Seamus Egan

It’s hard to think of an artist in traditional Irish music more influential than Seamus Egan. From his beginnings as a teen prodigy, to his founding of Irish-American powerhouse band Solas in 1996, to his current work as one of the leading composers and interpreters of the tradition, Egan has inspired multiple generations of musicians and helped define the sound of Irish music today.

In 2018, with Solas on hiatus, Egan began touring as a solo performer, bringing along friends and musical guests, and making music as Seamus Egan Project that points towards the origins of Solas in the 1990s. In 2020, he released Early Bright hailed as “A perfect balance of energetic and wistful, modern and traditional, Early Bright finds Egan weaving all his disparate musical strands into an emotionally powerful whole.” – Acoustic Guitar

Representation and Touring Formats

Representation: Exclusive – North America
Touring Formats:  Quartet and Trio

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For over twenty years, Philadelphia’s Seamus Egan blazed a new trail for Irish music in America. At the head of the supergroup Solas , he toured the world and pushed the music in new directions, incorporating complex arrangements, stunning virtuosity, and elements of global and Americana music. His work defined Irish music for multiple generations and set a benchmark that still hasn’t been matched. As a composer, Egan put his stamp on film soundtracks, symphonic collaborations, and, most famously, co-wrote Sarah McLachlan’s smash hit, “I Will Remember You.” But what happens when a trailblazer needs to take a step back? Egan found himself asking that question when confronted with two major life changes: his band Solas went on hiatus, opening up more time for his own music making, and he moved from his long-time home in Philadelphia to rural Vermont. “Both things coalesced not by design,” Egan says, “but they came together at the same time. I liked the symmetry of it.” Holed up in his Vermont cabin, Egan finally had time to go through tunes and melodies he’d composed over the years. Inspired by this time alone with his music, he enlisted close friends and collaborators to make a new album of entirely instrumental music, Early Bright, to be released January 17, 2020. Throughout, the goal of Egan’s new work was to reweave the threads of the Irish roots music he knows so well with a more compositional perspective, drawing from classical influences like Bach, Segovia, Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson, and modern composers like Meredith Monk and Philip Glass. 

Early Bright marks Seamus Egan ’s first solo album in twenty-three years, following on the heels of his groundbreaking 1996 instrumental album When Juniper Sleeps . Much has changed since then, back when he was known for the blazing pyrotechnics and jaw dropping virtuosity of his first incarnation as a precocious child prodigy in the tradition. “What does virtuosity mean now?” he asks. “I think the most important thing to me is the musicality of something. That’s always been important, but it’s the conveyance of understanding and hopefully a little bit of wisdom in the note chosen and the space that’s left between notes. When you’re younger, you’re bursting with energy and you want to get the notes out! I think that as time goes on, you start to pull back a little and you realize you can say the same thing without as many notes. It can be just as impressive, just in a different way.” Egan was always known for his abilities on a wide variety of instruments, winning multiple All-Ireland Championships while still a teenager, and Early Bright sees him shining on these many instruments again, playing tenor banjo, nylon string guitar, low whistles, mandolin, keyboard, and percussion. And though he’s got a wiser outlook on the music now, his whistle playing “Tournesol” and his nylon string guitar on “B Bump Bounce” still race effortlessly around hairpin musical turns that would trip up any other musician.

From the first, delicate opening notes through to the melancholic, yet hopeful, closing track, Early Bright , showcases the virtuosity Egan has become renowned for, while also bringing his superb original compositions to the fore. He has written music inspired by childhood memories and ruminations on our yearning to connect and our need to be heard. The new album gave him a space to dive into his own vision of the music, unencumbered by a large band. “I had a strong notion of where I saw the arrangements going,” he says. “After making so many albums with the band you get in a sort of pattern. There’s a comfort in that, but sometimes you can fall into a rut as well.” With Egan returning to a focus on composition and arranging, the cohesiveness behind each track is all the more impressive since he doesn’t read or write music. Having learned entirely by ear as a traditional art, he brings a more organic view to composition than most classical composers. Joining Egan on Early Bright are renowned guitarist Kyle Sanna , New England bouzouki player Owen Marshall, vocalist/accordionist Moira Smiley, bassist Joe Phillips , and Juno award-winners The Fretless String Quartet, with string arrangements by Scottish harpist Maeve Gilchrist . Each of these musicians intimately understands Egan’s vision: to focus is on the melody first, and to make each arrangement an exercise in subtlety and restraint. It makes for a rich listening experience, and for Egan a chance to step away from the pressures and intensity of leading one of the most respected Irish bands in the world. “The whirlwind of band existence,” he says, “can take you away from the reasons you were doing it all in the first place: to play and write music.” With Early Bright, Seamus Egan was able to slow down, to focus inwardly on his own creative muse, and to fall back in love with the subtle melodies of the music.

