Paul Byrom is the Man of the Moment: B.B. King’s Nov. 18

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How It’s New York: Paul Byrom, formerly of Celtic Thunder, lives much of the time in  Queens.  He plays B.B. King’s TONIGHT, November, 18th. That’s 237 West 42 St (212) 997-4144.
And he dreams about doing a Broadway musical!  How New York is that!
How It’s Irish:  Paul is Irish of course, an Irish tenor from Dublin.   And he does throw in some Irish tunes.  And like any former Celtic Thunder guy (thunderbolt), he’s gorgeous.

Paul is touring to promote his new album This Is the Moment
 Click the link to buy it and we get a penny or two!  I think I’m going to make an estore of all the things we’ve suggested you might like…


This story appears in the annual issue of Irish Music Magazine.  You really should subscribe if you don’t already; they deliver in PDF!   (Screenshot of the piece at right!)

Video too, after the break.
Paul Byrom is not Ronan Tynan.  He’s very clear about that.  Although he, like Tynan, is a tenor, and he, like Ronan, is Irish, he doesn’t want to make a career of singing “Macooshla” and “Danny Boy.”  Not that there’s anything wrong with those songs, he rushes to add.  The former Celtic Thunder (read my interview with Ryan Kelly from Celtic Thunder here!)  singer is an endearing blend of cheeky and cautious.  He has opinions, but knows he maybe shouldn’t if he wants to have mass appeal.  But then again, he has them.  You have to smile.
That duality makes sense for a young man leaving the massively popular group Celtic Thunder, of the multiple PBS specials, to (re)launch a solo career.  He has an independent streak but also has gazillions of fans.  He left the group last autumn, and his new album This Is the Moment
launches his post-Thunder solo career.  Although it’s his first post-Celtic CD, it’s actually his fourth solo album.  It comes out on Shanachie Records 8 November, to coincide with his North American tour. Instead of a big tour bus, he’ll be traveling with just a couple of musicians, a merchandiser and the tour manager.
When we speak, he’s in Ireland, sorting out a visa, getting ready to vote, attending a wedding, but he lives much of the year in Queens.  This tour puts him front and center in a way he hasn’t been with Celtic Thunder.

 “It’s nerve-wracking,” he admits.  “I’m taking a punt on myself. The easy thing would have been to stay with Celtic Thunder, live off the cash cow.  But I’ve never been one to just be complacent and take things easy.”  

And using Celtic Thunder to push his solo career forward was always his plan.  While the stripped-down arrangements (in Ireland he would perform with a full orchestra or band) is a little scary, he knows that people are coming to hear him sing.

  “That can get muddied in the water by big productions with laser lights and fog, as we had with Celtic Thunder.  It’s kind of nice just going out on a smaller scale.  I’ll be able to have a bit of banter with the audience, tell stories about who I am and where I come from.  Fans will get an idea as to who I am as a person as well as a singer.” 

Who he is also comes through on the album.  In liner notes he says each of the fourteen songs mean something to him and were chosen by him.  It’s something musicians often say, but when I question him, he knows his stuff.  He chose “From a Distance” because his dad used to play Nanci Griffith (not Bette Midler!  Thank you!) in the Ford Granada.  “He’s no longer with me, and when I hear it, I remember how he’d have it on repeat.  The lyrics always struck me as amazing lyrics.”

Composer Julie Gold sent him an email recently thanking him for recording it, and describing her trip to Ireland.  That’s a seal of approval for you.
A slow version of “All My Loving” grew out of his long-time Beatles fandom.  He could have chosen one of their slower, sentimental songs like “Fool on the Hill” or “The Long and Winding Road,” he says (establishing he knows their canon!) but it struck him when listening to “All My Loving” that the lyrics to it are sad, all about leaving a loved one behind, and dreaming of being with that person.  It struck a chord with him since he spends so much time on the road, so he decided to do a “version more true to the lyrics.  Not that I’m questioning John and Paul.”  Cheeky.  Cautious.
He also sings Eric Carmen’s “All By Myself”—in Spanish.  “It’s one of those power ballads, a great breakup song, where you think your life is over.” He decided to do it in Spanish so it wouldn’t be cheesy, and to give it a slightly more classical, and romantic feel. 
He knows about sounding classical, because when he started he was a classical singer.  He appeared in Menotti’s Amahl and the Night Visitors  when he was only 12, with the National Symphony Orchestra.  His released his first album at 14, The Golden Voice, a collection of boy soprano music, and church music.  As he began a career in opera and oratorio he realized “there’s a lot of work required to get ready for each performance, and very little in the paycheck at the end of it!”  He began to do more commercial work and musicals, and found himself enjoying them more, and making more money, too.

“My personality is more suited to the lighter stuff.  I still enjoy singing classical music; I like a bit of everything.  That in a way has been a curse as well.  If I’d been more willing to be pigeonholed, one genre or another, I might have had success earlier.”

Earlier?  He’s only 32! Then again he has been a pro for 20 years, so a little bit of impatience is in order.  His second album, 2005’s Velvet, had “matinee music, Mario Lanza, Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby,” he says.  The album climbed to #2 in Irish Music Charts.  He appeared on Celebrity Jigs and Reels, an Irish show similar to the popular Dancing with the Stars, and released a Christmas album.  In 2007 he joined Celtic Thunder.

