Karan cover pic

Biography

Karan Casey has long been one of the most innovative, provocative and imitated voices in Irish traditional and folk music. Her career has spanned twenty-five years from the early days as a jazz performer in George’s Bistro in Dublin to her heady days in New York with the band Solas to her now well established solo career and she has sold over half a million albums.

Karan released her first album with the group Solas, which quickly became the most celebrated Irish band in the U.S., and her four years with the group were pivotal. Since embarking on her solo career Karan has released 7 solo albums, a duo album (with John Doyle), an album for children and numerous contributions to other artists' projects – appearing on more than 60 albums in total. She has toured constantly throughout North America, Europe and Japan, performing solo, with her own band and with many other diverse artists. Recent years have seen Karan appearing with Folk legends James Taylor, Liam Clancy, Peggy Seeger, Mick Moloney and The Dubliners and Imelda May as well as performances with Solas, Lúnasa, Tim O’Brien and Capercaillie’s Karen Matheson and collaborations with pianist/composer Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin and with Breton guitarist Gilles le Bigot’s Voix de la Terre. Other ventures have included The Vallely Brothers Big Band and Niall Vallely's “Turas na dTaoiseach/Flight of the Earls” event, which was premiered in Belfast's Grand Opera House and later performed in Louvain, Belgium. She was also involved in Tommy Hayes’s “Apples in Winter” multimedia project. She presented a program on Irish National Television exploring the songs associated with the Irish Labour Movement.

Karan has won awards for “Best Folk Album” and “Best Folk Female” from Irish Music Magazine and been nominated for the BBC Folk Awards and the Danish Grammys and was a key member of Paul Winter’s Grammy-award winning “Celtic Solstice”. She has appeared at festivals in Europe and the US such as WOMAD USA, the Cambridge Folk Festival, Celtic Connections, Philadelphia Folk Festival, Festival Cornouaille, Festival Interceltique Lorient, Milwaukee Irishfest and Merlefest as well as appearing at many prestigious venues including the Kennedy Centre (Washington DC), Carnegie Hall, New York’s Symphony Space, Nashville's Grand Ole Opry, the Hollywood Bowl, Dublin’s National Concert Hall, the Cathedral of St John the Divine, the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall and many others. She has made many TV and radio appearances on both sides of the Atlantic and has been a frequent guest on nationally syndicated radio and TV shows such as Garrison Keillor’s ‘A Prairie Home Companion’ and ‘Mountain Stage’.

In 2009 Karan released her fifth solo album entitled “Ships in the Forest” on the Crow Valley Music label. Produced once again by Donald Shaw, this album focused largely on the traditional repertoire. "Exiles Return" a duet album with former Solas band-mate John Doyle was released to widespread critical acclaim in early 2010 and was named in the Top 5 albums of the year by The Irish Echo newspaper.

In recent years Karan has: performed with Béla Fleck & the Flecktones at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall; appeared on television with Imelda May and legends The Dubliners; toured in Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden with the Celtic Super Night featuring Lúnasa, Martin Hayes and Máirtín O’Connor; guested with Spanish band Tejedor at the Festival Interceltique Lorient in France; toured Ireland and the US with Buille and toured in the US with John Doyle; completed a sold-out Music Network tour of Ireland with Maura O’Connell; performed with A Stór Mo Chroí (featuring John Spillane, Lumiere and Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh); appeared at Boston’s Symphony Hall with the Boston Pops Orchestra as well as touring in Europe and the US with both her own band and with Solas. In 2016 Karan performed with The Chieftains as part of their 1916 Centenary tribute at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall as well as touring with Maura O’Connell, Childsplay and Solas. Two More Hours, Karan's sixth solo album and her first entirely self-penned album was released in 2014. Contemporary in tone it took a much more personal approach to her writing and singing. It featured a duet with Irish chart-topper Mick Flannery as well as contributions from Abigail Washburn and Aoife O’Donovan and was produced by Niall Vallely.

In 2017 Karan was Traditional Artist in Residence at University College Cork, toured the UK with the Transatlantic Sessions, performed at Glasgow’s Celtic Connections, and toured in the US both with her own band and with Lúnasa, including a performance at New York’s Carnegie Hall. In 2018 Karan helped to found FairPlé which is an organization aimed at achieving fairness and gender balance for female performers in Irish traditional and folk musics.

Karan recently released her new album Hieroglyphs That Tell the Tale on the Vertical Records Label. Produced by renowned Scottish producer and Bafta-nominated composer Donald Shaw, the album also features Karan’s long-time musical collaborators Sean Óg Graham & Niamh Dunne (Beoga), Kate Ellis (The Crash Ensemble) and Niall Vallely (Buille). Drawing inspiration from contemporary folk writers Janis Ian, Eliza Gilkyson, Mick Flannery and Bob Dylan, the album displays Casey’s impressive talent as a song writer. She is joined on vocals by some of the women singers she’s long-admired, including Karen Matheson, Niamh Dunne, Pauline Scanlon, Maura O'Connell and Aoife O Donovan.

Press Quotes

"Karan Casey’s latest album is revelatory. She’s always been a singer of songs that tell a story and show their muscle…. This is a strikingly three-dimensional work that stands the test of intensive and repeated listening with ease. A vivid and dazzling snapshot of Casey invincible, at the height of her powers.”
IRISH TIMES
"The most soulful singer to emerge in Irish traditional music in the past decade."
THE GLASGOW HERALD
"Karan Casey's latest solo venture is a thing of rare beauty."
SING OUT
"...the Irish equivalent of Emmylou Harris."
WASHINGTON POST
"Casey's voice is among the loveliest in folk music and she's a wonderful interpreter of both contemporary and traditional material."
BOSTON GLOBE
"Setting her clear voice in arrangements that mix traditional and modern instruments, she maintains the taut, quivering ornamentation of old ballad style, singing tales of love, war and murder with a gentle gravity."
NEW YORK TIMES
"Casey has the unique ability to make every song sound true and impassioned."
GLOBAL RHYTHM
"Vocalist of the rarest quality..."
HOT PRESS
"If ever any doubt existed about who's the best Irish traditional woman singer today, "Exiles Return" sweeps aside all pretenders. As gloriously evident on this new CD, Karan Casey has no vocal peer."
IRISH ECHO