The multi-award winning husband and wife duo O’SHEA is one of Australia’s most energetic live acts. Now based in Nashville, the Australian couple have graced stages from the Grand Ole Opry to the Sydney Opera House.
Although Mark and Jay may come from different musical backgrounds, with Mark’s country rock roots providing contrast to Jay’s history as a “singer’s singer” and successful songwriter, it is those differences that make them such a powerful musical force.
Like the contrasting feelings the two sing about on their latest record, “The Famine and The Feast”, Mark and Jay have found beauty in their differences, making for an electric listening experience for the rest of us.
There’s power to be found in the tension between opposites – in darkness and light, good and evil, love found and love lost. Country duo O’Shea are particularly fond of the inspiration brought forth by the polarizing nature of love, especially on their latest album The Famine and the Feast.
The Famine and the Feast, which was released via Sony Music Entertainment, is a twelve-song collection from the husband and wife team of Mark and Jay O’Shea that spans the full range of emotions experienced in love and heartbreak. From the “what ifs” of “Here I Am,”co-written with Nashville hit maker Tim Nichols (Tim McGraw, Alan Jackson, Faith Hill) to the sweet stability of the lead single “Bad Day Good,” which features 4-time Grammy Award winner Steve Wariner, The Famine and the Feast shows O’Shea at their most vulnerable and, as such, at their best.
“Between the writing and recording of these songs, I must have cried about 20 times,” says Jay. “In the past I would have put that down to being overly emotional on account of being pregnant, but I can’t blame it on that this time! These songs are very personal and cut right to the bone.”
The Famine and the Feast is O’Shea’s third studio album as a duo and demonstrates the remarkable growth as musicians the two have made since releasing Mr. and Mrs. in 2011. The track “Family Is Everything” is a very open and honest exploration of the unbreakable bonds between family members and was co-written with one of Nashville’s preeminent songsmiths, Billy Burnette. “Parade,” co-written with Shaye Smith and featuring trumpet from Keith Smith (known for his work with Jack White), is a New Orleans-tinged ode to the kind of days where you just want to get up and dance.
In addition to taking great strides lyrically, O’Shea pushed themselves musically — with Mark, especially, playing a wide range of instruments including electric guitar, acoustic guitar, ganjo and mandolin. The bracing vocal harmonies on “Alone” are set off by a gentle string quartet that builds to a crescendo before song’s end, the track illustrating the importance of love and companionship throughout life’s journey. The heartbreaking message of “Sorry I Was Right” is made all the more powerful with somber piano and Jay’s angelic voice.
“The Truth Walks Slowly,” co-written by and featuring iconic Australian musician and songwriter Rob Hirst, tells the story of a farmer and his unwavering commitment to the land, despite hardship and the temptation to sell for a quick buck. In a reunion of sorts, Midnight Oil bassist Bones Hillman completes the rhythm section on the track and the results are simply stunning.
The duo co-produced the album with help from legendary producer Mark Moffatt (Tim Finn, The Saints) and super-musician Ilya Toshinsky (Sheryl Crow, Kacey Musgraves, Dolly Parton).
“Being surrounded by such amazing musicians in Nashville is always inspiring and makes you want to try new things,” adds Mark. “We chose the kind of musicians for this record that had country roots, but were willing to take some chances both musically and instrumentation wise and we’re all very happy and excited by the results.”
Although together romantically since 1996 and celebrating their 10 year wedding anniversary in December, Mark and Jay have only been playing music together since 2007, when the couple moved to Nashville, TN, to pursue their career in Music City. They’ve already had an impressive run in their seven years together: winning the Golden Guitar in 2012 for New Talent of the Year and again in 2014 for Group/Duo of the Year and 2017 for CMC Video Clip of the Year for “The Truth Walks Slowly (In The Countryside)”; serving as ambassadors for charitable organizations like World Vision and HeartKids, hosting the QANTAS in-flight radio show “Big Country,” and clocking up more than 6 number ones on the Aussie charts. Their Australian TV show O’SHEA USA has just been renewed for its fourth season.
Mark and Jay may come from different musical backgrounds, with Mark’s country rock roots providing contrast to Jay’s history as a “singer’s singer” and successful songwriter, but it is those differences that make them such a powerful musical force. Like the contrasting feelings the two sing about on their current record, Mark and Jay have found beauty in their differences, making for an electric listening experience for the rest of us.