Ten years ago, four Irish singers, performers and songwriters decided to take a calculated risk. The constituent parts of The High Kings each had a wealth of history in the music business behind them, but knew that in order to maintain any level of creative interest they would have to boldly go where no other Irish ballad group had   gone before.  In truth, back in the mid-late noughties, Ireland needed a group like The High Kings. The heyday of ballad groups such as The Clancy Brothers and The Dubliners was a distant memory for generations of music fans, and to have another bunch of Irish lads taking up the baton and continuing the tradition was great news to   thousands of fans worldwide. “We could sing well, play our instruments well and harmonise well,” says Darren Holden, humbly underselling somewhat the numerous skill sets of the individual members. “People were looking for guys with character, presence – not just cardboard cut-outs – so the respective experience we all had wasn't just helpful but essential. The four members immediately knew that something special was taking place (“we knew within the space of a few songs that there was magic”), and within months had clicked as a creative unit as well as friends.

The self-titled debut album, released in 2008, reached a highly impressive number two on Billboard Magazine’s World Music chart. It was during The High Kings second tour of the US in 2011, however – having graduated from playing small venues to larger halls as they promoted their follow-up album, ‘Memory Lane’, which also crashed into Billboard’s World Music chart – that everyone involved realised the fanbase was growing into something that no one had predicted. Subsequently, the group’s tour of Ireland sold out within hours. “We didn't expect that,” admits Darren, “and then about three gigs into that tour we realised we had touched not only a nerve but also a memory. People loved what we were doing, and they  would tell us after the shows that what we did and how we were doing it meant so much to them – they had waited years for a group like us.”                       

As if that wasn't good enough, The High Kings received the stamp of approval from the likes of Christy Moore and, perhaps more pertinently, Ronnie Drew, the lead singer of The Dubliners, and the man behind one of Ireland’s most recognisable and enduring ballad voices. The High Kings had achieved what many had thought improbable, if not impossible: they were moving the Irish ballad tradition into the here and now, carrying along with them the steadfast older fans while simultaneously bringing it to a new audience. “The gigs were getting bigger and bigger, and we felt we were breaking down barriers."

More was to come in 2013 with the group’s third studio album, ‘Friends For Life’, which featured original songs among the traditional fare. Such an undertaking had always been discussed, reveals Darren. “On ‘Memory Lane’, we stuck to the tried and tested formula, and that was a really good plan, because the album sold very well. But with ‘Friends For Life’, which was originally planned as another covers record, we worked with Sharon Shannon, who co-produced, and that changed things significantly for us. She initially heard one of our songs – Oh Maggie, which I wrote – and she really thought it should be included. And then several more songs written by group members followed.” According to Darren, The High Kings stepped out of the shadows by taking the original song writing route. “We were delighted! We felt the songs were really good, and we sensed it was the next step. We finally sensed we were about to embark on a new chapter for The High Kings, rather than repeat the approach we took on the first two albums.” Stepping out of the shadows inevitably threw light onto their own songwriting talents. Credibility, too? “Absolutely. With versions of well known or previously written songs, you can get four people talented enough who are very handy singing them, but with original songs you mark your own territory, you stand out. And we were lucky, thankfully – we had a couple of original songs that were hits in various parts of the world”.

The development of original songwriting – ballad-style but with contemporary touches – from each member of The High Kings continues apace, but balance must be maintained. To a degree, expectations have to be met while still moving specific creative elements forward, which is why the group’s fourth studio album, ‘Grace & Glory’, took them back to the essentials that kick-started their career in the first place.  “We felt it was the right time to park the original songs for a while,” says Brian Dunphy. “We did a two-year tour for the ‘Friends for Life’ album, and then we put out a live show album/DVD – ‘Four Friends Live’. That was received so well that we felt a back-to-basics approach – traditional ballad songs with new arrangements – would be good.” To say that The High Kings are charting a new course for Irish ballad music – equal parts rousing and reflective, energetic and insightful – is an understatement. They are, essentially, marking out a new and bright era for Irish folk music, and aiming to bring a broad demographic along for the journey.

With 2016's ‘Grace & Glory’, the band widened their appeal and fanbase, as Finbarr affirmed. “There is something for everybody on the album, and any doubters out there might just discover there’s a whole lot more to us than perceptions would have them believe. Previous High Kings albums have been stepping-stones, but this one sees us on top of things." ‘Grace & Glory’ features 12 songs all performed in the inimitable High Kings style including ‘Grace’, ‘Ride On’ and a brilliant version of ‘Spancil Hill’. The album also features the song ‘Schooldays Over’ which the band performed to great acclaim on the RTÉ Centenary concert. In addition to this, also featured is a special version of ‘Hand Me Down My Bible’. The version on the album features a third verse, written especially for The High Kings by Phil Coulter. The song was originally written by Coulter for The Dubliners in 1970 and it was a real honour for the band to perform Phil's new verse. 

2017 saw the band continue with intensive touring of Ireland, the UK and America, in tandem with a rapid growth in their digital and online profile. It was also the year that the band reached its tenth anniversary which was marked with a very special compilation celebrating a decade of outstanding songs and performances. The November 2017 release of DECADE-BEST OF THE HIGH KINGS was received with rave reviews and record sales figures with the band again topping the Irish Album Charts and returning to the Billboard World Music Charts. The DECADE World Tour promises a joyous trip down Memory Lane, to the music and song of yesteryear, this time performed in a contemporary style and arrangement which still remains true to the original.

