DT: AUGUST 5, 2022
FM: LYNDIE WENNER/MITCH SCHNEIDER/SRO PR
RELEASES HER FULL-CIRCLE/DREAM ALBUM
TODAY, AUGUST 5
MINNEAPOLIS-BASED SINGER, SONGWRITER, PIANIST AND PERFORMER
REVISITS HER INNER ROCK CHICK, 80’S MTV CULTURE +
A LONG-FORGOTTEN LANGUAGE OF LYRICS
LISTEN TO ‘NEON LIGHTNING’ HERE
READ HER TRACK BY TRACK OF THE SONGS BELOW
“These songs are straight from my soul”
Credit: Jessica Hegland Photography
Minneapolis-based singer, songwriter, pianist and performer PAMELA McNEILL today (August 5) releases her full-length album NEON LIGHTNING for Farm To Label Records, distributed by Sony Music’s The Orchard on all streaming platforms.
A collection of eight self-written songs, NEON LIGHTNING reignites McNEILL’s inner “rock chick” at her purest form: a fusion of the idealism of her 20s and the confidence of the more insightful, experienced artist she is today. Her career culminates from deep roots in the 80’s Minneapolis music scene, to a move to the UK where she was a background singer for Rick Astley. Years later she returned home to Minneapolis and made frequent songwriting trips to Nashville and performed “in the rounds” at the Bluebird Café. It was during the height of the pandemic, at her home just outside of the Twin Cities, that she got back in touch with her beloved pop and anthemic rock musical roots, thus creating this self-written album that features string-lavished, piano-driven power ballads and arena-ready piano-rock composed entirely on her white baby grand piano named “Pearl,” in a no pressure, no pretense, and no Pro Tools firebolt of inspiration. It was later played and recorded live with real instruments and real musicians in real time.
The album features the Elton John-style single/video “Hollywood Rain” released June 24. Elsewhere, PAMELA dips into Tom Petty-like country pop-rock on “Heavy Lifting,” the album’s first single/video, and “Jenny,” the album’s second single/video, is a stirring piano ballad, addressing the plight of an abused woman. The album closes with PAMELA’s very personal song “In the Midnight Blue,” with some intriguing Beatles-esque musical moments.
NEON LIGHTNING was produced by Minneapolis producer, engineer and musician/guitarist Matthew Kirkwold (Quiet Drive and Lucky Boys Confusion) at John Richardson’s Drum Farm Studios in Menomonie, Wisconsin. Musicians on the album include Adam Ollendorff on acoustic guitars and steel guitar (Kacey Musgraves, Will Hoge, Katy Perry), Adam Keafer on bass (Kacey Musgraves, Matthew Perryman), John Richardson on drums (Gin Blossoms), and PAMELA on piano and Matthew on electric guitars. Grammy-award nominated, multi-platinum mixing engineer/producer Justin Cortelyou (Paul McCartney, Ke$ha, Taylor Swift, U2, Lady Gaga) engineered the sessions.
Photo Credit: John Stanton
TRACK BY TRACK:
1.Jupiter’s Moons – Writer – Pamela McNeill
This was the song that truly lit the path for “Neon Lightning.” I had been listening to a lot of Rickie Lee Jones, one of my musical heroes, and wanted to create a song that could be almost a calling card for the beginning of my live shows as well. I could envision the first line “Turn on the lights…” coming from a black stage to the lights coming up. With the lyric “Make a little noise,” I imagined the audience responding and thought it might create a memorable start to a show. We played our first show a few weeks ago and it worked like magic! They cheered right where they were supposed to! The song is about me missing those I love so much who have passed on. And the connection we still have with each other from earth to beyond.
2. Hollywood Rain – Writer – Pamela McNeill
This started with the title. My husband Bruce and I were in Florida right before the pandemic exploded, having dinner in a restaurant at the hotel we were staying at and outside it was dark and storming like crazy! I thought—“wow”—that looks like a Hollywood Rain! There were a few well-placed outside lights that lit it up like any classic movie scene with rain. And I thought, “OH! I want to write THIS song!!! Then, about 10 months into the pandemic, I was sitting at home playing “Pearl” (our white baby grand), and I was so depressed. Not being able to go anywhere. No gigs. It was very hard for me. And I had a strong feeling hit me—”I miss the Madonna Days.” The 80’s. The colors. The way it seemed we all got along better (whether real or imagined). The different musical styles. The clothes. So that led to recalling those days for me—high school hangs with friends at the lake, or watching MTV, wearing leg warmers and mixing bright colors. To being in England at the height of the 80’s pop movement. And being smack dab in the middle of it with Rick Astley. Then thinking about how different life feels now. Not depressing—but different. Happy to have the wisdom I have now. And grateful for the memories. So, I wanted this to be a joyful celebration of those times. This is one of my favorite songs I’ve ever written. Because of how it makes me feel! My “Elton John” song! Tommy Barbarella wrote the string arrangements for this song. I’d asked for “Elton John” strings and he delivered that in spades! Tommy worked with Prince so he’s truly amazing!
