SHANE HENNESSY - BIOGRAPHY
Irish virtuoso guitarist Shane Hennessy has established himself as one of the leading guitarists on the world stage, known widely for his fingerstyle, flatpicking, and percussive guitar-playing approaches. His energetic live performances and his cinematically-vivid compositions tie in influences from Bach to Beyoncé – and everything in between! With a unique style of solo guitar playing that encompasses the range of a whole band – covering drums, bass, rhythm and lead lines – Shane builds a complete sonic world entirely on his own.
Billed as “one of the most exciting live performers of his generation, with an ability to move between styles and genres with ease” by Irish Music Magazine, audiences can never be too sure what will come next during the exciting mix of jazz, blues, country, soul, traditional Irish music, and world music he offers. With the addition of some smooth vocals, genre-hopping improvisations, and well-arranged covers, it makes sense why music legend super-producer Nile Rodgers (CHIC) thinks that “his style is killer, it’s really cool stuff”, and why guitar legend Tommy Emmanuel says that Shane “transcends the guitar the same way Muhammed Ali transcended boxing”.
Over the course of a performance, Hennessy brings the audience from elatory highs to the depths of reflection, delivering stories, anecdotes, and off-the-cuff remarks with the same passion he holds for the music he performs. He says himself that it is hard to describe in words what he does on stage without experiencing it in person, but it becomes clear upon witnessing his performance why his tour schedule is so hectic. In 2019 alone, his tour schedule covered much of mainland Europe, Russia, and the United States, the pinnacle of this world tour being a solo set at the prestigious MerleFest in North Carolina, widely recognised as a mecca of Americana and Roots music in the USA.
Along with his career as a solo artist, Shane has also been involved in production and writing with a number of artists including Chloë Agnew (formerly of Celtic Woman), Lisa Canny, and The Ashley Davis Band. He has also given numerous lectures and guitar workshops all over the world for guitarists and musicians eager to learn more about his unique musical approach.
Still, given his successes to date, Shane is always eager to keep pushing the boundaries of what he can do on one guitar. To quote RTÉ Radio host Marty Whelan: “There was part of me that didn't really believe that he could do what he does on one guitar until he came into the studio, sat down in front of me, and played. I thought there had to be loops, or extra tracks, or recording tricks, and there was none of that - my jaw dropped! What a talent!”
With the current global restrictions in place due to the outbreak of COVID-19 (Coronavirus), and the postponement of most concerts until further notice, Shane is streaming live every Wednesday evening at 8pm Irish time from his home in Ireland on all major social media outlets, including Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, VK, and Twitter. Shane has also been awarded a prestigious Arts Council (Ireland) grant to work on a suite of music to be released before the end of 2020.
A musician from a young age, he credits his background in Irish traditional music as the base on which he has built his genre-defying musical explorations. Initially a concertina player under the tuition of the renowned Mícheál Ó Raghallaigh, Hennessy first turned to the guitar inspired by the music of James Taylor. Becoming more interested in songwriting and in music in general, it was when he discovered the styles of Tommy Emmanuel and Chet Atkins that his interest in solo performance blossomed. From that point on he has toured the world, with thousands of shows under his belt, and a proven track record as a performer, songwriter, arranger, accompanist, and session musician.
Shane's debut album ‘Zephyrus’ was released in June 2015 to rave reviews, and an accompanying European tour saw Shane touring extensively. Toward the end of 2015 Shane began a residency in the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin as a featured performer. 2016 saw back-to-back performances in The National Concert Hall with both Tommy Emmanuel and The Willis Clan, and a multitude of tours and concerts around mainland Europe, including a prime slot at the Acoustic Night at Musikmesse Frankfurt.
Shane’s sophomore album ‘Marrakech’ was released worldwide in the summer of 2017 with his first headline solo show in The National Concert Hall, Dublin. The album was further accompanied by concerts in mainland Europe, his début in the United States of America, and shows in the UK & Ireland. 'Marrakech' was made possible by a crowdfunding campaign on FundIt.ie which raised over 150% of its original target.
In April 2020, Shane released his most recent album ‘Rain Dance’ on a livestream supported by Culture Ireland’s #IrelandPerforms initiative which garnered an enormous audience of 120,000 people.
In 2018, Shane worked with renowned Riverdance composer and Grammy-winner Bill Whelan on a piece of music "Educo", written for guitar, piano, and string quartet. Shane appeared as the guitarist in the ensemble, alongside pianist Máire Carroll and Crash Ensemble. “Educo” was premièred at the former Irish House of Lords on College Green in Dublin City.
Shane's style of music is difficult to explain in words - he calls it simply "fingerstyle" guitar. Shane’s style encompasses virtually every genre of music, tied together with unique energetic fingerpicking and flatpicking styles. In his repertoire, Shane touches on everything from jazz and classical pieces to blues and bluegrass, with Irish traditional, jazz manouche, progressive, and world influences thrown in the mix, as well as periodic bursts of energetic improvisation, and arrangements of well-known songs.
He cites musicians such as Chris Thile, David Grier, and Mark Knopfler - as well as Tommy Emmanuel and Nile Rodgers - as his biggest influences. His musical style has in recent time progressed to a more modern groove-based sound with progressive jazz and world influences, citing CHIC, Snarky Puppy, Punch Brothers, Steely Dan, Prince, and numerous ethnic musics (e.g. West African music) as big influences on his style of playing and composing.
A quick interview done by Bourbon in 2015 about Shane's style of music, his techniques, and much more. This video gives a great overview of Shane's guitar style.
SOLO RELEASES TO DATE
Rain Dance (2020)
Shane's third release features eleven tracks of original compositions was released on Exchequer Music on April 21st 2020.
"Rain Dance provides a wonderful introduction to Shane Hennessy’s music for those who are unfamiliar; for established fans it’s a triumphant reaffirmation of his virtuosity and compositional excellence." - The Irish Times
Shane's sophomore release, an album featuring eleven tracks of original compositions was released on Exchequer Music on June 27th 2017.
"Emotionally mature music combined with masterful technical ability - the idea that it was just one guitar never crossed my mind" - The Irish Times