When I first met Ryan O’Neal, who performs under the monniker Sleeping At Last, on the red carpet of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, I quite literally squealed in his face. His song “Turning Page” had landed a spot on the most exclusive soundtrack in town and was featured in the movie’s most crucial scenes. (The wedding and the sex scenes, duh.) “Oh my god, your song is ah-ma-zing.” I gushed, and he offered up a very gracious and humble reply. I spoke the truth; Twitter was filled with fans detailing the many ways in which “Turning Page” moved them to tears.
I sat down with O’Neal last month at my local Coffee Bean in Los Angeles, where we discussed what comes next after Twilight mania, his big break meeting Billy Corgan as a teen, and touring with songbird Christini Perri. He also refused to let me pay for our coffee — because in addition to being a talented musician, the dude’s also a gentleman. Enjoy our interview below (and his latest video for the song “Emphasis” above).
VH1: Let’s start where we left off – at the Breaking Dawn premiere. Did being featured on the soundtrack change the trajectory of your career?
RO: You know it fit really well with what I was doing, so it didn’t really change the direction as much as it changed the audience. That was a really special thing. The Twilight fans are so sweet and so supportive. So, that’s been one of the biggest things. They’ve been so sweet and so nice about some of my other music as well, not just that song, which has been a really great thing. So I have this upcoming tour coming up, and they’ve been really sweet and supportive about that. I do feel like I’m a little bit a part of their Twilight world, which means a lot.
Have you read the books?
I haven’t read the books, which is very controversial. When I set out to write “Turning Page” I was like, ‘I’m going to watch all the movies back-to-back and see kind of where I think the story’s going.’ My wife had read the books, so I definitely got some info. I read like snippets of the section and I knew that a love song, that was going to be most appropriate for that part of the story. I sort of just assumed those different sections would call for something like that.
Have you thought about trying to get a song on the second soundtrack?
I’m going to try, but you know, it’s highly unlikely because I was on the one before it. But, you never know.
Did you connect with Christina Perri through the soundtrack experience?
Oddly enough, technically we did connect through that. We have a very close, mutual friend too. But we met at the premiere for the first time. But I’ve known her music for awhile. And my friend, his name is David Hodges, he co-wrote that song with her and wrote on a bunch of her records too. We’ve known each other for awhile. So yeah, that’s kind of what made that connection work, you know. She is great. I was able to swing by one of her rehearsals a couple of days ago. It sounded so good. I’m excited to hear it every night.
Do you have any expectations going into this tour?
I’m really, really excited because it’s just me and Christina, which is amazing. I mean obviously we have bands, but it’s just the two acts, which is an incredible honor for me too because usually as a support you’re playing in front of six bands. And you’re only playing one song or something like that. So I get a really nice, healthy set. So, it is really nice to be a part of this tour. Live music is a totally different animal but I enjoy it.
Have you been overwhelmed by your recent success? Has it changed your goals as a musician?
I think I’m more excited than ever. But yeah, at the end of the day, it’s kind of like, ‘Alright, now what do I want to do with this?’ I want to write songs. So it’s kind of the same. The path doesn’t really change too much which is great. It’s just nice to have more people listening.
Are you working on writing new stuff?
I am. So I’m trying to follow up Yearbook with another series of EPs. I haven’t announced it yet, but I’m going to write after the tour ends.I have several songs that are ready to kind of be put together for that. So yeah, I’m going to try to jump into it a lot more than I normally do. Before my Yearbook project, I would release like only one record every two or three years. And then I decided to do 36 songs in a row. I kind of have that itch to keep going.
What was like your first big professional break?
I was fortunate enough to work with Billy Corgan and the Smashing Pumpkins really early. I was 15 or 16 years old. I met him just kind of randomly and he took a liking to what I was working on. He kind of brought label interest into the picture. So, that turned into signing to Interscope Records for about one record, so a couple years of my time, which is great. So that was my first moment of, “Oh finally, this is possible as a profession.” That was my first one. That was eight or nine years ago.
How did you find him or how did he find you?
In Chicago, there was this venue that we were playing at, and I think he had stopped by. I don’t think he even saw the show. I handed him a CD just randomly as a 15-year-old dork fan. And I guess he listened to it and called my house the next day, which is absurd.
And that never happens! There’s so many guys handing out CDs, their music on the street. That’s insane.
Exactly. I was very fortunate. I feel blessed that that worked out the way that it did. I had other opportunities like that where I’m still kind of surprised.
Do you ever look at movies or are there books you’ve read or anything like that, that like, if it was made into a movie, you would campaign to be on the soundtrack?
Oh, absolutely. I recently read The Hunger Games for the first time and I’m pretty in love with that. I haven’t continued on to the next two books or the second book and the third book, but I fell in love with that first book. I would love to be on that soundtrack. That would be amazing, but the chances are next to zero.