A Special ‘Opening Act’ Is Dedicated to Residents of Aurora, Colorado Where Jason Mraz Found His Opening Act
Tonight’s ‘Opening Act’ had special meaning not just for the unknown artist who had a chance to open for Jason Mraz, but for every American watching the show. Jonathan O’Neal was born and raised in Aurora, Colo. On ‘Opening Act’ he represented a refreshing breath of hope for the Denver suburb that has suffered so much after the tragic events of July 20. And, if Aurora was watching, they can’t be anything but proud of “Jono.”
Jono, as he’s known by most, works at an electronics store and goes to church regularly. He’s just a regular guy who also happens to have an unbelievable voice. The selection team at ‘Opening Act,’ made up of big names in music like Martina McBride, Jason Derulo, Pete Wentz, Antonina Armato, Nick Cooper and creator Nigel Lythgoe saw him on YouTube and voted unanimously to bring him to Hollywood and prepare him to open for Jason Mraz in Honolulu, Hawaii.
The unsuspecting Jono was surprised while attempting to help Olivia Lee purchase a television at the store where he works. Suddenly, a message from Jason Mraz appeared on the screen, asking if Jono would like to be his opening act. Jono is shocked and then said to Lee, “Start explaining.” But he was not the only one in for a shock. Because his parents were at church, in order to give them the news that he was being whisked away to Hollywood immediately, Jono had to make the announcement in front of the entire congregation. The sanctuary was immediately filled with joyful cheers.
Once Jono got to Hollywood, his true test began. Because of the failed music career of his biological father, who disappeared from Jono’s life when he was very young due to his substance abuse issues, Jono has an overwhelming fear of failure. He said, “I don’t want to be that guy who has it in his hands and lets it slip away. I don’t want to be like my biological dad.” This was a recurring theme throughout the show.
He also had a severe case of nerves and found himself struggling with criticism. At one point, after Jono was overcome with emotion after receiving some constructive criticism, vocal coach Nick Cooper said Jono was probably “an artist who had never heard the statement ‘Do it over’ or ‘You’re not singing good.’” Lythgoe was suddenly concerned about their choice, saying, “If I’m perfectly honest, I’m not certain he’s going to pull this off.”
But Jono made it to the end of the week and headed to Hawaii with just one day left until the big show. He spent a day as a tourist in order to relax and then got the second surprise of his life when his family showed up to see him the night before the show. But that wasn’t Jono’s final surprise. Jason Mraz sent another message asking Jono to sing a duet with him. This surprise was a lot for him to take and he spent a sleepless night trying to learn the song and freaking out about the performance.
The next morning, Jono got a pep talk from his stepfather, and then it was time to meet Jason Mraz and get ready for the show. Mraz seemed as genuinely excited to meet Jono as he was to meet him. Jono said, “I’m a huge fan,” and Mraz replied, “Likewise.” Mraz seemed pleased with the choice saying, “You wanna be able to hang with the opening act. Attitude goes a long way.” They warmed up together, a big thrill for Jono, and then it was show time.
The nervous Jono, with is fear of failure still hanging over his head, nearly blew it just as he was about to go on stage. He said, “Right before I stepped out, I froze. I went blank. The words. My band. My name. I froze.” But, hearing the cheers of the audience helped him snap out of it and he went out and warmed them up like a pro. He had the crowd on their feet and dancing in no time.
Aurora, Colo native, Jono, overcame his fear of failure, got his nerves in check and performed his song ‘This City’ in front of 20,000 people. It was a very fitting homage to a place that has suffered so much recently. Jason Mraz couldn’t have asked for a better opening act. Jonathan O’Neal couldn’t have asked for a better experience. And the town of Aurora couldn’t have asked for a better reason to start singing again.
Watch Jono and Jason Mraz on ‘Opening Act’