From singing in the church choir, to fronting a metal band, to becoming a new artist on the Canadian Folk/Roots scene, Brian O’Brien isn’t your everyday Irish folk singer and songwriter.
Born in Limerick, Ireland, he grew up with his older sister and brother and twin brother in a home filled with instruments and music. His mother was a Eucharistic minister who owned a jewelry store, while his father was a musician and choir master for the quintessential Irish catholic parish church where Brian and his siblings sang every Sunday for the midday mass.
Having cut his teeth in live performance at an early age, Brian had developed a strong desire to connect with people through music. He outgrew choir in his adolescence and ventured into his rebellious teens on high doses of death metal and electronic music – a big stretch from the tamer sounds of artists such as Paul Simon, Fleetwood Mac and Dire Straits that his parents listened to on the daily.
With melodies and deep thoughts whirling around in his head, Brian picked up the guitar and began crafting songs and jamming and playing at school events with his twin brother.
He went on to join a heavy metal band called ‘Roper’ who performed at local events and released an album called ‘Gallows Hill’ in 2006. They disbanded three years in and with big concerns about thrashing his voice, Brian merged to working as the singer in a popular Irish Hip Hop group called CampaignLK. They released an EP and video for their socially driven track ‘Exactly How You Feel’ in 2012 - the same year that Brian started messing around with his acoustic guitar and ended up writing a couple folk songs that he liked.
He connected with guitarist Noel Hogan from The Cranberries through his friend Owen Lewis, and recorded three original songs which gained him the confidence he needed to forge on as a solo artist and songwriter.
Although the shift from performing heavy metal to folk seemed drastic and chaotic to most, for Brian it felt right somehow. He took six weeks and went in hiding at his sister’s place and wrote his first 10-song album ‘My Fathers Throne’ – a therapeutic and honest approached to dealing with his mother and father’s turbulent separation and his rebellious ways. With new material in hand, he hunkered down for 4 months in Owen and Noel’s studio, called The Bishops Palace (an old and creepy rundown mansion owned by the church and converted into a studio) in Limerick City, Ireland and recorded the album.
He released the album on January 29, 2013, did one release show, and without intention, saw his track ‘Fake Smile’ peaked #8 on the Irish iTunes downloads charts.
Eager to start anew, he hopped on a plane bound for Toronto, ON where he lived for 3 months in a rundown hostel before landing a little basement suite in Kensington market. After all attempts to make some headway there with his music, he ventured onward and in May of 2014 landed in Vancouver, BC.
He entered and won a Vancouver band competition in 2015 and redeemed his winnings of studio time recording his recent EP ‘Songs Written in Canada’ with Vancouver producer Jeff Zipp. He released it on March 8, 2017 and has played various shows in support of the record including sell outs at the infamous Railway Club and the Mission Folk Music Festival in the summer of 2018 where he was invited by David Francey to sing David’s song ‘Saints and Sinners’ during one of the workshop stages.
Brian is currently in the process of recording and releasing new material that combines his love of the craft with the many different influences he draws from in his life. From death metal to folk, Ireland to Canada, Brian likes to paint his life the same way he paints his music - with many different brushes.