There are people in the world who are destined to succeed. No matter what circumstances they are involved with, their inherent ability surfaces. For those who are fond of the adage, “lightning never strikes twice” they mistakenly forget about the lightning rod. Kieran Kiely is a musical lightning rod. While many musicians struggle for their entire lives to get “one shot” (to quote Eminem), Kieran has credits which include multiple globally popular artists. While spending his youth touring the world and recording with these artists, he now makes his home in Los Angeles; it’s a long way from the other side of the Atlantic where Kiely grew up and started his journey in music. Now he is a long way from the huge concert stage as he finds himself on a different musical journey. Although he has had experience for many years as a composer, Kieran is now focused on creating music in the seminal location of film…Hollywood. Kiely is proving that he is a source of authentic and imaginative music, regardless of the presentation or format of said music.
The first phase of Kieran’s musical life reads like a movie itself. Until recently, he spent his entire life recording and touring with the artist that are household names. Dave Stewart (of the Eurythmics), Stevie Nicks, Sinead O’Connor, Van Morrison, Bono, and many others have enlisted Kiely to be a part of creating the music that their fans adore. While Kieran is respected among the elite of the rock world as a consummate musician, it is often his mastery and authenticity of the traditional Irish sound for which he is known. It is this same characteristic that led filmmaker Tommy Reid to hire Kiely to compose the music for his film Danny Greene: The Rise and Fall of the Irishman. This film is a documentary about Irish mobster Danny Greene, famed in the late 60’s as a key member of the mob war which led to the dissolution of the Cleveland, Ohio mafia. The film includes interviews with Greene’s family as well as government officials and Cleveland Police Enforcement. Reid wanted to go to primary sources to communicate the story directly from those involved and he wanted the music to be just as authentic. Reid declares, “A good film score not only compliments a story but also helps it rise to greater dramatic heights, and Kieran’s expertise as a composer did exactly that. You’d be hard pressed to find an Irish musician/composer who has experienced as much success as Kieran. He occupies a space among the top percentage of his peers.” Kieran admits, “Tommy didn’t want a Hollywood version of Irish music but he wasn’t looking for traditional scoring either. It was very collaborative. Tommy had a long standing relationship with Composer Greg Morgenstein on his Films and Greg collaborated with me along with Adrien Van Vessel. Tommy provided a locked picture, so we could get to work. Very early on it became immediately obvious from Tommy’s feedback, that what I was doing was going to work. We had a spotting session to decide where the music was needed but the only other real direction I was given was to make the music authentic.”
Kiely approached the film in a very nontraditional way as a composer. With a locked picture available, he was able to watch the entire film to gain a sense of the emotional qualities that his composition would aid. Although he was unfamiliar with the Danny Greene story, Reid’s film gave Kiely all of the information and inspiration he needed. He recalls, “Having watched the Film, I immediately felt like the music needed to be tough. I chose a dark tone on the Accordion for the main source of pad type chords, with a driving detuned Bodhran (Irish Frame Drum) for a pulsing rhythm and Ethnic Irish Flutes for melodic elements. These three instruments made up the main palate of the score. Once I had laid down these initial ideas, I would add more instruments where needed. When I wanted it really big, I would Orchestrate it. Referring back to Tommy’s note about the music being authentic, and having used some fake Orchestral samples on some of the cues…I decided it needed to be performed by real players, so I Orchestrated the parts and we recorded them with live musicians.” The music which Kiely composed and orchestrated for Danny Greene: The Rise and Fall of the Irishman emphasizes the intensity and emotion of this tale, yet it also stands as a work of art in itself; a flavor of the Irish sentiment that Greene and all those who hold a place in their hearts for the culture of Ireland. As the music inspires audiences, it also inspires other artist…in this case leading them to seek out Kiely.
More recently, Kieran has been working with award-winning composer Timothy Williams, in the role as orchestrator and musician on many upcoming projects. Williams is known for his work on films such as: 300, Guardians of the Galaxy, Watchmen, and Sucker Punch, to name just a few. The two are now working on the TV shows Timeless and Quantico as well as the upcoming films Guardians of the Galaxy 2, and I’m Not Ashamed. As a recording and touring musician who has experienced the thrill of performing for massive audiences, Kiely is embracing the thrill of this new avenue for his talents. He notes, “I do enjoy Orchestrating. I have always loved the sound of an Orchestra and getting to do this sort of work is a pure joy. It’s a pretty steep learning curve. You have to be an expert in music notation and really understand the inner workings of an Orchestra, but’s it’s really rewarding when you attend a session and hear your orchestrations being played. I am Orchestrating on NBC’s Timeless TV Show. We work with Emmy nominated Composer Robert Duncan to Orchestrate his music weekly for the show. It’s a pretty fast turnaround, we have about two days to Orchestrate each episode with about 30 minutes of music per show.” In the case of Kieran Kiely it seems to be nature and nurture rather than one or the other. This consummate musician has conquered the world of rock as a sought after sideman and performer; now he has thrown himself into embracing the composition, orchestration, and conducting of large ensembles to create the moods that effect millions (if not billions) of film and television audiences. The one constant throughout his career is his pursuit of his love affair with music, regardless of the way he presents it.