Sleeping At Last – the Music of Ryan O’Neal

June 14, 2012 — 2 Comments

Ryan O’Neal, the force behind the band Sleeping At Last, is one extremely talented singer/songwriter. I cannot say enough positive things about the music I have heard to date which  includes the album Storyboards and selections from Yearbook. I discovered Sleeping At Last when just this past year O’Neal gave away Storyboards for free on NoiseTrade.com. I have been hooked ever since.

Sleeping at Last crafts spiritually meaningful lyrics with rich, beautiful melodies. Content is supreme with O’Neal—his message is overall spiritually charged though not overbearing or overly religious. This is right up the alley of the Christian who enjoys music that entertains the sometimes deeper spiritual subjects of life while avoiding the overdone.

Though Christian, you will not hear O’Neal overuse staple Christian buzz words such as mercy and grace; instead, he will tell you about them, along with love, forgiveness, humility and hope, weaving their concepts into significance. His use of imagery and metaphor is at times astounding.

Take for example the song “Birdcage Religion” from Storyboards, which speaks for itself:

so slowly i’m losing
who i’ve sworn to be.
a promise in pencil
that years have made so hard to read.
i’ve spent my life building walls
brick by brick and bruise by bruise…
a birdcage religion that whispered me to sleep.

but time is spinning silk
that coils ruthlessly;
with the devil’s patience,
it binds my hands so quietly
that soon it becomes a part of me.

so soften these edges and straighten out my tie.
and help me remember
the hope that i have compromised.

please be a broken record for me.

And then in “Naïve,” a delicate piano and voice piece form Storyboards, a stunning moment of clarity and triumph unfolds, the likes of which is rarely achieved as well in song lyrics, when the song culminates in a moment of realization:

but in the end such tired words will rest.
the truth will reroute the narrow things they’ve said.
the marionette strings will lower and untie
and out of the ashes, love will be realized.

Perhaps what is most intriguing about Sleeping At Last is how O’Neal mixes his commitment to his faith in God with his art form. In an interview from Wrecked.org, O’Neal was asked if Sleeping At Last is a Christian band, what that means to him, and how is his faith incorporated into the music he writes and plays?

O’Neal responded:

“I hate to use the old “We’re not a ‘Christian band,’ we’re Christians in a band…” thing, but… since we began, we’ve felt very passionate about making our music available to anyone that was kind enough to listen, no matter who they are or what they believe in. We’ve also always aimed to write music that is as sincere as possible and that incorporates everything that means a lot to us.

“Our faith is a very big part of our lives, so naturally it comes through in our songs in a lot of ways. We never try to tone it down or up. And that’s sort of how we’ve approached our faith and music from the beginning. We’re just privileged to play music for anyone with an open ear.”1

O’Neal’s answer rings true to what I have thus far heard from him musically—an example of faith neither overdone nor underdone, but just exactly as he is—a true reflection of what is inside the artist. His ability to bring it out in words and music is what makes Sleeping At Last a must listen.

You can check out O’Neal and Sleeping At Last more at their website.

I leave you with a recent live version of “Tethered,” a personal favorite of mine, which is off the Yearbook album. O’Neal also gives a little background on the song in the video. If you follow along with the lyrics included below, you will get a taste of O’Neal’s high level of sensibility, use of imagery, and song craft…

 

we were married by the ocean.
we were tethered by the sea.
we tied string around our fingers
to remember our ideals.

i’ll be brave when you are frightened.
you’ll be strong when i am weak in the knees.
i’ll be calm when you have had enough of these rushing waves.
you’ll be the oxygen i need.

we’ll take turns to untangle the knots,
though our hands may be tied,
it’s all a part of the plot.
cat’s cradle etiquette, we oblige,
as we learn to enlace for the rest of our lives.

you’ll be balance when i waver.
i’ll be warmth when you are shivering cold.
you’ll be patience when i’ve had enough of this waiting game.
i’ll be the anchor cast below.

we’ll take turns to untangle the knots,
though our hands may be tied,
it’s all a part of the plot.
cat’s cradle etiquette, we oblige,
as we learn to enlace for the rest of our lives.

Check out more music and video selections from the Sleeping At Last website here.

1 For the quote and the full interview, see http://arts.wrecked.org/?filename=voices-in-culture-sleeping-at-last-interview, last accessed 06/13/2012.

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2 responses to Sleeping At Last – the Music of Ryan O’Neal

  1. I am a pianist and am attracted to certain chord progressions and know when I hear a great song. I admit, I had never heard of Sleeping At Last until the Twilight movies, but when Turning Page first started playing during Breaking Dawn Part 1, I was listening more than watching the movie and thought WOW. WHAT IS THAT SONG???

    I immediately researched it until I found Ryan’s music and his lyrics can make you cry. I especially love “All this to Say” and a few others that have made me listen over and over again. I went through all his songs on Amazon and created my own album to burn to a CD of his amazing work and made a second copy for my mom.

    I realize he must be a humble guy, but he shines so very bright and I wish more knew about this wonderful talent. He can reach so many more people then he is now, but I believe there’s much more to come from this artist and I look forward to each and every new song he releases.

  2. Found your post as I was digging for more about Ryan O’Neal (NOT the actor) – the passionate though modest guy; was searching because just came across his album and felt I HAD TO hear those songs again! funnily enough, the album was played in my pilates class; at first it seemed just soft, relaxing pieces, good for an evening workout, but then I paid more attention to the lyrics and got puzzled… philosophical? poetic? romantic? religious? all of it, an artful COMBINATION illustrated by the music – just what I appreciate most, I thought and unsurprisingly, had to ask the instructor who the performer was! Now I’m happy to learn there’s plenty to discover, enjoy, and share with my friends. I’m likely to get hooked, too…

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