One of Ireland's most highly-regarded and successful artists
Paul Brady, singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist is one of Ireland’s most highly-regarded and successful artists.
Born and raised in Strabane, Northern Ireland, on the border with the Irish Republic, he was into a wide variety of music from an early age. A Fifties child, his first sounds were the Swing, Jazz and Show tunes of his parent’s generation. 50’s Rock ’n Roll, 60’s pop, Motown, Blues, R’nB and Country and Western followed. Through all this ran the potent flavour of Irish traditional music and song.
Learning to play the piano pretty much by ear, his early heroes were Jerry Lee Lewis, Winifred Atwell and Fats Domino. By the age of eleven he had begun to play guitar, spending hours of his school holidays learning every tune the Shadows and The Ventures recorded, every lick Chuck berry played. Mid-teens saw him take summer jobs playing piano and guitar in Bundoran, a seaside resort in nearby County Donegal. But it was around 1965 in Dublin, at college, that he began to develop as a singer and performer joining a succession of R ’n B / Soul bands, covering the songs of Ray Charles, James Brown, Junior Walker and blues legends like Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and Chuck Berry.
The 60’s in Dublin saw the renewal of interest in Irish traditional music and gave birth to the first wave of Irish ballad groups like The Clancy Brothers, The Dubliners, Sweeney’s Men and The Johnstons. Soon Paul became swept up in this current and joined the latter band with whom he recorded seven albums.
Moving with The Johnstons in Jan ’69 to live in London and later in ’72 to New York City, he returned to Dublin in 1974 to join Planxty, the premier Irish folk band of the early ’70’s. This was the band that was to launch the solo careers of Andy Irvine, Liam O’ Flynn, Donal Lunny and Christy Moore. From ’76 to ’78 he played as a duo with Andy Irvine, a relationship which produced "Andy Irvine and Paul Brady", an album loved at the time and still sought after in CD form today.
The next few years saw him establish his popularity and reputation as one of Ireland’s best interpreters of traditional songs. His versions of great ballads like Arthur McBride and The Lakes Of Pontchartrain were definitive and are still being asked for by audiences today. By the end of the ’70’s however, he found himself back at the same crossroads once too often. After an acclaimed solo folk album Welcome Here Kind Stranger (1978) which won the Melody maker Folk Album of the year, he decided it was time to move on.
Surprising most observers at the time, he released Hard Station in 1981. Self-penned, the album lyrically reflected the personal changes he was undergoing and musically was a highly original reworking of his earlier influences. Irish folk music took a back seat for the time being. Those more traditional voices who would have preferred him to stay as he was were soon replaced by the voices of praise for what is now accepted as a classic of Irish rock. The albums which followed, True For You (1983), Back To The Centre (1985), Primitive Dance (1987), Trick or Treat ( 1991) and Spirits Colliding ( 1995) collectively established Paul as the pre-eminent Irish singer-songwriter of his generation. Gradually other artists worldwide began to recognise his songs. Touring extensively both as a solo performer and with his own band, he has forged a reputation as a passionate and exciting performer and attracts a dedicated following worldwide.
After many years of writing on his own, in the late 90’s, Brady began to collaborate with other songwriters and in the space of two years wrote nearly fifty songs, several already covered by other artists. In 1998 he began a relationship with Rykodisc which led to the remastering and re-release of six of his previous albums, Hard Station, True For You, Back To The Centre, Primitive Dance, Trick Or Treat and Spirits Colliding. There followed in summer of 1999 a best of collection called Nobody Knows, The Best of Paul Brady (1970s – 1990s) which stayed in the Irish album charts for thirty weeks and is still selling.
In May 2000 Paul released his first album of new songs since 1995’s Spirits Colliding, an album called Oh What A World. Featuring many of the songs he wrote and co-wrote over the previous three years and including collaborations with Carole King, Will Jennings, Ronan Keating, Conner Reeves and Mark Hudson it has been critically hailed as one his best ever records. Described by Bono as "a verbal speed-metal folkie" Brady continues to push out the boundaries not only of his own talent but of Irish contemporary music in the new millennium.