Neil Byrne – insight into life in and out of Celtic Thunder

Neil Byrne gives an insight into life both in and away from Celtic Thunder

Neil Byrne has had a hectic schedule for the last few years. As well as his role in the hugely successful Celtic Thunder, he has embarked on a separate acoustic career along with bandmate Ryan Kelly.

Neil Byrne Q&A

We caught up with the Irish star and asked him for a few insights into life behind the scenes both in Celtic Thunder and away from the band.

He also told us about his ambitions over the next few years and by the sounds of it, there are exciting times ahead.

Irish Music Daily: What’s your favourite job within Celtic Thunder…performing the big shows, recording, the cruises…or something else?

Neil Byrne: It is so fulfilling for me when the opportunity arises to play guitar while singing a solo song. Growing up with guitars has turned into my vitality for living, it is just so natural for one to be in my hands. I also love heading into the recording studio too. The recording becomes your footprint, your stamp, your expression. It’s a very personal thing to share.

IMD: Are the ABC shows with Ryan more relaxed because they’re smaller events…or more difficult because there’s only two of you?

NB: A bit of both. I think the Byrne and Kelly shows are more laid back because we enjoy more interaction on stage than we have time for in a CT show. But as a small band it is certainly more exposing as musicians. As you can imagine, we offer a completely different sound than when with CT and this itself is a super thrill to be in control off.

IMD: Who’s the most amusing person in Celtic Thunder off stage?

NB: I have to say one of the most important things on tour is the sense of humour in the camp. We can spend up to four months on any one tour together in close proximity on a tour bus. I think you can understand why social skills are as important as talent on stage. All the guys are very witty and like to spend most of our time laughing.

We all do impressions of each other which can be close to the bone but so amusing. All in all I find all the guys to be a tonic.

IMD: What is your favourite film and TV show, and why?

NB: Hands down the “Shawshank Redemption” is my favourite film. It`s like a well sculptured piece of art in my opinion. I watch it probably once a year.

My favourite TV series is an English sitcom called “Only fools and horses”… as a child my family used to watch Only fools and horses every Saturday night. We laughed the house down all the way through it. It`s about three likable rogues… a grandfather, son and grandson living together in a high rise flat in the suburb of London and how they struggle to make ends meet but always find a way through dodgy deals. Very heart felt characters that I feel I know so well.

IMD: Who would be your ideal woman and what do you look for most in a girlfriend?

NB: I believe that you have to have a best friend in a partner, it is the foundation that it is all built upon in my opinion. If she looks like Margot Robbie well that`s a real plus.

IMD: Do you have any hobbies and how do you like to relax when away from work?

NB: Driving relaxes me, I always look forward to driving my car when I return home from tour. Taking a spin up over the Dublin/Wicklow Mountains.

I like to play golf… just to enjoy being out in the open air although it can be frustrating when I can`t keep the ball on the fairway which does happen quite a bit.

IMD: What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

NB: My dad told me at a very young age “what you put in you get out”

He is a true believer of working hard and seeing the fruits of your labour at the end of it. Both mam and dad loved hearing my progression when playing my guitar for hours and hours every day. I was lucky to have had the best of advice so close to me.

IMD: What if any are your biggest regrets?

NB: I am happy to say I don`t really have regrets… Looking back I would have liked to have attended music college but then again I spent all those years performing with different musicians and writing my own music… these are all factors that got me to where I am today.

IMD: What’s the best thing that ever happened to you?

NB: The best thing that ever happened to me would have to be getting started in music…

I have met some of the most wonderful people/musicians and learned so much from them along the way. Music keeps me focused and I always have a goal whether it`s a new album or a new tour to work towards.

As a child music kept me out of trouble and I matured as a person through it.

IMD: What was the most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you?

NB: One of the most embarrassing things that ever happened to me took place on stage when i was performing a solo guitar instrumental at the end of a Celtic thunder concert.

I accidentally hit the loop pedal and the first few notes that i played repeated every couple of seconds… when the song was finished the notes kept ringing out in front of three thousand people wondering how I was playing the guitar with no hands.

IMD: What do you enjoy more? Recording in studio, performing live, songwriting…or something else.

NB: I think I would have to put live performance ahead of the rest but in saying that I need to write the songs and record them in a studio before I tour.

I would happily spend all day in the studio and do so a lot of the time. I love to build productions from scratch.

IMD: What are your ambitions over the next few years?

NB: My ambition will be to develop Byrne & Kelly into an original song writing band. We have been working towards this over the past year and are really looking forward to releasing our debut original songs B&K album.

IMD: Tell us about the new Stage It show with Ryan. What can fans expect?

NB: Well along with Peter and Nicole, we are planning some treats but we have a lot of work to still do! I am really looking forward to playing with them all again. Early in the New Year we all locked ourselves away in a log cabin in the hills of Cavan, back in Ireland and for the first time we attempted some song-writing together. It was so interesting and it’s definitely something we will continue to explore.

Thanks to Neil for answering our questions, we’re looking forward to the new material.

Written by Michael Kehoe

Michael Kehoe

Michael Kehoe is a writer for Irish Music Daily and Ireland Calling.
His favourite Irish Music bands are Flogging Molly and the Dropkick Murphys.
You can follow him on Twitter and

Michael Kehoe

Michael Kehoe is a writer for Irish Music Daily and Ireland Calling. His favourite Irish Music bands are Flogging Molly and the Dropkick Murphys. You can follow him on Twitter and

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