Hall of Fame - Kieran Goss

The artist who is involved in every aspect of the music business

Kieran Goss grew up in Mayobridge, Co Down, surrounded by his fourteen siblings’ records (Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson through to The Rolling Stones) along with his mother’s music from an earlier time – Frank Sinatra and so on.

With a natural talent for singing and an engaging personality, he soon picked up a guitar and started singing himself and found that this was a handy way to earn some cash while studying law at Queen’s University, Belfast. He soon became a familiar and popular figure around the local bars and folk clubs.

With a cool business head added to his other abilities, he worked his way into supporting many of the big names visiting Belfast at the time (the early 80's): Elvis Costello, Christy Moore, Joe Jackson and more. In 1983, a small local label (Sine) released his first single, 'Where Are They Now'. Deciding that law was not really his destiny, he set off for France and Germany as well as building a following in Scotland, where an early admirer was the iconic Archie Fisher.

By 1989, he was back home and recording his first album, Brand New Star. As well as introducing him to a still wider audience, the album also acted as a showcase for his songs for other singers. One of the first to pick up on them was Mary Black, who recorded the title track and ‘Just Around The Corner’ for her album Babes In The Wood. Kieran later met up with Mary’s sister, Frances Black, who was looking for someone to play with her. The pair teamed up for what started as a few low-key gigs but they worked so well together that they were soon brought into the studio to record their self-titled 1992 album.

That proved to be a turning point in his career when the record label, Dara, included their 'Wall Of Tears' on the massively successful Woman’s Heart album later that year. Although not one of Kieran’s songs, the success of the album and tours brought him to huge audiences.

Kieran has mixed feelings about that period. Speaking in 2000, he recalled 'It became something I never planned. The Woman’s Heart thing moved us very quickly from being a folk club act to playing five nights at the Olympia. I don’t really think we were ready for it. I felt that there was a unique opportunity there, particularly when James Blennerhassett was working with us. There was a magic to it. But to me it needed to pull back and to be more refined.'

Because of the Woman’s Heart connection, most of the attention was focussed on Frances Black and the partnership dissolved after three years. But it had given Kieran the kick he needed to take full control of his own affairs. After another solo album on Dara, New Day, came his most successful album yet, Worse Than Pride, on his own Cog label.

'I’m my own manager and record company – but I love it. With Worse Than Pride I found I was starting to become more of a businessman than a musician. But I thought there’s no point in having this great organisation if you don’t have a product. I set about organising a structure that would allow me not to be as personally involved. I still control it but don’t have to do the day to day things of running a record company.'

He could afford to reorganise his working life as the album had reached double platinum status in Ireland alone and yielded three top twenty singles. An initiative by the Irish Music Rights Organisation (and some collaborations with his friend Jimmy MacCarthy) led to a number of jointly written songs, many with American writers including Rodney Crowell. The fruits of these works showed up on his 2000 release, Red Letter Day and such was his status by now that he was able to release a ‘best of’ set, Out Of My Head, a couple of years later.

In spring 2005 he went to Tennessee where Rodney Crowell and Peter Coleman produced Blue Sky Sunrise, for release in September. 

Geoff Harden

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