A native of Sydney, Australia, Jamie O’Neal was born Jamie Murphy, on June 3, 1966, to professional musicians Jimmy and Julie Murphy. Often on the move, the Murphys relocated to Hawaii when Jamie was two years old, and it was there that Jamie’s younger sister Samantha was born. Five years later, the Murphys moved again, this time to Las Vegas, performing at the Golden Nugget casino. When father Jimmy realized that Jamie and Samantha had inherited musical talent, he drafted them into the show. Jamie was 8.
The Murphy family went on the road again, performing all over America at fairs and conventions, and opening for famous country acts, including Dolly Parton. When Jamie hit her teens, the family moved to Nashville, Tennessee, and recorded three LPs to sell at their shows. However, when Jamie’s parents divorced, the act broke up; Jamie’s mother returned to Australia, while Jamie kept singing with her father, who moved to Los Angeles.
Jamie attended Beverly Hills High School — along with famous classmates like Jonathan Silverman (Weekend at Bernie’s) and David Schwimmer (Friends) — but she did not enjoy the experience. Since she was still singing and touring, she barely had time to spend on her studies — much less fit in — and eventually the young singer simply dropped out. “It was awful,” she recalls, “I wanted to come back to Nashville and pursue singing on my own.”
Afterward, Jamie went to visit her mother in Australia, but the trip turned into an extended stay. While working down under, Jamie was hired by Australian pop star Kylie Minogue as a backup vocalist, and she toured internationally with her for two years. During these years, Jamie was advised to try her hand at songwriting, which would allow her greater freedom in showcasing her talent. Jamie decided to build her repertoire until she had the goods to take to Nashville. To differentiate herself from her family, Jamie changed her name to Jamie O’Neal, and her mother sent Jamie’s demo tape to an acquaintance in Nashville.
Jamie O’Neal’s demo paved the way for a publishing contract, and in 1996, the singer relocated to Nashville — this time to stay. Jamie built a reputation as a vocalist, singing backup for a number of stars, and having her songs recorded. In 1998, she impressed Mercury Records execs, and a deal was soon in the works for an album in Jamie’s own unique style. That album became Shiver, and it launched her into the spotlight.
O’Neal was named the Best New Female Artist in 2001 by the Academy of Country Music. Songs from Shiver were nominated for three 2002 Grammy Awards. Plus, Jamie recorded songs for the soundtracks of such films as When We Were Soldiers and Bridget Jones’s Diary.
Shiver also reaped personal dividends for Jamie. Among the voices on the album are those of Jamie’s sister Samantha (who is pursuing a pop career in Nashville), and of singer-songwriter Rodney Good, who proposed to Jamie while they were recording Shiver. The couple married in Florida after finishing the CD, and recently had their first child, a girl. In addition to being a new mother, Jamie is keeping busy finishing a new album, slated for release later in 2003.