Biography All Music Guide
All Music Guide:
Singer/songwriter Robbie O'Connell has been called "a national treasure" in Ireland and "a master of Irish music" in the United States. He began a successful solo career in 1982 with the release of his debut, Close to the Bone. Previously, he spent time in a group called the Green Fields of America alongside Seamus Egan and Eileen Ivers. He also performed and recorded with the Clancy Brothers, his uncles. Their collaboration included several CDs and a 1992 appearance at Carnegie Hall in New York.
A native of Waterford, O'Connell was raised in County Tipperary in Carrick-on-Suir. When he was 13 he took to the stage as a singer and guitar player at his parents' hotel, which hosted folk concerts every week. Later he played English folk pubs for a year before becoming a student at University College Dublin. When summers offered a break from the study of philosophy and literature, he headed to the U.S., where he easily found a job as an Irish singer to help pay for his education. The experience cemented his desire to perform. O'Connell entered the Clancy Brothers lineup in 1977 and proceeded to make a trio of albums with the group. By the end of the decade, he settled permanently in Franklin, MA. After he released Close to the Bone, the singer toured frequently with the Green Fields of America, as well as with Jimmy Keane and Mick Moloney.
O'Connell believes that keeping a hand in a variety of musical endeavors will help keep his music fresh. He teaches songwriting during Boston College's Gaelic Roots Week, at West Virginia's Augusta Heritage Arts Workshop, and at Boston's Summer Acoustic Music Week. In 1989, Boston's WUMB named his Love of the Land album the Top Acoustic Album of the Year. Two years later he garnered a Boston Music Award in the category of Outstanding Celtic Act. O'Connell headlined a salute to Irish music hosted by the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in 1994. Also during the '90s, O'Connell was involved in a number of recordings including his own Never Learned to Dance in 1993 as well as the Clancy Brothers albums Older But No Wiser in 1995, Clancy, O'Connell & Clancy in 1997, and The Wild & Wasteful Ocean in 1998. That same year he released Live, Humorous Songs. Since that time, O'Connell has remained an active performer and producer and was even the artistic director for the 2006 Christmas Celtic Sojourn concert series in Boston.