From his beginnings as a teen prodigy, to his groundbreaking solo work with Shanachie Records, to his founding of Irish-American powerhouse band Solas, to his current work as one of the leading composers and interpreters of the tradition, Seamus Egan has inspired multiple generations of musicians and helped define the sound of Irish music today. His work as a film composer and musical director of countless live shows has allowed Egan to experience music’s unique ability to tell stories. And what season is more about stories than the season of Christmas! Tradition, ritual, and collective memory, all come together in Seamus Egan’s Good Winter: A Celtic Christmas . Songs of the season, original songs, traditional and original music, poetry and spoken word seamlessly weaving together to create an intimate story full of joy, humor, and reverie. Combining fiddle, flute, whistle, guitar, banjo, piano and piano accordion with vocals to raise the rafters in celebration, Seamus Egan’s Good Winter: A Celtic Christmas is sure to brighten the darkest midnight. We invite you to “push the old year against the wall and welcome in the new” and celebrate the holiday season with us.

In this new and anticipated configuration, two artists representing the cutting edge of Celtic Music and the ever evolving manifestation of the Celtic Arts come together as master instrumentalists and more significantly, migrant musicians, traversing the transcontinental divide through tunes, compositional exploration and history.

It’s hard to think of an artist in traditional Irish music more influential than Seamus Egan. From his beginnings as a teen prodigy, to his groundbreaking solo work with Shanachie Records, to his founding of Irish-American powerhouse band Solas, to his current work as one of the leading composers and interpreters of the tradition, Egan has inspired multiple generations of musicians and helped define the sound of Irish music today. As a multi-instrumentalist, he’s put his mark on the sound of the Irish flute, tenor banjo, guitar, mandolin, tin whistle, and low whistle, among others. As a composer, he was behind the soundtrack for the award-winning film The Brothers McMullen, co-wrote Sarah McLachlan’s breakout hit, “Weep Not for the Memories,” and has scored numerous documentaries and indie films since. As a bandleader, Solas has been the pre-eminent Irish-American band of their generation for the past 20 years, continuously renewing  Irish music with fresh ideas, including a collaboration with Rhiannon Giddens on their 2015 album. As a performer, few others can make so many instruments or such wickedly complex ornaments seem so effortless.

Edinburgh born harpist and composer Maeve Gilchrist has been credited as an innovator on her native instrument and taken the Celtic (lever) Harp to new levels of performance and visibility with her virtuosic performance style and compositional explorations. Currently based in Kingston,  NY, Maeve tours internationally as a solo artist and composer as well as being a member of the Grammy-nominated Silkroad ensemble and Arooj Aftab’s Grammy-winning Vulture Prince Ensemble. She is a regular visiting artist at the Berklee College of Music and has had a number of  instructional books published by Hal Leonard and 80 days publishing. Maeve has released a number of albums to her name on the Adventure Music Record Label as well as being a featured soloist on the  Dreamworks blockbuster movie soundtrack, How to tame your dragon: The hidden world.  Her most recent album, The Harpweaver, has garnered international acclaim including a five-star review from the Irish Times who described it as “buoyant, sprightly and utterly beguiling….a snapshot of a musician at the top of her game”. Maeve is the Artistic director of the Rockport Celtic Festival in Rockport MA; an innovative new festival focused on utilizing Celtic Music as a platform to intersect and connect across Cultural and Stylistic borders.

Together, through their shared roots in traditional music as well as the contemporary soundscape into which they’ve grown, Egan and Gilchrist seek to reexamine their place in America through their respective families’ heritage in Wyoming and Montana. Mining, ranching, back-breaking work that wove the journey of the Irish and Scottish immigrant into the DNA of this country. Through tunes, poetry, soundscapes and electronics, Egan and Maeve are creating a brand new lens through which to experience the Celtic Diaspora in America and the continued relevance of traditional and traditionally inspired music in our lives today.

 

Date

Venue/Lineup

Location

3/14/2024 Bruno's Cafe
Erie, PA
3/15/2024 City Winery Philadelphia - Loft
Philadelphia, PA
3/17/2024 Theater Raymond Kabbaz
West Los Angeles, CA
3/23/2024 Ceili at the Roundhouse Celtic Festival
Evanston, WY
5/03/2024 Groton Hill Music Center
Seamus Egan and Maeve Gilchrist
Groton, MA