Kieran Goss
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Kieran Goss

Sligo, Ireland | Established. Jan 01, 2016 | SELF

Sligo, Ireland | SELF
Established on Jan, 2016
Solo Folk Acoustic

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Kieran Goss is known for his affable on-stage persona and rapport with his audience, but this has not stopped him mining a darker seam in his latest album, writes Siobhán Long.

SONGS OF MEMORIES turning from sepia to full colour; of separation and loss; and maybe, just maybe, of the triumph of hope over experience. Kieran Goss’s eighth album isn’t quite as shiny and happy as his early writing, or indeed as his affable on-stage persona.

Recent personal traumas have left their mark. Having lost both his mother and sister-in-law to cancer, as well as supporting his wife through her own recovery from breast cancer, Goss has taken a pummelling in his private life. Still, there are artistic riches to be found in adversity, and Goss isn’t the first songwriter to discover that.

The truth is that great art is often the product of personal crisis. John Martyn’s classic album, Solid Air, mightn’t have seen the light of day were it not for the personal grief he experienced (Martyn composed the title track in response to the suicide of fellow musician Nick Drake). And what of the marital strife that informed Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks? You can almost touch the enmity on Loudon Wainwright’s cynically titled More Love Songs, a post-separation anxiety record of gargantuan proportions. The human heart seems to find its best expression during tough times.

Goss recorded his latest collection, I’ll Be Seeing You in Nashville, with Gabe Rhodes, son of country singer Kimmie Rhodes, co-producing alongside him. It’s a stripped-down, spare collection, shot through with Goss’s undeniable lyrical tenderness. The depth of the songwriting demands repeated listening, and return visits are amply rewarded, with layers revealing themselves slowly over time.

Goss is more than comfortable with such patient appreciation. He’s not in hot pursuit of the lightning hit or the instantly hummable three-minute wonder. Maybe that’s what comes from maintaining a career for two decades and making eight albums.

“See what Johnny Cash achieved in his 70s,” Goss muses. “For someone to dig that deep is like a light at the end of a tunnel. I’ve been on the edges of commercial success and I’ve seen the fickleness of it and how transient it is. Of course, we all love our little bits of fame and recognition, but you also have to recognise that what it’s about is the work, and the quality of the work.”

“I genuinely do believe that part of that package is that the tide goes in and the tide goes out. It’s part of the deal, and if you don’t accept that, you’re going to have some difficult days when the sun’s not shining on you.”

Goss’s trump card, ever since he first stepped on to a stage in the late 1980s, has been his rapport with his audience. He’s an artist who thrives on the challenge of the heckler, whose store of impromptu on-stage witticisms would be the envy of many a professional comedian. But the fact is, he’s not a comedian; he’s a singer/songwriter, and sometimes he has to remind himself of that when he’s on stage.

“I think there’s a balancing act that you have to strike,” he says. “I would like to think that really good performing is about being yourself, but you also have to know that it’s an amplified version of yourself. You’re turning up the colour on things that are genuine, because you are entertaining people who’ve come out and paid good money to see you.”

“What loses me, though, is when I go to see an international artist and it’s like a West End show. They’ve turned it up to within an inch of its life. I don’t like that. I feel like I’ve been short-changed in some way. When I go to a show, I need to feel that I’ve really got some genuine communication with that person. That’s a balancing act, and as you get older, you get to do it better. So I think I’ve learned to talk less during my shows, because it can distract from the songs.”

PEOPLE WHO AREN’T on intimate listening terms with songwriters such as Leonard Cohen have a tendency to consign his work to a dustbin labelled “depression city”. Contrary to such cliched thinking, though, songs of death, loss and life’s rougher edges are often the most life-affirming snapshots. How many of us have had our eyes opened by a lyric that spoke to us directly? Or been rattled by an emotion expressed in a song that we presumed was ours alone?

Goss seems to know a thing or two about the universality of human experience, but he’s not in the business of using his songs to expunge guilt, exorcise grief or slough off the pain that life brings with it.

“I think that you have to allow your personal experience to feed in emotionally to your songs,” he says. “But it’s not therapy, it’s a song. That can be a fatal mistake. That seemed to be a trend for a while: singer/songwriters seemed to represent a moan-fest and, to me, that’s a very juvenile way to see songwriting. It’s based on the songwriter being the centre of the world, whereas what I want to do is to apply the craft of songwriting to details in my life to make them universal in some way. There’s a good chance that what touches a nerve in my life will be going on for other people too.”

Goss’s particular talent is in allowing songs such as I’ll Be Seeing You to breathe a life all their own. He doesn’t spell out his personal experience, line by bleeding line. Instead, he suggests, invokes, conjures, summons. Feelings and sensations are the stuff of his songs, not interminable verses cataloguing personal trauma. It’s finding the universal in the particular, and Goss has managed to make use of that all-too-rare gift with enormous subtlety and understatement.

