Neil Byrne is now an established solo performer and member of Celtic Thunder, but he had to learn his trade like all good musicians.
That apprenticeship began at the age of 15 when he joined his dad’s band. His dad was in the process of moving into semi-retirement.
Byrne took on more responsibility and became the singer and guitarist of the band. All the time he was gaining vital experience of life as a working musician.
He spent several years performing both traditional songs and original material in various bands. When he was in his early 20s, he was in a band called Hipple Street.
They enjoyed initial success when they reached the top 30 in the Irish singles chart with Inspector Rita and were play listed on several radio stations.
They also entered a song called Havana into a worldwide song writing competition and made it all the way to the semi-final. However after five years, the band were struggling to juggle touring and making a living and they eventually split.
Big break – meeting Phil Coulter
However, Byrne’s big break was just around the corner. He was asked to perform at a family function at music producer, Phil Coulter’s house. At the time, Coulter was working with Celtic Woman manager, Sharon Browne, to put together an all male group of Irish vocalists for a show called Celtic Thunder
Byrne was asked to be part of the show as a musician supporting the band. He played guitar and provided backing vocals. The show was a big success and Celtic Thunder went on several tours of North America and released several albums and DVDs over the next few years.
In 2010, Byrne released his first solo material. It was an EP titled Sensitive Souls. He said it was so called because like all musicians, he is a sensitive soul. It was a soulful-pop record and was a big hit with his fans.
Joining Celtic Thunder
Byrne later became an official member of Celtic Thunder and sang in ensemble pieces, and he had his own solo parts in their 2011 album, Heritage. He played the role of a villager in their Storm album and show that was released later in the year. He didn’t have a major role on the album because it was recorded before he had become part of the main band.
In 2012, Celtic Thunder released the album, Voyage, which features Byrne more prominently.
Byrne continues to work and record with Celtic Thunder, as a solo artist and in collaboration with fellow Celtic Thunder member, Ryan Kelly.