Born in London to a Scottish father and an Irish mother, Liam O’Donnell moved to Leeds in Northern England as a teenager, and began performing as a singer/songwriter. He chose the stage name Various Cruelties after seeing a painting of the same name by American artist Ed Ruscha. “ It seemed to resonate with my character and the music I was trying to make,” O’Donnell said. “It seemed to fit perfectly.”
After moving to London in 2010, O’Donnell decided against performing as a solo artist and began to assemble the band that would become the current incarnation of Various Cruelties. He met Beanie Bhebhe (vocals/bass/beats), Adam Coney (guitar/vocals) and Dean Valentine (drums) in London in September 2010, and in December they played their first show, supporting the Vaccines at the infamous Madam Jo Jo's. By May of 2011, Various Cruelties had recorded and self-released two singles, “If It Wasn't For You” and “Neon Truth,” and had been embraced by UK audiences and the media. Before the end of the year, they’d performed alongside Metallica, Lou Reed, Steve Earle and Nile Rodgers on Later... with Jools Holland, and signed with Mercury Records.
Various Cruelties eponymous debut was recorded in Los Angeles with producer Tony Hoffer, known for his work with Foster the People, Beck, and Goldfrapp. It was released in October 2012, and included the original recording of “If It Wasn’t For You,” which was used in a December 2012 North American holiday campaign for Zales Jewelry.
O'Donnell was also one of the co-writers behind Fall Out Boy's 2015 hit, "Uma Thurman".