A native of the slower moving West of Ireland, Seán took his time before committing himself to record. It was time well spent, exposing himself to the experiences of different cultures, musical genres and literary heritage. Seán was surrounded by music all his life, coming from a family immersed in the musical traditions of his native Galway. During the sixties he performed in the city’s premier folk club – the Folk Castle, honing his vocal and instrumental skills, while rubbing the shoulders with a host of celebrated artists who performed there.
Seán emigrated to New York in 1968 and toured what he calls the corn beef and cabbage circuit Irish American bars in the company of his great friend Jack Geary. Collectively they were known as The Freedom Folk . The early sixties and seventies took him west to San Francisco and a diet of Irish music session in the company of two of the greats of Traditional music Joe Cooley and Kevin Keegan. It was here Seán’s reputation as an exceptional singer of songs began to take root. Living in New Hampshire in the mid seventies, he co-founded ‘Apples in Winter’, a band which was short lived but created a lovely album of the same name.
He returned to Ireland in the late seventies took a variety of jobs milkman, factory worker, van driver, encyclopedia salesman, fisherman. anything but playing music professionally. He continued to hone his skills musically, compose, but seldom played in public. In 1978 he accepted employment with the University of Galway, based in the heart of the Burren in County Clare. It’s hard to avoid music in this part of Ireland and soon Seán was lured back into the music scene. His ability was recognised and appreciated, even amidst a host of legendary musicians. With a growing reputation, he was invited to ‘guest’ on several recordings, including two albums with the ex-Moving Hearts uileann piper, Davy Spillane. Swapping the Burren for the sheltered Bell Harbour, close to the border of his native county, Seán divided his time juggling the demands of mussel fishing, oyster farming and a re-energised approach to his music.
He became fascinated by the forward thinking poem ‘The Midnight Court’ (all 1,206 lines of it), written during the 18h Century, by Brian Merriman translation by David Marcus. He became almost obsessed by the poem and a desire to set the work to music. This feat was achieved with much success when the Druid Theatre Galway staged Seán’s ‘traditional music opera’ featuring Seán with a host of talented contemporaries at the Galway arts festival in 1992. Regarded by many as the hit of the festival that year. In the following years the musical has toured extensively around Ireland and Seán brought it to the Edinburgh Fringe in 2008.
On the heels of the success of his recordings with Davy Spillane, Seán embarked on his first solo project, “Cry of A Dreamer”, recorded on his own label Longwalk Music. The album was released in April, 1994 and was greeted with great critical acclaim, voted Best Folk Album of the Year by both Folk Roots and Hotpress. In 1996 the album was picked up by Hannibal/Rykodisc and was selected for a Spotlight Review by Billboard Magazine calling Sean “the genuine article!” Seán began touring extensively in Ireland, England, the Continent and the USA. He performed at major festivals and concert halls, including the 1996 Irish Folk Festival Tour of Germany, Switzerland and Austria, as a featured solo performer.
In 1999 he released his much anticipated second solo effort, “The Orchard”. Again the album was met with critical acclaim, as Seán was voted Best Overall Folk Act and the album was voted Best Folk Album by the readers of Irish Music Magazine. “The Orchard” was also voted the number 2 Roots/Trad Album by Hot Press Critics Poll.
This album was followed by extensive touring as larger audiences became exposed to his infectious songs and music. It was Michael’ Hartnett’s “Belladonna in the Bar” gave him the title for his third CD “Belladonna” when Seán set it to music and included the poem on it. A recent German film documentary on Seán’s native Galway included his performance of “Belladonna in the Bar”. It also features poems by W B Yeats and Francis Ledwidge set to music by Seán.
Seán also collaborated with 8 other international artists on a compilation album “Songs of Peace” to commemorate the life and work of Francis Ledwidge who died in the First World War. The album and live concert were conducted in Flanders amid the memories and tragedy that resulted from that atrocity which ended with two concerts at Passchendale cathedral.
Seán contributed music and songs to such projects as, “A Necklace of Wrens” a documentary on the life and Poetry of Michael Hartnett, whose poem “The Ghost of Billy Mulvihill” Seán set to music on “The Orchard was recorded at his home in the Burren with his long time friend and engineer/co-producer/keyboard player. Colin Boland.
Seán has toured Ireland, England, Europe, America and Australia.
Seán has expanded his touring profile as he now regularly tours both as a solo act and with a supporting band of various sizes. A decade and three solo CDs or so later Seán has launched in Ireland ‘Rising Tide’- The Collection’, comprising 16 tracks including a blend of familiar favourites, plus seven new tracks. Also available on the Ark Music label worldwide under the title of ‘The Best Of- Man For Galway’
Seán has toured in the past with: Tommy Peoples, Fergus Feely, Kevin Glackin, Ronan Brown, Liam Lewis, Steve Hanks Seán Potts, Paul Mc Grattan, Davy Spillane. Three for the Ditch (Seán, Frankie Lane, and comedian and actor Jack Lynch) The Shaskeen Céilí Band, Paddy Keenan, The Visit with Little John Nee and poet Mary O’Malley. In recent times Seán has been asked to be guest singer at concerts with the great Kilfenora Céilí band.
Now after many years languishing as a film treatment comes “Message Of Peace” a double CD on the life of one of Ireland’s unsung heroes John Boyle O’Reilly. Donal O Kelly actor of Catalpa and Kings fame launched it at The Galway Arts Festival 2009 and since toured extensively around Ireland. It has toured the USA on two occasions with great assistance from the Arts Council and Culture Ireland.
It was a long time in the coming but at last has been released a new Cd on Cló Iar -Chonnachta ‘So The Story Goes’ with my two good friends and longtime time collaborators Kevin Glackin and Ronan Browne. It was well worth being involved if only for the first selection of tunes a pair of the sweetest hornpipes you are likey to hear. But there is a lot more than that as you would expect when you are in the company of such great musicians.
It seemed for a long time that Seán’s latest recording ‘Walker Of The Snow’ would never see the light of day but now is available and negotiations are ongoing for an American release later on this year.