reflects: “I said – whoa-whoa-whoa- back up. You mean Kent Blazy who wrote ‘If Tomorrow Never Comes’ for Garth Brooks? Leslie told me yes and said they were friends. The next thing you know she’s giving Kent a ring. She gets him on the phone and then I get to talk with him. And while I’m talking with him he invites me over to Douglas Corner where he was playing that night. It ended up that he asked me to sing ‘If Tomorrow Never Comes’ with him. I felt like a 12-year old boy whose dreams just came true. It was the perfect way to end the week.”