Maybe his decision to take time out, to allow time for gestation, is part of the explanation for his insights? “For me, I keep writing until I know, in some instinctive way, that I have nothing to write about today,” he says candidly. “It’s a scary place, because we all fear that we never will have again. But what I know now, that I didn’t know 20 years ago, is that you go off and you live your life, and writing becomes a part of it again. At some point, I think every artist fears that they’ve done what they’re going to do, and that there’s nothing more. But you know, we all need time out.”

“You don’t stop being a writer. You just give it time. If you don’t allow that in your life, then you’re allowing your ego, your sense of what the world expects of you, to dictate the terms for you as an artist. That’s just an ego trip, and for me, more than anything, this journey has been a journey in control of ego.” - The Irish Times


Goss’s brand of folk/pop that borders on alternative is tender and insightful, honest and raw, and shows a songwriting talent of great depth. Worse Than Pride is a beauty. - Music Row


Three or four listens in, you feel that these songs have been with you for a lifetime. That, I suppose, is the acid test for someone whose purpose in writing is to have their voice heard by the widest possible audience. Many of these songs are destined to be played off the radio, and to be covered by wedding bands the length and breadth of the country. Seriously, I can see numbers like Out of My Head and Running for a Reason being highly sought after by those looking for top quality material. - Hot Press


The sense of fun is tremendous, the playing first rate and the songs are sheer quality. The encores were genuine, but only because the man is too. - The Irish Times


Kieran Goss clearly demonstrated just why he is regarded as one of Ireland’s finest songwriters and most polished entertainers... (he) moved effortlessly through an irresistible concoction of upbeat, optimistic compositions, sensitive love songs and an hilarious laid-back banter... Goss held his listeners absolutely spellbound. - The Cork Examiner


Discography

Brand New Star (1989)
Frances Black & Kieran Goss (1992)
New Day (1994)
Worse Than Pride (1998)
Red-Letter Day (2000)
Out of My Head... The Best of Kieran Goss (2002)
Blue Sky Sunrise (2005)
Trio Live (2008)
I'll Be Seeing You (2009)
For The Record (2010)

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Bio

Kieran Goss has long been hailed as one of Ireland’s leading performers and songwriters.

In addition to being a double platinum selling recording artist, Kieran Goss's songs have been recorded by some of Ireland's top recording artists, including Mary Black, Christy Moore and Frances Black, bringing his songs to a worldwide audience and winning him fans across the globe.

Twice voted Irish Songwriter of the Year by the internationally renowned Irish Music Magazine, in 2009 Kieran was presented with an award in recognition of his contribution to culture in Ireland by Irish folk music legend Tommy Sands, at the Celtic Fusion International Musical Arts Festival.

While his songwriting has made him a star in his native Ireland, his live performances have made him a legend. Live on stage is where Kieran Goss truly shines. The Irish Times recently wrote of Kieran's run of sold out shows at the Grand Opera House, Belfast:

“The sense of fun is tremendous, the playing first rate and the songs sheer quality. The encores were genuine, but only because the man is too”.

Kieran’s success has not been confined to Ireland alone. For the last ten years he has toured successfully in the concert halls and theatres of Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, The Netherlands and the U.K., and he was invited to join the Guinness Celebration of Irish Folk in Australia and New Zealand in the company of some of Ireland’s finest performers: Mary Black, Christy Moore, Donal Lunny and Arty McGlynn.

In 2007 Kieran toured in the U.K. with Don Williams. His performances on that tour won him legions of fans and prompted the American country music legend to remark:

“Kieran Goss is one of the most gifted performers around today. He has an amazing ability to reach out to his audience and connect with them in a very special way. This guy is the real deal and that's what makes him the star he is”.

This sentiment was echoed by leading country music star and songwriter, Rodney Crowell, a longtime friend and collaborator of Kieran’s:

“I've toured with Kieran and watched him perform many times. I've seen him win the hearts of everyone in the room, not just with his great songs and instinctive musicality, but with his warmth and humour. It's the performance of an artist at the top of his game, delivered with intelligence and integrity... Kieran Goss is one of Ireland's national treasures”.

In February 2011, Kieran's new studio album, I'll Be Seeing You, along with his considerable back catalogue will be released for the first time in the U.S. and Canada. Kieran has just made his first live appearance in the U.S. this year at Milwaukee Irish Festival and also in Canada at Stanfest, Nova Scotia, and Goderich Celtic Festival. He will be touring the U.S. and Canada in February/March 2011, July/August 2011 and April/May 2012.