Name: Adam Bernard Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States About Me: Entertainment journalist with 15+ years of experience. Supporter of indie music. Lover of day baseball, fringe movies, & chicken shawarma. Part time ninja. Nerdy, but awesome. See my complete profile
I’ve featured Ryan-O’Neil quite a bit here over the past decade, and there’s a good reason for that – he’s a creative genius.
Think I’m overstating things? Well, take, for example, his Major to Minor project, where he reconfigures songs that were originally composed in a major key, flipping them into something completely different by switching them to a minor key.
The latest song in his Major to Minor series is the Disney classic “Oo-De-Lally,” which takes on a significantly darker tone when done in a minor key.
I caught up with Ryan-O’Neil to find out more about the creation of the song, his incredible video for it, and how working with kids has helped him evolve as an artist.
It seems like the inspiration behind “Oo-De-Lally” is that you wanted to address police violence. Why was “Oo De Lally,” which comes from the animated film Robin Hood, the perfect song to do this with, and in what ways do you feel giving this song the Major to Minor treatment morphs the original version the song?
I wasn't trying to address police brutality originally. I was just working on my next Major to Minor Disney song, and it hit me. I can't remember if I was recording it, or just rehearsing it, but I heard/noticed the line, “Never ever thinking there was danger in the water, they just drink it, they just guzzle it down,” and automatically Flint, Michigan, and their water crisis, came into my head.
When I paid close enough attention to the rest of the song it was clear to me that the fight for black/poor lives in America eerily mirrored the plight of the frickin cartoon characters.
The lines about the sheriff and his posse, and just how Robin Hood and Little John are just tryna get by with their lives … the entire concept was screaming at me.
Now, I've heard/sang the song a million times before and never had those connotations, so I definitely think the slowed down, minor key, low vocal take on it brought out a darkness that was in the lyrics, but hidden by the cheery Disney style.
The video is wild, as it features classic animation alongside new footage. How’d it all come together?
Benjamin Bartel is a friend of mine who worked on my music video for “Sunday Morning.” He took a listen to “Ooh-De-Lally,” saw what I was trying to do with my original cut of the video, and offered his help. He's gonna answer the question more fully.
“I’ve been a fan of Ryan's Major to Minor work for years, and he showed me an early video edit of his ‘Ooo-De-Lally’ arrangement cut to a bunch of political found footage, mainly with images of David Clarke, and the Flint water crisis. I thought it was a killer metaphor and, taking any excuse I could to work with Ryan again, wanted to explore it further with a full video.
We were both really into the idea of taking the cartoon imagery from the Disney canon, which most people our age have baked into our subconscious, and twisting it into this haunting specter that looms over real characters.
I drew some pretty clear allusions between the kids in the video and the stories of Trayvon Martin and Tamir Rice, because I felt that Ryan's rendition of the song struck on this idea that the most dangerous time for some people is when they're feeling free, and just enjoying themselves.
By incorporating the animation as it is, I wanted to visualize this tension in a way a kid might see it, where those emotions take on a more literal form.”
Thank you for the added insight! Ryan-O’Neil, I know you also teach music. How has working with children helped your evolution as an artist?
I love teaching.
I enjoy teaching music, and guitar, but I really enjoy being a head teacher, and having my own Kindergarten class. I gotta say that I play my guitar way more when I'm in a classroom than when I'm not. It's a fun, easy way to get kids to listen, and I love singing with them, and teaching them new songs. So at the very least, working with kids has made me a better guitar player. Nonstop playing seems to have an effect on chops. Who'da thunk it?
All right, so basically I plan on creating new music, and music videos, each and every month. Lofty goals, huh? While they won’t all be as highly produced as “Oo-De-Lally,” folks can expect to hear more from my Major to Minor series, hear original songs, see live performances, and, of course, see super awesome music videos.