[I’ve started this bio/profile several times, each time deciding that the bios already available on Neil’s own website, the Acoustic By Candlelight website and Celtic Thunder’s website are far more thorough than what I would be writing here. But, I seem to still be switching between these 3 sites a lot, and googling a lot, when it comes to double-checking things I think I recall about this lovely man and his music career. And, from the meager stats I see through the blogger system, it would seem that some people arrive on this blog looking for a bio/profile on Neil. So, while I love the storytelling of the existing bios, I’m putting up a bio here on him as well.
I’m hoping to actually meet Neil again this evening, and maybe I’ll actually remember to ask him how old he is, one of those little factoids that I could not confirm except via wikipedia and sources which seem to be drawing from wikipedia. So, yeah, I did ask Neil and he told me he is 35. So, while wikipedia is still not exactly a trusted site, it is actually correct on this factoid. And, this post is still an ongoing project, so it will be updated as I have more or better information.]
Birthday: Neil was born on November 16, 1977 (whatever dates other sites have given, this one is the correct one, confirmed by Neil in person).
Hometown: He is from County Wicklow, Ireland. I know I’ve seen or heard him mention which town is is from more specifically, but at the moment I am not finding that particular reference. In any case, his family lived near enough to Bray for him to be heading there to buy his first album, Dire Straits’ “Brothers In Arms”, as a kid.(Celtic Times, 4th Edition)
Instruments: Guitar (started learning to play by age 7), piano, mandolin, electric bass, drums, ? (I vaguely recall seeing him with a ukulele in one of the youtube videos, but I’ll have to double check later to be sure)
First “official” performance: Not sure about this one, but according to his profile on the Celtic Thunder website, Neil was playing with a band by age 11, so he took to the stage pretty early. His dad was a professional musician, so he grew up around music and had his parents’ full support all along as he was developing into the musician he is now.
Education: I don’t really know, but I’ve never heard that Neil finished a degree of any kind in college. He was so solidly into music by the time he was a teenager that I’m not sure what he would do with a college degree, unless maybe it was in business or marketing. He is about my age, though, so he’s certainly had enough time to have tried out college at some point.
Bands and Ensembles: Hipple Street (before Celtic Thunder) Again, I have very little to go on for pre-Celtic Thunder days, though Hipple Street is on myspace and facebook in some capacity. Hipple Street’s EP is also on spotify, as anyone following my weekly 20 song playlists knows. I was able to find out a bit about some of the other guys in this band, but not much. Hopefully I’ll stumble across enough information to profile this band separately, eventually.
Celtic Thunder (2008-present) Neil started out as a musician with this group, playing guitar, percussion, and various other instruments as needed, but he was also a backing vocalist, and starting with the 2010 tour Neil moved up to join the other lead vocalists of Celtic Thunder. His role as a singer with this group has solidified and expanded since then, to the extent that the group now has a new sexy Irish man on guitar and Neil is no longer bouncing between two roles as the guitarist in the band and as lead singer. He does, however, still play the drums in the Raggle Taggle Gypsy ‘drum war’, a task he seems to enjoy thoroughly.
Other Music Related Activities:
Sensitive Souls: A 4-song EP Neil released in 2010, this album includes a very nice cover of Madonna’s “Cherish”, and the original song “Sadie Jones and I”, for which Neil has a lovely music video as well. One of my favorite video clips of Neil is from when he was introducing this EP to his fans, explaining the title “Sensitive Souls”. In his own words, from his webpage bio, he says somewhat less personally, “The title comes from my own observations of many musicians being sensitive souls.” But, in his video, he was so nervous and excited about sharing his precious songs with the world, clearly very much a ‘sensitive soul’ revealing something of itself to the world through his music. I’m sure many people fell in love with Neil on seeing this side of him, and he has remained just as genuine and lovable ever since.
Pale Blue Jak: A music project Neil started a while ago, Neil released his first Pale Blue Jak album last year, entitled “Faces”. This album has a nice mix of original songs and pop/rock cover tunes, with a happy, upbeat sound that relates back to Neil’s days with Hipple Street. Neil has a brand new music video now involving a bunch of cartoon animals he has been using as rather effective teasers for months, for the song “Mr. Ace”, which is off this album. Neil draws from the songs on Faces for his shows with Ryan Kelly when they tour with their Acoustic By Candlelight show (though not all the songs he sings on this tour are from Pale Blue Jak, of course).
Acoustic By Candlelight: A tour with Ryan Kelly, also of Celtic Thunder, which has covered much of the US East Coast in spring 2012 and which will be covering the West Coast this December. Video clips of the spring tour are up on youtube, including a few of the song “Raggle Taggle Gypsy”, which as a Celtic Thunder song would be sung by the whole ensemble; Ryan and Neil kept the arrangement very close to the Celtic Thunder version, but with just their voices, so Neil sings the verse that is usually sung by George, in a lower range than what Neil usually sings. Neil of course does the lower voice in his “Captain Lane” recording, so fans who have seen the teaser video for that song know he has a wide vocal range, but it is still a bit of a shock hearing him suddenly singing a verse in that range mid song. I don’t know, of course, whether this song is in their setlist for next month, but either way, Acoustic By Candlelight will be a great treat for those folks lucky enough to live in a twon where these guys are playing.