Right on the heels of the release of their eagerly anticipated new album, Legacy, Volume Two, Celtic Thunder will kick off a 75 city tour of the US and Canada this summer. Known for their theatrical performances of traditional music, the five member male group will perform some of their most well-loved numbers from the past eight years.
The BIR spoke with Neil Byrne, one of the original members of Celtic Thunder, about the album, his life before Celtic Thunder, and their stop in Boston scheduled for September 18 at the Orpheum.
BIR: Your new album Legacy,Volume Two is set to be released at the beginning of August. Tell us what we can expect from the album and the accompanying Legacy tour.
Neil Byrne: It’s been a real whirlwind! The album is an accumulation of all the fan favorites of the last nearly ten years and the biggest songs we have recorded. It’s very exciting to go out and do a 77 day tour. It kind of feels like when we play these songs, we’re preaching to the converted and people just go crazy.
The show is just such a great, hard-hitting show. Every songs ticks a box and it’s such an enjoyable show to perform.
BIR: Tell us a bit about your work outside of Celtic Thunder.
NB: Myself and Ryan Kelly (also of Celtic Thunder) have our own group called Byrne and Kelly- very original name (laughing) and we’re currently on tour at the moment. We do smaller, more intimate shows, two guitars, a violin and piano and it’s such a lovely show, kind of like inviting people into your living room. There’s quite a contrast to the Celtic Thunder shows, and it’s lovely to have both worlds. We just released our new albums “Echoes” so we’re busy, very busy.
BIR: You hail from the beautiful County Wickow. Were you musical from an early age?
NB: My dad was a guitar player and singer and has been all his life, and that’s always been an influence. The guitar was not something we could play around with as kids, it was a professional guitar and it developed this mystique about it, and every time he took it out and played, I was completely blown away by the sound of it as a child. I’d listen to the radio and play along with the drums on suitcases I’d dragged down, just beating out the rhythm.
When I was old enough to hold the guitar my dad started me off on that, and I had a good ear so I could pick up what was going on in songs and slowly follow them. It was really good self-training and I loved it so much I’d spend hours and hours every day.
I started a school band with my brother and cousin and a friend, and we won an All- Ireland Battle of the Bands competition and that really set me off on the excitement of (the music business).
When I was 16 I became, I suppose, semi professional, playing with my father’ band and weddings, and corporate gigs. Earning a living from a very early age, and it progressed from there, writing music. A well known singer songwriter Phil Coulter- I was doing a gig at his house for his 21 year old daughter, and he asked if I’d be interested in playing in his band with him. So I was his bass player for two years. Phil later became the director for Celtic Thunder and asked me to play lead guitar in the band and that was how Celtic Thunder started for me. Three years into the show Sharon Browne asked me to come forward and do some lead vocals as one of the principle singers. And I haven’t looked back since.
BIR: Well, we’re looking forward to seeing you when you arrive in Boston for your show on September 18. What are your thoughts on our city?
NB: You probably think we say this about every city, and the truth is that most of us have our favorite cities, but Boston is really exceptional, it’s a superb city. There are streets there that are nearly identical to streets in Dublin. The character of the city is wonderful. And we have a huge following in Boston, both Celtic Thunder and Byrne and Kelly. I’d love to spend more time there. I just can’t wait for the Boston show.
BIR: Talk to me about the Celtic Thunder Cruise you took part in a few years ago. Will we see another cruise anytime soon?
NB: Not one coming up next year but I think when we do the cruise it will be every 2-3 years. The cruise that we did do was fantastic, it was like the Celtic Thunder hotel on the sea, basically. I think we had 84 events in 5 days. We’d play basketball with the fans and bingo with the fans, I sang a bit and hosted karaoke. And it’s great because it’s such a personal touch and people get to know you a lot more.
BIR: So what about this tour? What can your fans expect to see in this new show?
NB: This show has all the big hitters, all the songs that people have talked about the most over the years. So it’s great to see people’s reactions when we’re hitting these songs one after the other. It makes for a great vibe at the stadium. We’re really looking forward to performing at the Orpheum, such a historic venue. Come out and see us, we won’t let you down.
Celtic Thunder performs at the Orpheum on September 18. For ticketing information, check out celticthunder.com