Iarla grew up in Cuil Aodha, a small Gaelic-speaking community in County Cork in the west of Ireland and later moved to Dublin.
He’s been singing all his life and the guidance of composer Peadar O’Riada resulted in a recording of a song Aisling Gheal when he was only 14 years old.
Iarla sings in the sean nos or old time tradition of unaccompanied singing.
He is much, much more than just an amazing and heavenly voice. He is also a lyricist, composer, producer and has a Master’s degree in ethnomusicology.
He is currently a member of Irish-American supergroup The Gloaming.
In an interview by Anil Prasad discussing Iarla’s talent as a vocalist and the distinction between lyrical revelation and musical revelation, Iarla observed that “I always operate on the basis that no one ever understood what I was singing about for the most part because I sing in Gaelic. So, I always asked myself ‘Why are people coming to my concerts and buying my records”‘ And it’s simply because they’re hearing something else. So I’ve tended to lean towards the music and what it can say regardless of the words almost. It’s funny, at a concert recently someone suggested I should dispense of words altogether. I’d never do that though. The words and poetry of the old Gaelic songs that I sing are something I also aspire to in my own work.“
Iarla has released four solo albums for Real World Records The Seven Steps to Mercy (1997), I Could Read the Sky (2000), Invisible Fields (2005) & Foxlight (2011), as well as two albums as part of The Gloaming.
Listen to tracks featuring Iarla Ó Lionáird
Extracts of tracks from Iarla Ó Lionáird:
A Nest Of Stars
Knuckles To The Marrow
Prayer / Úrnái
Iron And Gold