The High Kings Biography
The High Kings are Finbarr Clancy, Darren Holden, Brian Dunphy and Paul O’Brien.
Back in June 2007, Darren, Brian and Finbarr, were all invited to join a brand new Irish band as three of the four founder members of the High Kings, with Martin Furey.
It had been years since the likes of The Clancy Brothers and the Dubliners had their heyday, and they all felt the time was right for a new band to come along and re-energise the traditional Irish songs for a new generation of Irish music lovers. As they took to the rehearsal studio for the first time, it didn’t take long for them to realise that the way their four unique voices blended together was the start of something special.
Initially, they were predominantly a vocal group backed by traditional musicians for the American market, where their self-titled debut album unexpectedly reached number two on Billboard Magazine’s World Music chart. But it was when the Irish people quickly took them to their hearts, with 2 sell out Irish tours, it became clear that as multi-instrumentalists, they should drop the band and play the instruments for themselves. They launched the new ‘stripped bare’ show in March 2009 with five consecutive sold out nights at Dublin’s Olympia theatre. The High Kings were reborn, playing 13 instruments between them, it was the best decision they ever made!
They were signed to Universal Ireland towards the end of 2009 and released their second album, Memory, Lane in February 2010. After a successful sell out Irish tour the album went platinum in June, just 4 months after release. Memory Lane was released in America March 2011. The Live in Ireland album was recorded during the Irish 2010 tour and released early 2011.
By 2011, the venues were getting bigger to accommodate their growing fan base, both sides of the Atlantic, and sold out signs on their tours were a regular feature. Venues were selling out quickly, not only in Ireland and America, but in Germany, the UK, and other European countries as well. Many fans became regular faces as they effectively toured with the band at every opportunity, using planes, trains, and road trips, to cross several states, country borders, and even oceans, just to see their favourite band perform live. People loved what they were doing in bringing a new take on the traditional Irish ballads to audiences of multiple generations.
In 2013, the High Kings were signed to Sony Worldwide and their new album 'Friends For Life', featuring 8 original songs written by the band, was released in 22 countries around the world from Sept/October 2013, with the Canadian and US release in January 2014. Taking their original songs on the road was a new milestone, but they needn’t have worried, it wasn’t long before the likes of ‘Oh Maggie’ and ‘Ireland’s Shore’ were being sung back at them by the audience.
In November 2014, the CD/DVD 'Four Friends Live', recorded at the Millennium Forum Derry, was released in Ireland. For fans unable to get to a live High Kings show, this was the first opportunity to see a full concert, since the debut DVD back in 2008.
The early part of 2016 was spent in the studio recording Grace & Glory released in Ireland and Europe in May. The album charted at No1 in the Irish Indie chart and was very well received by both fans and critics. The rest of the year was spent touring extensively promoting the album, including the US where it wasn't officially released until early 2017.
Over 10 years, they had released 4 studio albums, 2 live albums, and two DVD’s! They had fast become multi-platinum artists, receiving their first platinum discs for the self-titled CD and DVD way back in 2008, live on stage at the Olympia, from Shay Healy.
Already established as multi platinum artists, with a heavy tour schedule of sold out shows, the High Kings also got invitations to perform at many special events over the years. In 2012, they were in Moneygall to perform for President Obama during his visit to Ireland, which lead to a personal invitation from the president to perform at his 2012 St Patrick’s Day celebrations at the White House. They flew there direct from London, where they had already headlined the Lord Mayor of London’s St Patrick’s Day concert, performing to 15,000 people in Trafalgar Square. In 2015, they were invited to the Pentagon as guests of General Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of The Joint Chiefs of Staff, where they performed with the US Marine Corps band and got to lay a wreath for the Unknown Soldier at Arlington cemetery. In 2011/2012 they joined Young Voices on their UK arena tour, with a special charity show at the Royal Albert Hall, performing a total of 20 shows to 250,000 people. To commemorate the 20th Anniversary of the Irish rugby anthem Ireland’s Call, they were asked by Phil Coulter to record a brand new version, the recording process was included in the TV3 documentary.
In 2017 the High Kings celebrated 10 years together as a band with the release of their 'Decade' album. This was essentially a ‘Best of’ album chosen by the fans, based on the number of plays on streaming sites. The year also saw a change in line up when Martin Furey left the band during the summer tour in America. Finbarr, Darren, and Brian, did an amazing job completing the tour as a three piece, their unique harmonies and stage presence maintaining the high quality performance fans had come to expect.
They could have carried on that way, but management and promoters wanted them to remain as four for the remaining dates and brought George Murphy on board, initially just to complete the 2nd leg of the American tour and Canada. George continued with the band when the Decade tour went on the road in December, with tours continuing through 2018 until spring 2019.
Darren, Brian and Finbarr completed a very successful tour of shows and festivals back as a three piece during the summer of 2019. Paul O'Brien was invited to join the band and following the success of a few shows in Ireland during the summer of 2019, on their return from the US he joined the band full time ready for the 2109/2020 Irish Winter Tour. The tour broke all previous records with the 'Sold Out' sign going up at most of the venues well ahead of the shows. Paul has been a fantastic addition to the band enabling the classic High Kings sound with the whistles to be restored. During the tour, they still found time to get in to the studio and record a Christmas single 'Christmas The Way I Remember' dedicated to everyone, everywhere, who was heading home for Christmas. They also released a single as a duet with Nathan Carter 'May the Road Rise To Meet You', recorded for Nathan's Irish Heartland Album, in January 2020.
The High Kings continue to set the bar extremely high for Irish folk bands across the world and are widely regarded to be the standard bearers for the genre in to the new decade. After over 12 years at the top of their game, they are still selling out venues around the world to an ever growing army of loyal fans.
Long may they reign.