Texas-based, County Carlow singer-songwriter Pat Byrne's album "Into the Light" has just been released. He is currently on a tour of East Coast cities.
By Irish Echo Staff
For everyone around the world, the year of 2020 was an incredibly scary and unsettling time. We are sure to remember the year of 2020 and all it brought with it, for the rest of our lifetimes. Across the United States, many of the Irish left for home in their droves with the loss of jobs as well as bars, restaurants and music venues among others. For those who chose to remain in the U.S., a career and steady income was uncertain as the country shut down state by state from March 15.
In Austin, Texas, Carlow’s Pat Byrne felt the pinch after he got the dreaded call to say the venues where he held weekly resident gigs — including McGonigel's Mucky Duck in Houston, Texas — were indefinitely closing, his career was no longer looking secure.
As we moved into the summer, like many artists in his field, Byrne was forced to venture into the world of online streaming through Facebook and Instagram live shows. Beginning with his first online gig he slowly began to feel like he was back with his audience. As the months passed, he decided to use the time to put pen to paper, and begun working on his album “Into The Light.”
We spoke with him ahead of his July 9 album release and “Into The Light” East Coast tour, where he will be stopping by New York City, New Jersey and Boston.
Pat, how does it feel to be back after the past 16 months of online streaming and playing to a virtual audience?
I definitely have a new appreciation for the stage. Live music is a two-way street. A performer is nothing without an audience, and to be back in front of crowds has given me a new lease of life. I look forward to every show. Don’t get me wrong, I feel incredibly lucky that I was able to continue to play and pay rent thanks to live-streaming. I actually really enjoyed that format and it forced me to improve as a writer and performer. But I really missed the warmth of a live crowd.
Covid forced many people to reinvent themselves and how they present their art, as a musician, how do you see this affecting the music industry?
Covid has had a massive impact on the music scene in several ways. 2020 was extremely difficult on those of us who make our living from live shows. But, the lack of live music has created a hunger among music fans and artists alike. People are so excited to get out and enjoy music again, and it’s palpable. There’s a new-found energy and appreciation for live music. I also think there’s been an evolution of sorts. Live-streaming gigs didn’t exist 16 months ago, but it quickly became the main source of revenue for people like me around the world. I don’t see that going away any time soon. It’s an easy way to reach an international audience, and while it won’t be a regular occurrence, it’s a brand-new way to reach a new fanbase. I think regular shows will be simultaneously live streamed on social media going forward, for those who don’t feel comfortable coming to live shows just yet. It was an eye opening time and it will be interesting to to how things move in the coming months and years.
You call Austin, Texas, home right now. What was it that initially brought you to Austin?
I visited Austin in 2017, having been there and soaking up the music and atmosphere for a couple of weeks, I just couldn’t shake the place. I knew I had to relocate. The music, the people, the appreciation for songwriting, it was everything I wanted. Things had become pretty stagnant for me in Ireland, so I took the chance to start fresh somewhere new. In January 2018, I successfully applied for a visa, moved to Austin, wrote and recorded an album and hit the ground running. I’ve never looked back and I’ve enjoyed every second. Austin is the Live Music Capital of the world, and for good reason. It’s amazing to be surrounded by artists and songwriters who inspire you, it forces you to become better. The venues and music enthusiasts here are unparalleled to anywhere else. There’s a real hunger for original music and songwriters are truly embraced and appreciated.
You’ve just released your debut album “Into The Light.” Can you tell us about the album’s inspiration and influences?
I begun writing these songs in 2019, during a difficult time in my life. I was happy with my decision to move stateside, but things were very uncertain. I was a new guy in a town full of seasoned professionals. There is no shortage of talent in Austin and it was a scary, but exciting position to be in. I had long periods of self-doubt, and with that came some introspective, dark songs. As things started to fall into place, I noticed my songs became more hopeful. It felt like there was an underlying message in the songs. The characters within the songs were figuring things out and I noticed a theme. “Into the Light”, despite being a track on the album, also seemed like the perfect title for the album. The dark times always end and…
I had hoped to record the album in March 2020, but the universe had different plans. The world got put on hold, and it gave me time to slow down, think, and write some more.
Most of the songs on “Into The Light” came to me during this time; so for that, I’m grateful.
How and when did you record the album?
Thanks to some incredible friends, family and fans, I ran a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund a huge chunk of the recording process. It was a heartwarming and encouraging experience that I won’t forget. In August 2020, I travelled to Nashville to work with producer Billy Harvey. We moved into the legendary Sound Emporium studio and recorded all 11 tracks live with some world class musicians. We were masked and distanced and very careful. In a way, I was lucky that Covid brought things to a halt, as all of these guys would have been out touring with other artists. Otherwise I would have never been able to get them all in the one room at the same time. The sessions included drummer Fred Eltringham (Sheryl Crowe, the Wallflowers, the Dixie Chicks), Dave Jacques on bass (John Prine), Chris Donohue on bass (Emmylou Harris), Joshua Grange on guitar (Sheryl Crowe), John Ginty on keys (Allman Betts Band, Ryan Adams, Dixie chicks), Dave Eggar on cello (Ray Lamontagne, Evanessence). It was just one hair raising moment after another. Playing your songs with guys like that is electrifying and I couldn’t be happier with how the record turned out. There were also had some great singers involved in the sessions, including Jaimee Harris and Crystal Bowersox.
I wrote every song on the album and was lucky to have a few co-writes as well. “Losing Heart” was co-written with Jaimee Harris, “I Woulda Done it For Ya” with Miles Zuniga (Fastball) and “Feeling Indigo” with songwriter and friend, Ben Jones.
Are you excited to be getting back on the road to tour the album?
I’m hitting the road July 5 stopping in Baton Rouge, Atlanta, North Carolina, Virginia, DC, New York, Boston, New Jersey, Memphis and Nashville this summer and I cannot wait! The tour includes a night at Rockwood Music Hall show on July 22. I played Rockwood Music Hall in 2019 and loved the place. This summer will be my third time in that venue and I can’t wait. New York City is one of my favorite places in the world and I’m excited to get back on that stage and connect with old friends while I’m there.
I’ll also be playing a show upstate at the Emerald Ballroom in Narrowsburg. Tickets are available now and you can check my website (patbyrne-music.com) for a full detailed list.
Would you consider an Irish tour if things were to reopen and be available for travel?
I haven’t been home in two years, and I can’t wait to get back to see family and friends. The live streams have allowed me to perform for folks back home and it helped me reconnect with the audience there, so I can’t wait to bring these songs to Ireland and play at some of my old favorite places. When that will be remains to be seen, but I’m hoping it will be before Christmas.
“Into The Light” is available now on all streaming platforms. Physical CDs can be purchased from patbyrne-music.com and his Bandcamp page along with tickets to shows for his July East Coast tour.