Essex-based singer, Jo O’Meara, has always been a performer. From her early childhood, she took interest in the arts and excelled at music, singing, and dance. O’Meara’s teen years were spent performing in pubs, bars, and open mic nights whilst she attended the Italia Conti performing arts school. This all ultimately meant that when she was scouted for S Club 7, Jo O’Meara was an adept artist with great potential. Undoubtedly, the late 90s/early 2000s pop group, S Club 7, was a life-changing rollercoaster for the singer.
Throughout the group’s successful reign as one of the big pop groups, S Club 7 achieved four UK Number Ones, numerous multi-platinum albums, two Brit awards, multiple arena tours, one Oscar-snubbed movie and several TV series watched by 90 million people in 100 countries. Basically, they were a huge deal. But after S Club 7 disbanded, O’Meara returned in 2005 with a well-received solo album entitled, Relentless.
Sixteen years later, Jo O’Meara is back with her sophomore LP, With Love, and the future couldn’t look more brighter. House Of Solo Magazine chatted with O’Meara all about her new single “Sweet Surrender”, the new album, and S Club 7.
Hi Jo, your new single “Sweet Surrender” is out now. Can you tell us how you wrote the track?
So, this song is basically about a boy and a girl, and the girl falls in love with the bad boy. And everyone knows he is no good and all her friends are trying to warn her and say, listen, this guy’s no good for you’ but the heart rules, doesn’t it. So she goes for it anyway, and it makes it quite exciting for her to be around this bad guy. So that’s where the inspiration came from and it’s a quite upbeat kind of song, it’s quite r&b so it’s quite nice to have a bit of a different sort of genre for me because obviously, people know me for doing the ballads and stuff, so it was quite nice to change it up and do something with a bit of a different sound.
The song is taken from your new forthcoming second record, With Love. The record is out August 27th which is so exciting. It’s quite an emotional album on certain tracks, did you face any certain challenges on this LP compared to your debut album Relentless – was this album easier to make compared to the first one?
I actually think this album has been the easiest and I don’t know if it’s just because it’s the right time for me to do it or I don’t know why it is, but it just came so naturally, and just being in the studio and, you know there are some pretty big vocals notes throughout this album and if anything was going to be a challenge, I thought it was going to be hitting those big notes. But it all sort of made sense and just came together organically which makes me feel like it was the right choice to make and the right thing to do. I’m so glad that the album’s been made and that people are going to get to hear it really soon.
Yes, not long till the album release. You recorded the album with the same producer you worked with on the first album, that must have been a lovely experience, right?
Absolutely, yeah, Brian Rawling and the whole team at Metrophonic are just a bunch of lovely people. The whole set in there is amazing, it’s full of rescued animals and fields and greenery, so it’s very therapeutic just being there the second you go through the gates. We’ve all got such a lovely bond and a relationship, you know, all of us there, so it just feels like one big family whenever I go. It’s literally a home from home so I couldn’t be working with a better team.
I think that’s definitely what you need when you go into a studio environment. You never want an atmosphere where you don’t feel comfortable. So it’s really great to hear that it was all a positive experience.
Yeah, It was a very positive experience. He allows you to be creative and come up with your ideas and Brian has given me room to grow as an artist and that’s very important for me. So it’s just worked from day one really, I loved him the first time round and I love him even more this time.
Following on from that last question, your debut LP dropped in 2005. So there’s been a sixteen year wait for your sophomore record. Why was now the right time to put out a new record?
Do you know what, I think is just a case of if you don’t ever sort of try you’re never going to know. And I think, I was sort of like raising a baby by myself and stuff so I had to do that but he’s at an age now where it’s easier to sort of getting back to work and to do stuff. I just felt it in my bones that I needed to get back in the studio, I had an itch that needed to be scratched and my friend actually said to me “Listen, why don’t you just inbox Brian and just see what he says, what’s the worst that can happen? The worst thing he can say is no.” And I thought: ‘do you know what, I will’.
So I did and then literally that day he got back to me and he said to come in for a chat. So we went down and I went in for a chat with him, and it was pretty much there and then he said, “let’s make another record” and I was “absolutely”. It was a no brainer.
It’s really cool that you’re putting out another album which you could argue is truer to your artistic vision.
Yeah, I’m so grateful to be given the opportunity to do it, you know, I feel very lucky.
What unreleased tracks from With Love are you looking forward to fans hearing and why?
For me, one of my favourite songs on the album is a song called “pieces”, I just love it. It’s such an emotional song and it takes you on such a journey, so I’m looking forward to people hearing that one. I’m also looking forward to people hearing the uptempo song “I’ll Be There”. It’s definitely going to be one of them foot stamping songs, one of those ones, you know, you just sort of like a stomp your feet and clap your hands. So I’m looking forward to people hearing those two tracks.
S Club 7 was a huge success and I think it’s fair to say that it was so big, being a part of that must have completely changed your life. Can you tell us about the moment when you were scouted for the group when you were singing in a country and western bar…
Haha well that’s exactly what happened, yeah. I was singing in a country western bar near where I lived, and a member of 19 management was in having dinner and she obviously saw me up on stage singing, and then after the show, she came over and she said: “Listen, I think you’d be fantastic for this new band that Simon Fuller is putting together. Can I give you my details, and maybe go along for the audition.” And that’s exactly what I did and the rest is history. S Club 7 was born.
Looking back on it, what would you say were your personal highlights from your time in S Club 7?
There was so many. When you look back on everything we achieved there was loads. But for me, it probably would be the Golden Jubilee in 2002 when we got to perform for the Queen. And, you know, I just remember being on stage and singing with Cliff Richards and as I sort of had a look behind myself Phil Collins was playing the drums for us and Brian May was playing a guitar and it’s one of those things you just stand in feet is this actually really happening!? It’s just me from Collier Row, and suddenly I’ve got Brian May playing the guitar.
