Niamh Hyland and Michael Brunnock.
By Irish Echo Staff
Niamh Hyland and Michael Brunnock met quite by chance, courtesy of a date one of them was on.
Both were Irish-born and -raised singer-songwriters living in New York City for a decade, who had been performing gigs on the Lower East Side on a regular basis with their own bands.
“How could we not have known one another?” Hyland asked.
Now they’re a folk-rock duo, Hyland & Brunnock, and will release their debut album tomorrow, 8:15 p.m. at Rockwood Music Hall, Stage 2, New York City (tickets at ticketfly.com).
Within days of their first meeting, they wrote “Live to Love,” which has become the title track of the album.
The six-song album was produced by David Hopkins and was recorded and mixed by Robert Root at Battleborn Studios in Las Vegas. The songs “cover topics from the #metoo movement to environmental issues, to love in all its capacities.”
Brunnock, who is originally from County Meath, recorded with Little Palace and has several solo albums under his belt. He was awarded the Di Donatello award (an Italian Oscar) for his performance of David Byrne and Will Oldham's songs including ‘If It Falls, It Falls” for the 2012 movie, “This Must Be The Place.” He continues to tour, write and perform music for film and theatre.
Hyland, who is originally from County Leitrim, released her first album as the lead singer of the rock band Lily Sparks in 2009. She is the co-founder of Artists Without Walls, an organization encouraging collaboration and support of artists across disciplines. It features regularly in the Irish Echo. She is also a TEDx veteran, with a talk on “Resurrecting Your Dreams.”
The Echo caught up with her recently to ask about Hyland & Brunnock and the debut album.
How did you come across each other's music?
I was on a date with a Michael Brunnock superfan who was adamant that we meet. Michael was invited to join us at a German beer garden in Brooklyn. Not able to get a word in, my date left and we sat for a few hours, sharing stories about home, our musical journeys so far, the bands we love and listening to each other's work. We agreed to try to write something together, see what happens and if it worked great, if not, no loss.
When did you decide to team up?
On the first night we met, we agreed to get together to write. A few weeks later we started writing “Live to Love,” which became the title track to our debut release. “Live to Love” was a slow burn, it took its time coming to life. In many ways, it was the experiment to see if we could write together.
Give us a little summary of that collaboration.
What stood out when we started collaborating was that we spent hours talking before we wrote anything. Drank a lot of tea, shared a lot about our lives past and present. It’s an important part of why we get nothing done.
When the tea was drunk, the writing and singing began. The hardest part about writing can often be clearing the clutter to make way for the songs. With similar dry, sometimes snarky humor, we can often sound like an old married couple, running late to Mass and giving out.
Both of us are fans of Led Zeppelin and we liked what Robert Plant did in collaboration with Allison Krauss on the album Raising Sand. We thought why not try something along those lines? The result is our six-song collection for our debut release.
What particular qualities do each of you bring that works well in the partnership as a whole?
We’re both strong storytellers. We like how our voices meld together and our ranges allow each of us to harmonically cover both the high and low ends. One minute we will be in our higher register harmonizing and then we will capture the low ends. It keeps it interesting. It also helps greatly that Michael has perfect hair. It helps to sell albums.
[Michael Brunnock added about partnering with Hyland: “Working with Niamh on this album was one of the most fabulous experiences of my life, comparable to the day I caught the biggest fish in the Gaeltacht fishing competition in 1979.”]
What's next for the two of you?
We are excited about this album and are delighted with David Hopkins’s production. He really captured the essence of the songs. We are looking forward to getting it out there and hope folks enjoy it. We’re planning to tour a good bit in 2019, both in the U.S. and Europe.
In the meantime, we are working away on some new tunes. Possibly a few new singles in the works for late 2019, early 2020.
Go to hylandandbrunnock.com or check out the album's title single "Live to Love" on You Tube.