Today’s Song: Gary O’Neill’s Beautifully Bittersweet “Petals” Aches with Love & Longing

Gary O'Neill © Zyanya Lorenzo
Gary O'Neill © Zyanya Lorenzo
Dublin by-way-of Kilkenny singer/songwriter Gary O’Neill captures the bittersweetness of love and longing in his heartfelt single “Petals,” a wondrous song of distance and intimacy.
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Stream: “Petals” – Gary O’Neill

‘Petals’ is a song about living abroad, missing family. It’s an ode to my mother and grandmother, talking about their hopes that I’d return home someday.

It takes considerable inner strength to live hundreds and thousands of miles away from your home and family: To leave your loved ones for faraway cities and distant shores, experiencing them primarily through phone calls and blue screens. Irish singer/songwriter Gary O’Neill knows this life all too well: The Dublin by-way-of Kilkenny artist captures the bittersweetness of love and longing in his heartfelt single “Petals,” a poignant and wondrous song of distance and intimacy/

Petals - Gary O'Neill
Petals – Gary O’Neill
Tell my Ma
That I was asking for her
It’s not lie we don’t talk anymore
Since I moved over abroad
Kitchen door
Kettles on the boil
Sure all you do is spoil your
Sons and daughters when they’re home

Independently released March 18, 2022, “Petals” is Gary O’Neill’s first song of the year and the lead single off his forthcoming EP, To Those I’ve Missed (out later this spring). A true ode to both the people and places he calls home, “Petals” is O’Neill’s fourth recent release of his career, following 2019’s debut single “Set for Life” and 2020’s “Tofino” and “Corduroy.”  He has released a few albums prior to these songs, but has since taken most stuff offline “as he now gears to set out on his brand new musical journey and developing a new sound for himself,” according to those who know him well.

A warm and wistful wash of acoustic folk, the track is uncompromisingly candid, honest, and vulnerable: An ever-moving confessional that finds O’Neill blending his own feelings about distance and his familial relationships, with those of his family members who live so far away.

She send to me
pictures from the walls
Lampshades in the hallway
Dim and plenty, as she does
Would I be the same
I’d smile and then refrain
I hated when you left here
For Chicago on your own

“‘Petals’ is a song about living abroad, missing family,” O’Neill tells Atwood Magazine. “It’s an ode to my mother and grandmother, talking about their hopes that I’d return home someday. “It’s not Ireland when you’re gone,” they told me once over the phone. That was the initial catalyst for the song.”

Gary O'Neill © Zyanya Lorenzo
Gary O’Neill © Zyanya Lorenzo

Nana’s house
with trinkets on the porch
flowers flock the garden
Minding but their own
Send sends to me, those letters from the drawers
The 4 kids up and gone
It’s no wonder that you’re sad

It could be leaving home for university, or getting a new job in a new city, state, or country; it could simply be leaving the comfort of a safe space, venturing out into an unknown beyond. “Petals” immerses itself in this balance of safety and security, detachment and space.

To Those I've Missed - Gary O'Neill
To Those I’ve Missed – Gary O’Neill

As O’Neill explains, his upcoming EP is a deeply personal and expressive set that finds him reflecting on himself and his relationships over the past few years. “To Those I’ve Missed is a small body of work that explores friendships, relationships from the past and present,” he says. “Time, especially within the last couple of years – can drift us apart. But the spirit of those we love and miss is boundless, and can always be acknowledged in the advent of memory. That’s the cohesive thread throughout these songs, it’s about the people we miss.”

Between his stirring guitar finger-picking and his up-close vocals, O’Neill ensures that “Petals” is a powerful experience for all who listen. Whatever your proximity to loved ones, this song is sure to leave us with a renewed appreciation for physical proximity and the importance of time spent together with the ones who matter most.

She said to me
‘Not much has really changed’ and I kept your room the same
And washed your duvets just in case
You show up at my door
With petals on your tongue
Smitten as a dove, love
And found yourself a foreign girl
Does she treat you good and well?
Or will the traveling ever tell
If you’ll make it home at all
‘Cause it’s not Ireland
It’s not our love

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Stream: “Petals” – Gary O’Neill

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