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, he will visit much of mainland Europe, Russia, China, and the United States, the pinnacle of this world tour being a solo set at the prestigious MerleFest in North Carolina, widely recognised as the mecca of Americana and Roots music in the USA.
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.
A highlight of his career to date has been a sold-out a solo show in The National Concert Hall in Dublin, Ireland, for the release of his latest CD ‘Marrakech’. Another milestone in 2018 was when Shane worked with Bill Whelan, Grammy-award winning composer of Riverdance, on a piece of music commissioned for guitar, piano, and string quartet. 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, he 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!”
Shane is currently on a whirlwind 2019 world tour, with stops in the USA, Europe, Russia, China, and more. Upon returning to Ireland in November 2019 he will be recording his third studio album, as well as beginning to film a teaching DVD & online course.
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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.
BACKGROUND AND ACHIEVEMENTS
Having started out at age four as a concertina player, solely playing Irish traditional music, Shane discovered the guitar at age thirteen. Inspired to play by hearing the music of James Taylor, he developed an interest in solo acoustic guitar after being pointed in the direction of Tommy Emmanuel, and rapidly became an avid fan and player of acoustic music.
“Seeing and hearing Tommy Emmanuel play the guitar was definitely a moment of epiphany for me. His energy and music are both amazing, and I was blown away by the possibilities that could be unlocked by learning to play fingerstyle guitar. It was like I had only seen the guitar in black-and-white, and all of a sudden it was in colour.”
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.
A particular highlight of 2018 was working with renowned Riverdance composer and Grammy-winner Bill Whelan on a piece of music "Educo", written for guitar, piano, and string quartet by Whelan.
2019 to date has been the busiest year to date for Shane. After a surprise guest appearance at the National Concert Hall for the Dublin Bowie Festival, Shane began a huge world tour, encompassing the USA, mainland Europe, Russia, with upcoming dates in China. Highlights of this tour were his début solo performances at MerleFest (Wilkesboro, NC), and Appaloosa (Front Royal, VA). Shane has appeared at numerous Irish festivals in the USA this summer/autumn including Irish Fest Chicago, Milwaukee Irish Fest, Kansas City Irish Fest, Iowa Irish Fest, and Muskegon Irish Fest, as well as solo shows all over the USA in the August/September period.
He is currently preparing for his third studio album and plans to release it in March 2020.
Shane is also an official Maton Guitars Artist, and promotes their Australian-made guitars worldwide.
Grammy-nominated Australian guitar legend
"Shane transcends the guitar the same way Muhammed Ali transcended boxing. He's got a unique musical voice, he's a great entertainer, and a great musician.
Super-producer & Bandleader of CHIC
"His style is killer. When we listened, there were ear to ear grins in the room. Great chord inversions and technique. Really cool stuff. Get down!
Presenter, RTÉ Lyric FM
"There is 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 it. It's ludicrous! What a talent.
SOLO RELEASES TO DATE
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