3. Heavy Lifting – Writer – Pamela McNeill
I came up with a piano chord progression that I was really digging and I loved how the hook in the progression “rubbed” against the major chords. I had the title “Heavy Lifting” rolling around in my head for a few weeks and knew I wanted to see where it led. “He made you do the heavy lifting…like it was all your fault…” came to me instantly and I heard it being sung by Tom Petty in my head! And from there it just wrote itself. Maybe took me 15 minutes to write the whole thing.
4. Jenny – Writer – Pamela McNeill
This song began with the opening piano riff and the name “Jenny” came into my head. I wasn’t thinking of any one in particular, but that was the character that revealed herself. I knew it wasn’t Jenny speaking but someone else who was standing up for her in the story. I wasn’t sure who exactly, but it quickly turned out to be a best friend of hers. It really wasn’t important who the “villain” in the story was technically as much as we know he had treated her very, very badly and was abusive in some manner. I was fed up with reading stories every day about men who shot or killed their wives, ex-wives, girlfriends simply because the woman had tried to break away from them. This entire “I own you and if I can’t have you nobody can” mindset is bullshit and we don’t do enough to prevent this or punish men (in general) for this type of abuse and attitude, in my opinion.
I heard “Aerosmith Strings” immediately and told my producer Matthew Kirkwold that’s what I wanted. Once again, he had Tommy Barbarella work his magic and it added the drama and passion the song needed to really PUNCH the emotions. We had a live string session with Tommy Barbarella conducting for both “Jenny” and “Hollywood Rain.” Incredibly profound and powerful.
5. Another Like Me – Writer – Pamela McNeill
This is the only song not written specifically for “Neon Lightning.” I had written it in 2018 and had recorded it in Nashville. I thought we missed what I’d wanted for the song— and that was to treat it more like a Pink –pop rock song than country. People had really loved it, so I played it for Matthew the first time he came over to listen to my songs. He got it right away! He had me make one timing move on the opening progression and it moved it into the more pop mode immediately! We especially had fun recording the backing vocals for this. The message of believing in yourself no matter who tried to stand in your way is timeless.
6. 10,000 Lakes – Writer – Pamela McNeill
Bruce and I had been wondering if there was some other city we’d like to live in. After going through a list of many potential cities, it turned out they all had major issues that we wouldn’t want to navigate. We kept going back to right where we are. I wanted to write something about my home ground. And the song just poured out. I was inspired by Prince and how he’d write about Minnesota, too. Somehow he made it cool.
After the riots that really damaged Minneapolis after the murder of George Floyd, I and many others really wrestled with whether we wanted to stay here or not. If you weren’t here, you wouldn’t understand. But if you were, it was life changing. It challenged almost everyone in the biggest and smallest ways. In our belief systems. We had to look inward. So many tough questions. But at the end of the day, I want—HAVE—to believe that Minneapolis will come back strong again. And that we can make it an even better city.
7. Love is a Superhero – Writer – Pamela McNeill
This was the last song I wrote for “Neon Lightning.” It started with that opening piano progression which felt so rich and deep and very satisfying to me. The “Space” in the song is as important to the structure of the song as the lyrics, chords and melody are.
This is my love song to Bruce. But it could just as well be a mother talking to a child or a best friend to another friend—basically for anyone who has ever responded and lifted up someone who was in need of love. In their darkest moment. Where would I or “we” be without love swooping in? Saving the day…
8. In the Midnight Blue – Writer – Pamela McNeill
My piano “Pearl” definitely dictated this song for me. I just felt so good to play this and so natural. My therapist, who I’ve been seeing on and off for 10 years, asked me one day if I ever had or ever would write a song for the little girl inside—and what would I say to her? This is that song.
Connect with PAMELA McNEILL: https://www.pamelamcneill.com/music
For press inquiries,
Lyndie Wenner, SRO PR
615-512-8360 (direct to cell)