The Nash Next Challenge is down to its 10 finalists, and in the lead-up to the announcement of the champion on Oct. 25, NCD will be profiling each of the 10 finalists.
Today, we are getting to know finalist Todd O’Neill.
In July, Cumulus Media and Big Machine Label Group invited aspiring country artists and bands to participate in the Nash Next Challenge, an artist development competition where the winner will receive a recording contract with Big Machine Label Group and have an original song produced by Jay DeMarcus, which will garner national radio airplay on Cumulus Media radio stations across the U.S.
The winner of the Nash Next Challenge will be crowned on Tuesday, Oct. 25, at Mercy Lounge in Nashville. The event, which will also feature a performance from Trent Harmon, is open to the public from 7–10 p.m.
Twitter: @Radio Market: Lafayette, La.
NCD: How did you get started in music?
Todd: I have pictures of me playing by the fireplace as a kid using one of the fireplace tools as a guitar, but really got started around 17 when I jumped in with bands and started to sing. And then I became a roadie to get to hang around more. From there, I started my own band called Big Cat Daddy.
At what age did you realize you wanted to make music your career?
At 17 when I started Big Cat Daddy, I knew I loved the stage and I always knew how much I loved music and singing, but it was probably at about age 20 when I knew I didn’t want to do anything else. I didn’t want a plan B. The stage was just home to me and I loved the people and making music.
Who are your musical influences?
I have so many. I guess if I have to narrow it down, I would say my older influences are Merle Haggard and Otis Redding and the newer artists who have influenced me are Chris Stapelton and Marc Broussard.
What three words describe you?
OK, this one is easy: simple, genuine and funny.
What would you say is unique about your sound?
Most people say I have a very unique sound because of my raspy/soul/bluesy sound.
What three albums would you take to a deserted island?
Marc Broussard’s Carencro, Chris Stapelton’s Traveller and Willie Nelson’s Red Headed Stranger.
What’s your favorite song to cover?
“Hell and High Water” by T. Graham Brown. I have covered that song for years. One day, I had the pleasure of meeting T. Graham and I thanked him for writing that song and told him I covered it every time I played. He went online and listened, and then called me and asked if I wanted to cut a version with him. We did and you can get it on iTunes today. In that recording studio with T. Graham cutting my favorite song I cover—that was one of those moments I will never forget.
What’s the last song you heard that blew you away?
“Blue Ain’t Your Color” by Keith Urban. Man, that’s a great song.
What’s your go-to karaoke song?
Just like many others, it is fun for me to do Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing.”
Where is the craziest place you’ve performed?
The Chicken Drop in Slidell, Louisiana. Go look that one up. Pretty crazy.
What’s the first thing you do after a show?
The fans come to see me. They know I’m going to come offstage and go see them directly after the show. I will hang out with them, cut up with them, sign autographs, take a shot or two. I’m very personable and love to talk with the people, so without question, that is the first thing I do after a show.
What’s been your most exciting or unusual fan encounter?
Well, signing boobs for the females passed, um, say fortyish is always a bit weird for me, but I do it [laughing]. But I have to tell you this one, because I wouldn’t call it exciting but definitely unusual. One night, right when I started playing, a fight broke out. The bigger guy tried to bearhug the smaller guy. And so, the smaller guy bit off the bigger guy’s ear. Like, literally bit it off. And the big guy ends up headed to the hospital. We played the show while the police looked for the ear. Later, after the show, we found the piece of the ear underneath the speaker and gave it to the police. They put it into two shot glasses that they taped together and headed off to the hospital. I called it Exhibit A. Poor guy. We never heard if they fixed his ear. It was left to our imagination how the story ended.