The TSO Story
Paul O’Neill was born and raised in New York City. His family consisted of 10 children, his mother, and his father who had a doctorate in history. He grew up in a home surrounded by books of classical literature, history and philosophy, all of which he read voraciously. His youth was spent enveloped by theater, classical music, R&B as well as witnessing some of the most pivotal years of New York City’s morphing rock scene. Influences that helped form a worldview reflected to this day.
In his 20’s O’Neill landed a position at Leber-Krebs Inc., the management company that launched the careers of Aerosmith, AC/DC, Def Leppard, The New York Dolls, Scorpions and more. A few years later, he was promoting some of the largest concert events and festivals in Japan, for such artists as Madonna, Bon Jovi, and Sting among others.
After segueing from the live business into a successful studio career, O’Neill sowed the seeds for what would launch his 20 year journey with Trans-Siberian Orchestra (TSO). Recording with artists such as Aerosmith, Savatage, and Badlands opened his eyes to the possibility of a group that flew in the face of all music industry logic.
In 1996, O’Neill launched Trans-Siberian Orchestra (TSO) with a vision for a band that was theatrical, conceptual, and, like the world itself, intended to be ever-changing. In short, everything not expected of rock music at that point in time.
“I think you can say we knew the odds were against us,” O’Neill recalls. “The industry at that time liked bands they could fit into nice, neat, little niches and follow preordained paths to success or failure. We knew that we wanted to break all those rules, we just didn’t know if it would work. Lucky for us there were people at our label who had a blind faith in artists. They were willing to take a chance and support us while we experimented (sometimes successfully, sometimes not) and discovered what we could create — without the usual pressure of keeping to a schedule. I can’t imagine that being the case in today’s music business.”
Unthinkable in the beginning, TSO has become one of the most unlikely success stories in rock ‘n’ roll history. Defying the odds with each tour and album, TSO continues to search for new and original ideas to bring to reality no matter how difficult the challenge.
Today, many people assume TSO was a success out of the box, but it wasn’t until they turned in Beethoven’s Last Night (1999), and began to tour, that the band’s fortune changed. To date, TSO has generated five platinum-or-better albums — and turned into a touring juggernaut, becoming one of Billboard‘s Top 25 acts during the first decade of the 21st century.
TSO’s album saga continued last year with Letters From The Labyrinth, which O’Neill christened as TSO’s “first hybrid album,” and boasts a conceptually provocative song cycle that pushes the proverbial envelope once again. The album’s overall concept is based on TSO’s Night Castle (2009) and a dialogue between the wisdom of the past and the hopes for the future, via a correspondence between a child and an old friend of the child’s grandfather. Letters from the Labyrinth became TSO’s third Top 10 album debut in a row, and spent an impressive six weeks at No. 1 on Billboard’s Rock Chart.
2015’s tour hit 60 cities across North America and played to more than 850,000 people. The run grossed more than $41 million in just 45 days which resulted in it being ranked No. 15 on the “Top 200 North American Tours” chart and No. 30 on the “Top 100 Worldwide Tours” chart by concert industry trade Pollstar magazine.
TSO’s successes extend overseas, as well. In Germany, TSO has played to more than 1,000,000 people on New Year’s Eve at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, and in July 2015 performed to a crowd of over 80,000 fans at the Wacken Open Air Festival with a ground-breaking set across the festival’s massive two main stages.
In August, O’Neill announced that in its Platinum anniversary year, for its Winter Tour 2016, the group is bringing back its treasured tale, “The Ghosts of Christmas Eve.” The tour will come to 61 cities across North America beginning on November 17th and concludes, after 45 days and 105 shows, with special New Year’s Eve performances in Seattle and Cleveland.
There’s more on tap in TSO’s near future. Working at its studio in Florida, TSO has in various stages of completion two more rock operas — “Romanov: When Kings Must Whisper” about the 1917 Russian Revolution — while a live concert adaptation of “Night Castle” is also on the future docket. O’Neill plans to bring the TSO experience to Broadway at some point.
“My biggest problem is simply time,” O’Neill says with a laugh. “I need to get one of those magical stopwatches where time freezes and I can play catchup. Until that happens, we’ll just keep working on things, trying finding new stories and new ways to tell them.”
Paul passed suddenly in 2017. But his spirit and vision continue each holiday season whenever you see or hear Trans-Siberian Orchestra”
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