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new challenges Susan O'Neill was 'on the verge of being sick' with nerves before You're A Star performances 

Stint on RTE series You're A Star taught valuable lessons to talented performer

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Singer Susan O'Neill has a new album with Mick Flannery

Singer Susan O'Neill has a new album with Mick Flannery

Singer Susan O'Neill has a new album with Mick Flannery

WHEN singer-songwriter Susan O'Neill took part in RTE's You're A Star contest at the age of 16, the challenge taught her a valuable lesson.

Susan, aka SOD, was overcome with crippling nerves in front of the camera during her first outing as a novice singer.

"Looking back, I hadn't a clue," she tells Shuffle.

"I was so nervous. I thought, 'why can't I sing properly, I know I'm a better singer than this?' But I'd never before experienced such a sharp rush of adrenaline that I now understand happens when you are in front of people and under that kind of pressure.

"Because I'd never experienced adrenaline or nerves like that, I was always on the verge of getting sick before they called my name to come out and sing a song on the show. I came out of it [You're A Star] feeling like I'd let myself down, but that was good because I knew I had to work to get myself to a place where I could be proud of what I do.

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Young Susan O'Neill on You're A Star

Young Susan O'Neill on You're A Star

Young Susan O'Neill on You're A Star

"I said, 'I'm going to go and learn everything there is to know about what I want to do before I try to step on a stage that's bigger than what I'm capable of again.'

"So I went to college and did a degree in music. I immersed myself in music and played bars, weddings, every type of gig you can imagine. I played in a rock 'n' roll band first, then I joined a techno band."

A native of Ennis, Co Clare, Susan has gone on to become a critically acclaimed artist. She is now set to release an album of duets with Mick Flannery and is also the featured artist in a new online music series, Seconds Away, recorded at Dublin's National Stadium as part of the Government's funding of arts and entertainment.

Susan was on tour in Australia last year when the pandemic struck. "I was a week and a half into a two-month tour there when it first kicked off and I remember thinking, 'This could take four weeks now. I'll chill out here in Australia and get the last two weeks of my tour in.' But I ended up getting the emergency flight home," she reveals.

The performer recalls how she struggled in the early days of Covid. "When we were right in the thick of the worst part of the first lockdown, I turned up the music on my loud speaker at one point and started dancing… and suddenly I began crying," Susan says.

"I welled up with emotion, tears started to spill out, and I realised it was because I had been deprived of this kind of action to move my body to music. And it was more than just about the enjoyment of it."

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However, with tours cancelled, Susan did have the time to work on a project with fellow singer Mick Flannery - writing and recording an album of duets called In The Game.

"That was definitely a product of everything being closed and the gigs shutting down," she says. "I had previously done support to Mick and would join him on stage for a song or two at the end, and it was our mutual manager, Sheena Keane, who suggested that we should work on a tune or two after hearing our voices together.

"Mick is very good at all the aspects of songwriting, but in my mind he's particularly amazing with lyrics. He can say something in the most perfect way that encapsulates it all and evokes emotion every time.

"I've always been drawn to melody, it has been my strongest part, so to work with somebody whose lyrics are this effortlessly brilliant has been a really beautiful kind of journey for me."

For more information on Seconds Away, featuring Susan O'Neill and many other artists, go to singularartists.ie

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