Here’s to the next ten years . . . Here’s to The High Kings . . .


The High Kings.
The High Kings.

The High Kings.

The High Kings.
Darren Holden
Darren Holden Read More

Darren Holden

Darren Holden

Darren Holden is not only a prolific Songwriter and Musician but a master interpreter of lyrics as well. Audiences around the world continue to praise his exceptional vocal talents. Originally from Mooncoin County Kilkenny, he is comfortable performing all genres of music from Pop and Jazz to Country and Celtic.

Darren starred as The Piano Man (Billy Joel) in the Tony Award-winning hit Billy Joel/Twyla Tharp musical Movin’ Out both on Broadway and on tour for four years receiving unanimous critical acclaim throughout the US, Canada and Japan. He was lead singer with RIVERDANCE on Broadway and on tour for more than three years.

A top ten recording artist in Ireland, Darren toured with Boyzone on their first major tour of Ireland and the UK . He had numerous chart hits with such songs as “After Tonight” and “More Than I Can Say.” His debut solo album, “Suddenly” produced three top 20 hits. His CD of original traditional/contemporary Country songs, “Live & Learn,” released in 2002 in the US, produced three top 40 airplay hits and Darren was nominated for a 2004 New Music Weekly Award (“Best Male Country Artist”).

Darren relished the opportunity to join The High Kings, and reach a new audience, singing the songs he had learnt as a child. A key High Kings moment for Darren was performing at the half time section of the All –Ireland Hurling final, which his beloved Kilkenny won. As Darren said, It was the biggest hometown crowd he had ever played for. The High Kings flew home specially for the event from their headline US tour, one of three hugely successful tours they completed in 2008

Although his schedule is hectic, he manages to balance his work and home life, as he has had not one, but two new arrivals to his family since joining The High Kings. Along with his wife Michelle, Darren revels in home life with daughters Ava and Sophie and son Josh.

Despite having such a full schedule, Darren finds time to help out many worthy charities and frequently uses his talents to help others raise funds.

Finbarr Clancy
Finbarr Clancy Read More

Finbarr Clancy

Finbarr Clancy

Finbarr was born in County Waterford to Moira and Bobby, brother to Liam, Paddy & Tom Clancy. Growing up in the Clancy dynasty, Finbarr’s was plucking the banjo and playing the bodhran from the age of 5.

His first professional performance was on stage at the tender age of ten singing and playing the banjo with his cousin Eban Clancy (Liam’s son). Finbarr went on to learn the guitar and flute and began writing songs at the age of 17.

Finbarr began touring North America with his Father and Uncles, The Clancy Brothers, in 1995. Following the passing of his uncle Paddy and later his father, Bobby in 2002. Finbarr continued the tradition by touring with Eddie Dillon and Mark Fitzpatrick along the festival route, which included playing at America’s biggest Irish Festival in Milwaukee.

As part of The Clancy Brothers, Finbarr played all over the world and had many TV appearances, as well as recording credits such as Clancy Sings Along Songs, The Quiet Land and Make Me a Cup with Bobby Clancy and Eddie .

It was when Finbarr decided to move back to Ireland after touring the US that things started moving very quickly. Within a few months of moving home, Finbarr joined The High Kings and spent all his time rehearsing and recording a new album and DVD.

Having just left America, Finbarr found himself back in New York, appearing on hit TV shows The View and This Morning performing with The High Kings. After touring with Billboard chart toppers, Celtic Woman, The High Kings came back to Ireland to do two sell out tours, within months of each other.

The music of the Clancy’s was integral to Finbarr’s musical education and he hopes to continue this strong ballad tradition with The High Kings

Brian Dunphy
Brian Dunphy Read More

Brian Dunphy

Brian Dunphy

Brian was born in Dublin. He realised early on that the musical path would be the one he would follow. So far it has lead him to great accomplishments and also to meeting his wife Ann, with whom he appeared in a stage version of Rocky Horror Picture show.

Brian’s biggest break came when he won the Lead singer role in “Riverdance The Show”, traveling extensively throughout America, Canada, China, Australia and Europe. He spent two years singing at The Gershwin Theatre on Broadway in New York and as lead vocalist in Radio City Music Hall. While there, he had the honour of performing the American National Anthem at Madison Square Gardens and appearing on “The Today Show”.

Following Riverdance he joined The Three Irish Tenors and enjoyed huge success stateside, and Europe beckoned next as he took on a role performing as his father in a tribute to the Irish Show-Band stars of yesteryear, “Dance Hall Qs And Hucklebuck Shoes”.

Throughout his already very successful career, Brian has had the honour of recording with many artists including world renowned violinist Vanessa Mae, Celtic Woman, Bill Whelan’s Riverdance-On Broadway and Riverdance – The 10th Anniversary.

Brian is never fazed by the wise-cracking comments thrown at him from a sometimes raucous audience member. Indeed, enjoying the exchange. Being of a gregarious nature, he enjoys immensely meeting fans of The High Kings after a show and hearing their stories.

Although Brian loves touring, he loves his family life as well and sees no conflict between selling out to a 1000 strong crowd one night and serving up weetabix to his five year old son Sam the next morning, as he feels both roles, Performer and Father are a good fit for him.


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