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.
A musician from a young age, Shane 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, he achieved successes in the Fleadh Cheoil competitions in Ireland. He then turned to the guitar aged twelve 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. Since that time, he has toured the world with thousands of shows under his belt, four albums of music, and a proven track record as a performer, songwriter, arranger, accompanist, and session musician.
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 (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. Shane is an official educator on TrueFire.com, and hosts a channel 'The Fretboard Atlas' on the TrueFire platform. Shane is also a MusicNotes.com Signature Artist and publishes his guitar arrangements via the MusicNotes.com database.
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!”
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the postponement of most concerts until further notice, Shane has kept busy by releasing two studio albums, launching a teaching platform, and taking advantage of numerous online and virtual performance opportunities. At the onset of the pandemic in 2020, Shane began streaming live concerts from his home in Ireland on all his major social media outlets. His third studio album Rain Dance was released on a livestream concert supported by Culture Ireland's #IrelandPerforms initiative in April 2020 which garnered an enormous audience of 120,000 people.
In December 2020, Shane released Idircheol, an album of original Traditional Irish-influenced music composed specifically for solo guitar, a project supported by The Arts Council (Ireland). Shane also featured prominently in the TG4/Creative Ireland production "Samhlú" in December 2020, where Shane was featured not only as a performer in the show, but also composed music for the show, and took the role as guitarist in Bill Whelan's piece of the same name, "Samhlú". Shane also featured in the US Embassy in Ireland's Creative Minds Showcase series during Summer 2020, and was awarded a Music Network Music Capital grant in late 2020.
In 2021, Shane launched his teaching channel The Fretboard Atlas in partnership with leading teaching platform TrueFire.com. To date this year, he has appeared as a featured artist twice on national television, firstly on Temple Bar TradFest (The Dublin Castle Sessions) and again on Fleadhfest TV. Shane is currently working on an album of music inspired by the thumbpicking guitar style as pioneered by Chet Atkins, as well as his début vocal release.
Shane's style of acoustic guitar playing is difficult to explain without experiencing it. It's essentially a one-man-band approach to the instrument, usually covered by the catch-all term "fingerstyle" guitar. Shane’s style incorporates traits from almost every genre of music, tied together by a unique, energetic fingerpicking, flatpicking, and percussive style. At any one time, there is usually a distinguishable bass line, melody, chordal information, and a percussive groove happening, without the help of loops.
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, Nile Rodgers, and James Taylor - as his biggest guitar influences. His musical style has in recent time progressed to a more contemporary groove-based sound with progressive jazz and world influences, citing CHIC, Snarky Puppy, Punch Brothers, Steely Dan, Prince, and numerous world musics as 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.
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.
RELEASES TO DATE
Featuring compositions and arrangements inspired by his upbringing in Irish traditional music, ‘Idircheol’ is a musical interlude by Shane Hennessy which reflects on the changing pace and shape of our daily lives in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The period of lockdown allowed him the time to both revisit and explore composition and arrangement of Irish Traditional-inspired music for solo guitar, approaching the genre in a new way.
The creation of Idircheol was supported by the Arts Council of Ireland via the 2020 COVID-19 Crisis Response Award.
Rain Dance (2020)
Due to the outbreak of COVID-19, 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 April 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." - Mark Lysaght, Irish Music Magazine
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.
"Emotionally mature music combined with masterful technical ability - the idea that it was just one guitar never crossed my mind" - The Irish Times
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.
"A diverse and mature release from Irish guitarist Shane Hennessy" - The Ticket, The Irish Times