Marykate O’Neil was born in a small New England town and currently lives in New York City. Since the mid-90’s, Marykate has released six albums, a few cassettes, and a couple of .45’s. Her music has been featured in movies and television shows; she has played throughout the U.S. and Europe to big festival crowds and to empty seats in darkened basements. While primarily known for her music, O'Neil has been painting since she could stand.
Marykate’s music has been called --- Elvis Costello meets Astrud Gilberto; a female George Harrison; a Capote-esque storyteller; and most frequently like herself. The Boston Globe might have said it best (or at least the funniest) when they said: "O'Neil's literate lyrics feature the sort of off-kilter insights Emily Dickinson might make if alive today. After listening to commercial radio, hearing O'Neil sing is like reading Sylvia Path's brutally honest poetry in the wake of watching "American Idol".
In 2002, Marykate recorded and released her self-titled debut album, financing the project with 'pre-approved' credit cards. The record caught on among pop fans and reached the top 10 of the CMJ charts. CMJ magazine called the record an 'essential listen' saying, ""If Elvis Costello and Astrud Gilberto swapped spit in another time dimension, singer/guitarist Marykate O'Neil would be the musical spawn of their eros. A doll-faced talent with enough 60's chutzpah and '90's cynicism to spark her own songwriting genre." Rolling Stone gave the record 4 stars and said: "Marykate's skillful melodies and delicate voice are veritable pearls of sweetness. Deeply authentic and original, Marykate has crafted a style with humor and irony intact anchored in daily life." The record was released in Japan, Australia, and throughout Europe. Three songs from 'Marykate O'Neil' were covered by Japanese film and television star Tomoyo Harada. Soon after, the Nettwerk music group picked up "Marykate O'Neil" and re-released the album, broadening O'Neil's exposure.
In 2006, O'Neil released "1-800-Bankrupt" which was hailed by Filter magazine as "pure magic" and Venus as "witty, angsty goodness." Also in 2006, O'Neil's song "Mundane Dream" was featured in the Sundance award-winning film "Stephanie Daley" starring Tilda Swinton. Performing Songwriter declared, "1-800-damn right! - the record sparkles with classic touches and Marykate's winning vocals are full of tenderness and humor throughout. To paraphrase XTC's Andy Partridge: 'It's really super, Supergirl'."
In 2008, O'Neil released 'mkULTRA' which made critics 'best of lists' with world cafe live saying: 'O'Neil is a mix of sugar and spice and sometimes everything not so nice'. The weekly dig said: "O'Neil has the unflappable ability to intertwine the sweet and sour like an expert bartender." Quick on the heels of the mkULTRA, Marykate released "Underground" which Paste called one of the most anticipated records of 2009. According to All Music Guide, "Underground suggests that O'Neil has indeed arrived."
Upon said arrival, Marykate made a quick exit, to focus upon painting. Her paintings are like visual manifestations of her songs -- reflecting her independent spirit and pop-sensibility with irony and humor. Her work is filled with sly- affectionate nods to the New York School (bright colors, thick paint, words, collage-like juxtaposition) and 60’s populist artists while maintaining its footing in representation and story-telling. Whether expressed in song or in paint, her art is an exploration of daily life with an eye that appreciates the bitter along with the sweet; made up of primary colors and chords that are at once catchy and complex.
Marykate is currently working on a piece which seeks to unite these two worlds. In her words, "I think that as a person who grew up in a small town, I have always felt that it was art that first put me in contact with like minded people. That, coupled with my being involved in the ‘indie’ music world, I always believed – and still do --- in the power of art to build community and connection. My work is about my obsession with the way the counterculture becomes commodified, tamed and neutralized. But, I don’t mean to suggest that is always a negative thing. I mean, I sincerely still love the Monkees. I am interested in the diffusion of new ideas into the culture at large, even in its bowdlerized form and how it reaches people on the outskirts. I am interested in examining that inflection point in our daily lives where things go from being scary and crazy to department store fodder.”