A master storyteller, Niall Connolly is the kind of guy you want to find yourself sitting next to at a pub, a wedding, or even a funeral. On The Patience of Trees, Connolly’s 9th album, his songs are slow-simmered, rich with family histories, and woven with a golden thread of dark Irish humor. “I’ve got a willingness to see the fun alongside the suffering,” he says. “But I’ve always got one eye on the party.”
Connolly, who splits his time between New York City and the Catskills, writes lyrical folk in the tradition of his fellow Irishman and occasional collaborator Glen Hansard, Leonard Cohen, and Wilco.
In the big, breathtaking build of his new album’s opening track, “It’s a Beautiful Life,” Connolly uses a simple refrain to convey the magnificence and misery of being alive. “When I sing, ‘It’s a beautiful life, most of the time,’ I mean it,” he says. “I mean both parts.”
Though he’s known as one of the busiest live musicians around—“I used to play 150 to 200 gigs per year for years and years,” he says—Connolly was forced to pause when the world shut down in 2020. As he gradually gathered songs for The Patience of Trees, he skipped stones with his young daughter and tried to summon serenity and forbearance from the forest that surrounded his Catskill Mountain home: “I was reading about how trees can communicate with each other and send out distress signals to warn and support each other within the forest. That felt like a metaphor for what everyone had to do during the pandemic.”
Connolly has been a fixture of the NYC songwriting scene since he put down roots in the city in 2007. For 16 years, he has been presiding over Big City Folk, a songwriter’s collective that pops up in pubs and cultural centers several times per month. Performers have included Lucius, Anais Mitchell, and Lana Del Ray (before she was Lana Del Ray, on a Leonard Cohen night in the song club’s early days). As Connolly explains it, he’s just importing a tradition from Ireland: “It was very common at the end of a party at home to have a singsong, share the guitar, and share some songs. I missed that when I moved here.”
The Patience of Trees is Niall Connolly’s 9th album and is set for release on June 2, 2023. Guests include Javier Más (of Leonard Cohen’s band), Anna Tivel, and Mick Flannery. The album was produced in New York by Len Monachello, with some notable assists from Brandon Wide, E.W. Harris, and M.J. McCarthy. Mastered by Ruairi O’ Flaherty (Lana Del Rey, Taylor Swift). Connolly will be touring internationally throughout 2023.