Meagan McNeal brings her own sunshine to wherever she appears

“Sometimes you just need to bring your own sunshine,” says Chicago-born singer-songwriter Meagan McNeal, who embodies that spirit with her luminescent presence. When she joins Justin Roberts as co-host of “Exploring the Orchestra: A Universe of Music,” a CSO for Kids concert Nov. 19, she will be certain to radiate her trademark megawatt charm.

After working in the music industry for a while, McNeal got her big break on the NBC series “The Voice” in 2017 with a killer duet rendition of “My Prerogative,” the new jack swing anthem co-written and popularized by Bobby Brown. On the show, she was mentored by fellow Chicagoan Jennifer Hudson, who parlayed her own reality-show experience into mega-stardom.

McNeal still can’t believe her good fortune. “Every time I think about that, it just blows my mind,” she said in a 2019 interview with Block Club Chicago. “I didn’t think that was possible before ‘The Voice’ happened. Friends and family would tell me, ‘Yeah, you could totally do this full time,’ and I was like, ‘Uh, say that to my bills.’ But it’s been good.”

As a child, McNeal and her family moved around the city before settling on the South Side. A graduate of Evergreen Park High School, she went on to Kalamazoo, to attend Western Michigan University, where she earned a degree in sales and business marketing.

While in college, the show-biz bug bit her. “Some friends and I were just sitting around the living room, kind of like in a jam session,” she told Block Club Chicago. “I didn’t know that they played instruments, and they didn’t know that I could sing, and they were like, ‘Oh, man, this is dope. We should do something.’ ” 

The something turned out to be a show called “Sentimental Soul Sessions, Vol. 1.” They charged a $5 entrance fee, and made only $75. But McNeal admits the experience launched her entertainment career.
 “ ‘Oh, I can get paid for doing something I would do for free?’ It just changed my concept of how to make money.” 

Since then, she hasn't looked back, serving as a vocalist for stars such as Eminem, Common and The O’Jays and appearing with her own productions, including a concert at Taste of Chicago this summer, where she was definitely bringing her own sunshine.