For John Byrne, a Dublin-born crooner, fan appreciation is pivotal, especially when grappling with a pandemic.
Since suspending all concert venues of his eponymously-named band in March, follower outpouring for his regular Facebook “quarantunes” concerts has been the ultimate covid antidote.
“I have lost track of the amount of cards and notes of support I’ve gotten. I’m moved beyond belief by them – I don’t know what we did to deserve it,” enthuses Byrne, a Philadelphia resident. “I’ve done multiple shows on Facebook Live and the fans have been wonderful. People have tuned in, shared them, supported them, and used them to connect with fellow admirers all over the country and even the world.”
You might also have seen him behind the mask doing curbside delivery the last couple of Thursdays at Kelliann’s Bar & Grill, 1549 Spring Garden Street in Philadelphia—much to the surprise of some of his followers. “Every now and then I get the ‘Are you John Byrne the singer-songwriter guy?’ question,” he says.
Harmonizing for a decade, The John Byrne Band has spent much of that time touring the United States, Ireland, and England. Their tunes are imbued with the sounds and themes of Gaelic tradition, yet remain relevant in a modern world. The diverse lineup has been compared to Steve Earle, The Pogues, and Tom Waite, and fuses standard folk instruments such as fiddle, accordion, and banjo, with horns and electric guitars. It’s a broad-based stew of Americana and rock, with a dash of New Orleans, that’s sated the musical tastes of festivalgoers nationwide, including a performance at the Constitution Center for President Clinton and global leaders.
Both as a solo/acoustic performer and as front man for a full six-piece band, Byrne normally logs in over 150 shows a year, building upon that ever-loyal devotee base. Opening for acts as diverse as The Hothouse Flowers, Murder by Death, Luka Bloom, The Saw Doctors, Sharon Shannon, and The Greencards honed his lyrical arrangements. “Although I mostly reference my own experiences, I write story-songs where a short story idea becomes a song. Sometimes I’m just singing along to a melody that I’m working on and all of a sudden, the idea for the song is there and I know what I’m writing about,” Byrne says.
The Band’s latest album, “A Shiver in the Sky”, was recorded in Philadelphia’s Spice House Sound and produced by longtime contributor Andy Keenan. Dropped in November, the collaboration features 10 originals about persevering through life’s difficult moments.
Following up “After the Wake” (2011), “Celtic Folk” (2013), and “The Immigrant and the Orphan” (2015), “A Shiver in the Sky” delves into a relatable theme: triumph over tragedy.
The prescience is bittersweet for Byrne, who lost his father in February. “Things will happen to you, and they can be immensely painful, but they will pass. And if you don’t let them break you, there will be a new version of yourself that emerges and has learned the skills to live with this pain,” he continues. “There are cautionary tales, songs about dealing with addiction, immigration, relationships of all kinds, facing prejudice, about leaving things behind. They all ultimately have a similar message, that living carries with it the possibly of balancing out regret or mistakes that you’ve made, with a future that contains something brighter. The shiver in the sky is the past, it’s the remnants of trauma. It never fully leaves us, but it fades with time.”
You’re also welcome to purchase CDs, shirts, vinyl and tote bags from his website.