So that was definitely one of the biggest highlights and I think the other one would be when “Bring It All Back” went to number one. That was a big moment for us, and playing at Party In The Park, I think it was one of the first gigs we ever done as a group, there was 100,000 people at Party In The Park and it was huge. And I just remember being absolutely petrified before we went to stage. But the feeling was incredible. So that is definitely another highlight.
Thank you for sharing, they both sounded amazing. But even before S Club 7, you spent your whole life performing as a vocalist. You performed in your childhood and teen years but how did you first discover you passion and talent for singing? Was it when you were at school or did it just happen naturally?
It all happened with a karaoke machine in a little local club that is still around to this day, and I got up and sung “The Loco-motion” by Kylie Minogue in tune, and I don’t even know where it came from but it was just there. I’ve never like thought about it before, I’ve never done any singing before that moment but I just sort of opened my mouth and the voice came out. And I was just as shocked as everybody else. I was given a massive round of applause and I liked it and I liked the way it made me feel.
And so I carried on doing it and then from there I went on to do karaoke all over the place and then open mic nights and talent competitions. I sort of really worked around that the local working man circuit if you like, you know, and I was always on stage somewhere from a very young age, so I’ve never known any different really.
That’s amazing, I do think if you really gravitate towards something then you should continue to follow it. As you’re an experienced vocalist then, do you get nervous at all before going on stage or does it not effect you as you’ve done it countless times?
I get nerves so badly and sometimes I stand there and think to myself “why do I do this? Why do I put myself through this.” And the answer is: I love what I do. So I just have to fight through it but I’d be a fool to sit here and say that I don’t suffer from nerves because the feeling I get just before I go on stage is like my legs sometimes literally feel like they’re going to give way.
And I also feel sometimes like I’m going to pass out because I’m so frightened but something comes over me and in the second I get on stage, I get like this surge of adrenaline and then I don’t want to be anywhere else, then the problem is getting me off stage haha.
The music industry can be so hard sometimes. Previously, Richard Carpenter wanted to work with you on some unrecorded ideas for a new The Carpenters record. It’s a shame that legal business things can get in the way of potentially exciting projects. Are there any side projects that you would love to get involved with now?
Obviously, you know, I’m very ambitious, and there’s lots and lots and lots of things that I want to pursue and that I would dream to do and stuff. But who knows what opportunities are going to come my way but I would definitely love to maybe do a collaboration with somebody one day if it’s the right thing, right song. and the right person. I would definitely be up for doing it.
Is there any artist that springs to mind then?
Bruno Mars, I’m sure he’d be easy to get hold of…
Just slide into his DMs on Instagram, I’m sure that would work haha!
Yeah! I’ll just DM him and to see what he says haha. To me, he is a real showman, and I just love to watch him perform, he just fascinates me. I love his voice, I love the music, so I’m big Bruno Mars fan, that’s my choice.
Good choice, we’ll have to get a national petition going to make the collaboration happen.
Haha let’s do it!
Speaking about With Love again, this album must really hold a special place in your heart or some songs resonate a lot. For example, “Lay Your Heart On Me” is dedicated to one of your friends who sadly never got to hear it….
Yeah that was a hard song for me personally to write because Daniel was a very good friend of myself and my friend. He was 39 when he passed away of cancer which is so tragic, and he was married with two children, and he never got to hear it. But we did play the song for him at his funeral, so he heard it that way but I wish I’d had played it to him when he was still here so he knew.
I’m so sorry to hear about that. I’m sure he would have loved the song.
Yeah, he would have loved it, he would have been showing off something terrible if he knew that he had a song written about him because he was a very big character. So he will definitely be dancing away up there somewhere, making sure everyone knows that he’s got his own song.
Now that you’ve done it all, played huge arenas, travelled the world and sold numerous records. But since you’ve done all, where do you go from here – what’s the next thing you want to achieve?
For me, the next thing that I want to achieve is to have my own song and to hear the crowd sing it back to me, that’s my next big goal. When you’re on stage and you put the mic out towards the crowd and I think hearing people singing it back to me will be unbelievable. And I really hope that happens very soon.
I’m sure it will happen very soon, we’ve all missed live music since the pandemic started. But things are slowly returning to normal, can we expect any touring dates when it’s safe to go back out on the road again?
As soon as I can sort of physically get out there and do it. I’m going to be there. Even with my nerves, I’ll be there, yeah, definitely. I can’t wait to get back out on stage I think every musician has missed it, you know, I think everyone in this industry has missed the getting out and doing it live bit. I know I’m definitely missing it and I can’t wait to get out there and start performing for all the fans again.
For sure, it’s going to be really special when you do get back out there.
Yeah, absolutely, you’re 100% right. I think it’s gonna be really special, and I think it’s going to mean a lot to everybody that’s in the crowd and everybody that’s on the stage. I think coming through this pandemic has been a challenge for everyone worldwide and I think that we need music, we need to get that little bit of normality back into our lives. As soon as it is 100% safe to do so, then that’s what everyone should be doing.
Of course. When you were writing the album, were you considering how it would sound live? The record will go down well particularly when played live.
I didn’t think that when I was making it, no. I’ve just made the album with my heart, you know, and what I was feeling at the time but when I do finally get back out on stage I want it to be a story, and I want a beginning, a middle, and an end. I just want to take everyone on a journey with me and leave everyone on a high.
Finally, what’s next after the album launch?
There’s lots and lots of plans. Obviously stuff I can’t talk about really right now but there’s lots of exciting things coming up. I’ll just leave that one right there but getting out on stage is the next step.