Shawn Byrne
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Shawn Byrne


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The best kept secret in music


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But I Digress-2007
Old Cook Pot-Released by the Duhks on their Migrations album. This album was grammy nominated. Old Cook Pot was also the lead off track of the album and went to top 5 on the Americana charts. It's is also on my current album "But I Digress".


Feeling a bit camera shy


Shawn Byrne may not be all that different from you or me in many ways. If you’re reading this, music plays a role in your life, just as it plays a role in the lives of many others. Perhaps unlike you or the rest of us, Byrne can recall the exact moment when he realized that music was to play a key role in his life. That moment came in 1987 at a U2 concert (Byrne would see them twice that year) when Byrne “just knew I’d play music for the rest of my life.” But we digress. . . there were many events that led up to that life changing U2 concert in ’87.

Born in 1973 in the small, lakeside town of Portland, CT Shawn Byrne was introduced to music at a young age. His father was a lineman by day and a musician by night, playing in the same polka band for 20 years. His mother was a waitress and ever supportive of her husband and son’s musical aspirations.

Raised on polka and classic rock ‘n’ roll like The Beatles, The Who, and U2, Byrne eventually landed at the first of his two U2 concerts in ’87 and “since that day, I never stopped [playing] – it was my escape and would be for the rest of my life. If I wasn’t listening to music, I was playing air guitar.”

Byrne went from playing air guitar to playing his father’s Gibson Goldtop (which he still plays to this day). He took a few lessons, but progressed faster on his own, playing by ear. Then, at age 15, he formed his first band The Betties. It was through starting this first band that Byrne and his band mates ultimately learned to play their instruments. Byrne essentially taught himself to play both the guitar and the bass.

At 21, Byrne decided to expand his horizons, literally, and moved to Boston. He attended Berkley College. Once there, he studied music and took additional guitar and voice lessons. The time had come for Byrne to get serious about the decision he had made all those years ago at that fateful U2 concert: to make music his life.

And get serious he did. He went to school, waited tables to pay the bills, and played in a band called The Kickbacks. During Byrne’s time in Boston not only did he get serious, but he got seriously sick. Byrne was hospitalized due to a collapsed lung. He almost died. He probably should have died, but he didn’t. Miraculously, he was healed. Quickly. Byrne refers to this as yet another “experience that changed his life.” Who would have thought that attending a U2 concert in 1987 and a collapsed lung would be two key factors prompting an eventual move to Nashville?

Before making this move to Nashville, however, Byrne began working at Perkins – a school for the blind. It was there that Byrne struck up a friendship with Sydney, a jazz pianist and it was through Perkins and his friendship with Sydney that Byrne met Chuck McCarthy. McCarthy and Byrne became writing partners and it was then that they began discussing the idea of moving to Nashville. They were serious musicians and don’t all serious musicians belong in Music City? It made sense.

So, in March of 2003, Byrne and McCarthy moved to Nashville. After brief stints as cooks and dishwashers at the world famous Bluebird Café, Byrne and McCarthy took jobs as campus cops at Belmont University. They would “write songs in squad cars,” instead of patrolling the campus (sorry, Belmont). In an attempt to remain a part of the musical networkings of Music City, Byrne also hosted the Roots Rock Night at Five Spot and booked the majority of the bands for the club, all the while continuing to write.

Eventually, “Chuck and I wrote a song called Ol’ Cook Pot and I went to see Tim O’Brien and gave him a demo. He called a year later and said ‘I’m producing The Duhks and they recorded your song.’ That was our first cut.” That first cut made it to the top five on the Americana charts, won a SESAC Award, and was the lead track on The Duhks’ Grammy nominated album.

“Slowly, but surely things were taking root” for Byrne. He started writing more, recorded hundreds of demos (including demos for the likes of Mark Knopfler, Gary Louris of the Jayhawks Mary Gauthier, and Kristin Hall of Sugarland). He got to be so adept at it that he decided to record, mix and produce his own album But I Digress. It took Byrne two years to complete, but the end result was well worth the wait. Byrne describes But I Digress as “Me. It’s everything I love about music. It’s a mix of music that I love; bluegrass, country, rock, folk. . . an eclectic mix of possibilities.” That it is. Tracks like That Train Keeps Me Up At Night, Simpleton, and Jesus In My Shoes render Byrne’s statement amazingly accurate. From the screaming fiddles on That Train Keeps Me Up At Night to the soothing harmonica on Simpleton to Byrne’s incendiary vocals on every other track, But I Digress is a series of unexpected twists and turns that yield pleasant surprises around every corner.

Not only has Byrne managed to demo for some of the biggest names in music and record, mix, and produce But I Digress since mov