The matinee idol good looks, including enormous blue eyes, a dimple, and his smooth, silky voice earned him the role of “The Swanky Tenor.”  It’s no wonder he already has 13,000 Twitter followers (@paulbyrom).  Although he doesn’t undertand “why anybody would be interested in what I’m having for breakfast or tea.”  So he tries to keep his tweets interesting.
 “Initially I used to get into trouble because of whatever political views I have, but now I keep them to myself.”  What are those views? He hedges, “in certain parts of America, I possibly could be considered a little bit more liberal than one would like me to be.”
He got into trouble with his mother recently for putting up a tweet about Bono.
 “Bono, who I admire greatly, was attending a conference in Ireland, with head honchos discussing how we could bring finances to Ireland and help the economy.  I put up, ‘wow isn’t it great to see Bono helping with ideas.  I think the best idea he could come up with is paying taxes.’  That went down a bomb with my mother, who said, ‘a lot of people like Bono, you’re going to get into trouble.
Eh, whatever.”
There it is again, that blend of the mischievous with the careful.  Leaning, here, to the mischievous.
His mother, who is on twitter (she has over 700 followers of her own), studied piano at the Royal Irish Academy and got her cap and gown.  His father played guitar as a hobby, and so Paul grew up listening to a lot of classical music, but also Roy Orbison, the Eagles, Buddy Holly.
He wants the album to have something for everyone.  “It’s more mainstream than an Irish generation album.” There are some Irish whistles used in  “La Voce De Silencio,” but it’s by Elios Isola (Elio Island).  And there are two pieces by Phil Coulter (read our interview here!), as well as a cover of “Galileo” by Declan O’Rourke, and Brendan and Alana Graham’s “My Land,” with Rolf Lovland.  But “you don’t have to be Irish to enjoy it.  I just happen to be Irish.  If the Script and Bono can come over and get away with it, why can’t I.” 
The title track, “This Is the Moment,” by Frank Wildhorn and Leslie Bricusse, is from the musical Jekyll & Hyde, which Paul admits he’s never seen, though he describes himself as a “big musical buff.”  He chose it because it’s “a great belter of a song.  I like giving one or two belters on an album.”
Would he ever do a Broadway musical? I would,” he begins, and I expect a careful answer, “give my right arm to do a Broadway show.  Its very much my genre now.  I enjoy acting as well.  Not to say that opera stars don’t act.  But they’re rarely good.”
 He has acted in Fair City, and played the young man in Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. His dream role is Jean Valjean in Les Mis, but he’d also love to do a role like Billy Flynn in Chicago that allowed him to do a little bit of the tap he learned for Jigs and Reels.  He did Grease when he was younger, and would love to do Rodgers and Hammerstein.
He certainly has the chops. The album, he says, is his “statement of intent.” The title song means, to him, “this is my moment to actually do it.”

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Copyright 2011 New York Irish Arts

Comments

  1. Loved this article on Paul Byrom. I attended his St. Louis Show & it was wonderful. Love the new album & can’t wait to see what will be next from him. Hopefully a new tour in 2012!

  2. Great article about Paul Byrom. I was at his St.Louis concert, and he was incredible. Wish I could have gone to the rest of his concerts. He is a Terrific Performer and has a voice of velvet and silk. He makes you laugh and you feel every note he sings. His new CD “This is the Moment” is out of this world and #1 on world Billboard

  3. Great article about the Swanky Tenor. I was at his LA show and it was fantastic! Small venue that allowed him to interact with the audiance. Great to see him up and personal, and seeing Daiman and Cameron and their interaction with Paul was a plus. Hoping for a 2012 tour!

  4. I just saw Paul’s show in Foxborough, MA, bringing with us a couple who knew nothing of him. They were blown away. My friend said that this was the best show she has seen in years. Now, coming from people who live an hour from NYC and see lots of show, this is a huge compliment. They went home and bought tickets to see him in the Conn. show. Paul blends different musical genres so beautifully, and then surprises you with his hysterical interpretation of All By Myself, in Spanish! His stories in between songs are funny or poignant, but all interesting. He is, quite simply, a showman….with a gorgeous voice! I hope we see him on Broadway someday soon!

  5. Thanks for the great article. You seem to have captured his duality perfectly. I was at his St Louis show, just left NY after his BB King’s show, and am on the train to Baltimore for his show tonite. Yes, I am a bit mad to be traipsing all over the country to see multiple shows, but Paul is worth it. And of course it also gives me the opportunity to visit with friends I’ve made the last few years through Celtic Thunder. Paul’s voice is tailor made for a Broadway musical role & I believe I will be seeing him in the not too distant future. After all, who’d have thought 11 months ago after he left CT that he’d have not only an album, but a tour under his belt.

  6. I think this is the best interview article I’ve ever read about Paul over the last few years. Insightful, accurate, fun…his fans will love this! Well done. My husband and I saw his solo show in L.A. and loved it, completely enjoyed the evening. Can’t wait to see what the future holds for Paul.

    Can only post as anonymous, but I’m Diana 🙂

  7. 🙂

  8. Thank you all for the wonderful comments, I’m thrilled! Please join our newsletter list on the site or drop me a line at newyorkirisharts@gmail.com so you won’t miss anything. look out to hear him on an upcoming podcast!