Pat Byrne, the flame-haired singer from Ireland who emigrated to Austin in late 2017, made a name for himself in 2012 when he won the debut season of The Voice of Ireland, a spin-off of the popular American singing competition show.
Byrne wowed judges with his attitude and gravelly voice, gaining the support of the Irish audience with a series of show-stopping performances that featured his dramatic vocal style. And on his path to victory, Byrne caught the attention of talent judge Louis Walsh, who said he could crack America.
Byrne is clearly on a mission to do just that. Since he’s been in Austin, he’s drawn comparisons to Shakey Graves and David Ramirez; played SXSW, the Kerrville Folk Festival and AmericanaFest; and, in 2021, released Into the Light, an introspective album marked by raw emotion, where intimate confessionals give way to anthemic, exhilarating rock ’n’ roll.
Originally, Into the Light was to begin recording in March 2020, when … well, you know. Still, the lockdown ended up being a silver lining of sorts. It gave Byrne time to reflect, think about what’s important and hone his craft, channeling the frustration into his album while also launching a weekly livestream, now a residency at McGonigel’s Mucky Duck’s Live from Norfolk Street.
“Each song was written from a specific perspective with unique characters, ideas and feelings,” Byrne says. “Yet when I look back on the album as a whole, the songs tell a story — about living through dark times and eventually being in a much more hopeful place. Ultimately, this record is about gaining insight and moving forward positively in the world.”
Byrne’s aggressive storytelling, gritty vocal style and poignant lyrics are drawing raves from critics, as reviews of Into the Light have been universally favorable. “The raspy melodic soul of Byrne’s voice recalls the emotional spells that late Austin troubadour Jimmy LaFave used to cast,” noted the Austin American-Statesman. “He’s more contemporary than strict traditionalists, yet at times he conjures a deeply old-school feel.”
Whether here or abroad, Byrne’s light shines bright.
See him live at Still Austin Whiskey on March 18 for Texas Music’s annual Bands to Watch event.