2022 Canadian Folk Music Awards Nominee - "Best Traditional Singer"
BEHIND THE MUSIC
A Creative Presence
In a country that loves its Celtic music, it’s no surprise that Vancouver’s Pat Chessell has become known as one of the most exciting roots artists in Western Canada. Equally skilled at delivering a dance-inducing, powerhouse Celtic rock tune as a quietly heartrending East Coast influenced ballad, Pat’s rootsy vocal style, charismatic stage presence and expert musicianship (guitar) are making for an ever-growing audience of enthusiastic fans. While his mostly original music falls solidly under the broad umbrella of ‘Celtic’, Pat’s range is prodigious and eclectic. It’s been variously described as straight-ahead “folk”, “upbeat Celtic influenced Canadian folk/pop”, and “moving mid and-up-tempo contemporary Celtic”, among other labels. His tunes have also, on occasion, known to be tinged with Americana and country and western influences. But, to cut to the chase, it’s all Pat’s music. Its music played and performed, and often written, in Pat’s distinctive and unique voice; strongly rooted in the Celtic tradition, but with an open-hearted connection to the place he calls home and the modern world around him. His lyrics are at turns profound – or witty and high-spirited – but always dynamic and relatable.
Pat was born into a Canadian family, British Columbia-based, with roots in Ireland and Canada’s East Coast. A lover of Celtic traditions since childhood, he’s been playing for as long as he can remember and performing in public since his early teens. His first real gigs were in a guest spot with popular Belfast folk singer Danny Burns of the legendary Irish group, The Wolfhound. By the end of high school he was playing more than 100 shows a year, primarily in the dark pubs and rustic halls around Vancouver. His skills as a guitar player, singer, songwriter, and performer were honed and refined through this time. Today, the singer and guitarist annually performs more than twice that number, either as a solo or with The Pat Chessell Band. And, not one to rest on his laurels, he’s recently studied with world-renowned (and Grammy-nominated) Irish guitarist, multi-instrumentalist, singer, songwriter and producer, John Doyle. He’s also trained with Aoife Clancy from the famous Irish Clancy clan.
After years of working hard and paying his dues, and getting really good at what he does, he’s lauded as the hardest working musician on the local music scene. And he’s now poised to take move into new territory as we all move out of pandemics into a vibrant and renewed live music scene. In normal times, you’d find Chessell playing Western Canada’s top festivals, clubs, pubs, theatres, and special events. He’s toured his music across Canada and around the world, including to his ancestral homeland of Ireland, as well as to the States.
He regularly headlines his own shows, but has also opened for artists such as Jim Byrnes, Delhi 2 Dublin, The Town Pants, Derek Warfield and the Young Wolfe Tones, and others. Pat was a featured act in the Irish Pavilion, no less, at the 2010 Winter Olympics. He’s released 5 recordings over the last 10 plus years. The latest two, I Confess (2018) and The Road Not Taken (2020) have garnered great reviews, airplay, and new listeners and fans of his music. I Confess was recorded in January 2018 at the Warehouse Studio, the legendary recording venue owned by Canadian rocker Bryan Adams. Consisting of 5 originals and 2 traditional songs, Pat is joined by an impressive cast of musicians on the EP. They include roots virtuoso Steve Dawson, Geoffrey Kelly (Spirit of the West), Gerry O’Connor (Irish Rovers), Bruce Coughlan (Tiller’s Folly), Damaris Woods (Young Wolfe Tones), and many others. The Georgia Straight’s Music Editor, Mike Usinger, said, “I Confess delivers a dash of Dublin and a taste of Texas...”
In March 2020, he released the country-rock flavoured barn-burner, “Like a Rock”,the first single from his December 2020-released album, The Road Not Taken. The full album also includes the traditional tune (“The Travelling Doctor Shop”), co-written tunes with local country/folk troubadour Ivan Boudreau (“Soldier’s Farewell”, “Road Not Taken”), a co-write with Ivan Boudreau and eldest brother Shawn Chessell (“Rose and Broken Windows”), a co-write with Vancouver radio personality, Larry Hennessy (the good-time “Gardai Party”), and a powerful acoustic ballad written by the legendary Tommy Makem (“Sally O”). “Like a Rock” was written by Pat’s friend, Robert Ford. Chessell is joined
on the album by “who’s who” of roots music names, including: Steve Dawson (Zubot and Dawson, Jim Byrnes), Geoffrey Kelly (Spirit of the West), Nolan Murray (Tiller’s Folly, Pam Tillis, Irish Rovers), Kevin Evans (Evans and Doherty, Liam Clancy), and others. The album has gotten airplay across Canada, the United States, and Europe. The Road Not Taken boasts a modern folk-pop sound that is uniquely Chessell’s. It showcases how his songs have evolved from stripped-down pub-style tunes to a newfound hybridity that
combines Celtic folk and an Americana twang with an optimistic and upbeat indie-folk feel.
It is clear that, in an era of one dimensional singers and disposable artists, Pat Chessell has carved a richly unique sound and presence that’s organic, authentic and entirely engaging. He’s developed a singular guitar style that is the result of talent, diligence, and practice – and his vocals convey a truth and passion that is turning heads in the Celtic and folk music worlds and beyond.