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The Album Release Debut of a KC Old Soul

The Album Release Debut of a KC Old Soul

bandleader, composer & musician

Chalis O'Neal

How does it feel to release this debut now?

It feels amazing to have it out, I feel free. I know that sounds weird—because I get to do what I love to do and play music, but I just feel so free. Can't remember the last time I felt like this.

How long has this album been in the works?

Since this is my debut, it's been in the works my whole life. But it's definitely been in the last 3-4 years. I have been in the process of it. It was inspired by events that happened in 2015 and 2016.

You have a lot of flavors going on in this CD. What would you say your voice is on this project?

I would say it's the real me. I have been playing professionally around Kansas City for the last 10-15 years. This is really my come-out party. It's basically me saying my side of the story. They are all my original tunes. Flirting is sort of a metaphor. I'm not flirting with a woman, per se. I'm flirting with you musically. The album is not really a long one, but that's the theme of it. It's a party. I see you at a club or a party and I'm flirting with you.

What do you hope the listener that buys or streams this album gets from it?

I want them to know that this is my personal story. If you look at the track listing, there is an arc that goes through it from the first to the last track. There is a buildup through all of this. A lot of this was from personal relationships in the past. Just being out in the bar scene and meeting people. It's just a come-out party.

I just want people to hear the real me.

Talk to me about the timing of this release right now, during the pandemic and at this time of year. Did you pick this time specifically?

I did pick it now deliberately during the pandemic. I wanted to be out there. Nothing to hold it back and no restrictions. I wanted the clubs and bars to be open to perform this material, to be honest.

What did you learn about yourself during this pandemic lockdown, that maybe you didn't realize before, that is going to make you stronger as you get out there and perform live while promoting this new album?

This pandemic was the best wake up call. Good or bad. I was in the bartending industry for a long time and that's how I made my living. I got a lot of people & social skills from bartending. So, when I got my bartending and music gigs taken away from me, I realized I had nothing. It was all gone. I was in my apartment by myself, but I still had my music.

I had my horn and keyboards. That never really turned its back on me. I always had the freedom of playing music anytime I wanted to. That was really the kick starter of things for me to get this album out after the pandemic in 2021.

No excuses.

What do you see as the resiliency of a town like Kansas City as we begin to wake up and rebound from the full COVID closures?

I think we all took live music for granted. Just like being alive and living your life. Live music is a part of that. Kansas City is the heart of America. Jazz and all of that is rooted deeply in Kansas City. When the pandemic hit and the clubs closed, we lost a lot of culture. Being a jazz town when things open up, people are going to fully realize the power and depth of jazz in this town.

A lot of musicians are hungry to play right now.

As the world wakes up, what is your itinerary looking like as we move forward?

I'm a full-time musician now. My months of September through November were completely full. I do some stuff part time in the mornings, but my nights and weekends are wide open for music. The silver lining of this pandemic was teaching me to do what I do best and love to do . . . and that's music. That was the kick starter for me.

To get my music out there and give it my all.

— Joe Dimino

Listen to the new 2021 CD Flirting Here:

The full Neon Jazz interview: Chalis O'Neal

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