From the age of zero Shane has been singing, acting, entertaining and performing. Well, almost. He was born to two very musical parents in Phil and Una McGrath who delighted audiences of all kinds for 38 years from about 1970. Shane grew up in an environment where music was important – neigh very important. His mum in particular encouraged him early to perform and together they spent many hours at the piano, her playing, him singing. Little did they know (well maybe mum had a grand design all along) that Shane would carve out a career performing.
He began his singing career as many do in the ranks of amateur musical societies in Kildare and Dublin, Ireland. In 1993 with two pals he started his first band and called it the Quills. It obviously wasn’t a success as the band wasn’t serious but in 1995 while studying Design he formed The Bug (an alt-rock band) who performed Shane’s own compositions. After University Shane secured a place on a European Tour with Noel Cummins and his Irish Actors Theatre Company. This is where Shane cut his teeth at large-scale solo performing and where he realised performing was where his future was though it was another five years before Shane abandoned all other ideas to focus entirely on entertainment full-time. The Bug turned into Burnish (another failed attempt at making a living writing original music).
Shane knew from an early stage that he was destined to be an entertainer. The fact that his parents Phil and Una were entertainers before him and that his grandmother founded the legendary Gallowglass Ceili Band may have played an important part in this development. “At a young age I was encouraged to perform”, Shane recalls, “I developed a love of acting, singing and playing music and those early days certainly played a part in forming my future. A love of stage and performance of all kinds is in my blood and bred then further into me by my parents…”.
It would be some time before the 36-year-old Kildare-man would eventually achieve the ultimate fulfilment of his dreams. But now he has truly done that, running one of the most successful events bands in the country which he has built into a €1m business while also developing other entertainment industry interests and exciting projects.
The road to here was long, colourful and not without some serious hurdles but Shane is in the happy position now that he can reflect with a comfortable smile on 20 years in what we will loosely call showbiz as well as the usual trials and tribulations that life throws up in front of people.
Born in Kilcullen, Co Kildare, in 1975 Shane had a happy homelife but the regular absence of his parents as they toured the country had an impact on the young boy. “My parents were such hard workers. I mean they went to work every morning – my mother was a hairdresser and an Irish dance teacher, my father a soldier and a part-time salesman by day. They came in the door, occasionally took a quick nap then spruced themselves up again and headed off to play with the band”, says Shane, “I cannot praise my folks enough, but it was not a normal childhood.”
The performing bug inherited from them began to gnaw away at Shane from an early age. He sang, played guitar and acted at every opportunity presented to him, at local concerts, plays, musicals, variety shows and even on his parents gigs. “There was an irresistible urge to perform, to sing. I just loved singing and acting. I don’t know why really. I’ve never lost that love even for a moment, but to consider it a career opportunity was never encouraged. We were gently sold the opportunities that education offered whilst secretly dreaming of a life on the stage – always. I had to be on a stage and entertaining people. i only really ever felt myself in that place.”
Education, of course, got in the way. A keen art and design student he progressed smoothly through the various educational levels. The artistic bent drove him towards a love of and a (temporary) career in design and brand innovation. He would eventually secure a degree in design followed by an incomplete PhD. “I will submit it some day, definitely, but now is just not the right time. I’m wholly focussed on building my own business and brands right now. The knowledge is the reward for me – not the piece of paper. I’ll never work for anyone other than myself and family so I won’t be attending any interviews in the coming years”.
Even during the studies, the pull of music and entertaining was there. But in 1998 Shane was struck down with a brain haemorrhage in 1998 which put him out-of-action for nearly four months. Not many people recover from such a major trauma but Shane was very lucky and eventually got home where he was lovingly cared for by family and his own doctor and made a full recovery. One day towards the back end of his recovery he and a friend just jumped on a bus and ended up busking in Grafton Street if Dublin. “I had to get out of the house before I died of boredom or depression”, he recalls. That day he met his friend Matt Lawlor who was attending an audition with the Irish Actors Theatre Company a small Shakespearean-styled company based in Clontarf which has toured Europe for the past 20 years playing to various audiences. Shane accompanied, got the part and toured Europe and the U.S. with the Company for two years under the guidance of Noel Cummins, Director, “This was a brilliant experience all round. I knew I had some natural ability. but the truth is that I didn’t even realise I had no technique, no learned skills, no control. After every show, sometimes three a day, I would ask Noel for my performance notes and he would oblige. One could not buy this level of tutoring. I felt privileged and tried to make the most of it. I always reference this experience in the delivery of our own shows.”
He moved to America in 2000 to further his design and innovation career prospects still doubting that a career in entertainment was a runner in terms of earning a living wage. His design and creative credentials were quickly established and he was soon snapped up by a top design consultancy in New York where he thrived and rose quickly through the ranks. As with many emigrants home-sickness won out and Shane accepted a design-management job with a company in Dublin. During his time there he was elected as the Industrial Design councillor on the Institute of Designers (IDI) executive council. Under the guidance of Sean McNulty of Dolmen Design Shane excelled in his design life. He knew he could reach the top and was directed directly there. A holiday in America in 2003 with his sister Tara was to change things forever for Shane.
Even though he was officially on holiday, he hawked around a promotional CD looking for gigs in Las Vegas and LA. He crossed the path of the famous producer and impresario, Kenny Ortega (who would later go on to produce the ill-fated Michael Jackson London comeback concerts and the subsequent movie, and the man behind the Highschool Musical Brand). Working with Kenny allowed him to see how the big and not-so-hot entertainment industry in Las Vegas Worked. Kenny was working on productions for the famous Mirage Hotel Group in Vegas and Shane got a job there assistant-managing summer shows and corporate events.
“It turned out not to be a great job I loved Vegas and I learned and saw so much there”, he recalls, ”I quickly set up the band and got stuck into the sales element of getting gigs anywhere. Doing this in a business-like way helped me to soon realise that I could earn as much doing one great show than I could earn in a week of hard graft at my job”. The Vegas experience also gave Shane a great insight into the real-world elements of production, promotion, concert-management and critically – ticket sales.”
Upon discovering that he was about to become a father Shane decided he’s better settle into a normal family life and focus on being a grown-up. He applied for and accepted a position managing design and business for a well-known consultancy on St. Stephen’s Green but his heart was never in it. It was during this time that Shane realised he would never be wholly fulfilled in a career in design. “I loved designing and managing project but became terribly frustrated with the industry here. I needed a change – I just didn’t want to be an unhappy parent. I had to make a decision. Now was the time…”
Research into the entertainment industry here led Shane to the door of Jim Mansield. “I simple walked in the door of Citywest hotel and waited for him to pass by. I door stepped him really, told him I wanted to promote and manage concerts and festivals at Citywest hotel”. Jim loved Shane’s energy and ideas and offered him the part-entrepreneurial position of Group Head of Entertainment. In this role he enjoyed considerable success, mostly notably when he convinced Michael Flatley to bring his hit “Lord of the Dance” show back to an Irish venue for the first time in ten years. In the first six months 45,000 people attended Shane’s concerts which included Michael Flatley’s Lord of the Dance, Bonnie Tyler, Phil Coulter, Paul Brady, Rebecca Storm, Peter Corrie and The Spirit of Christmas festival.
Shane re-focussed up his band Harlequin in a much more serious way. The band had already been gigging over the years, notching up about 85 shows a year. Since it became Shane’s main focus, however, Harlequin are now performing in the region of 200 nights, including 80/90 full-day events. “This is the the hardest-working fully-professional band around and we deliver a show that has few, if any, rivals anywhere in the country”, he says.
At the same time Shane was expanding the operations of LimeLight Entertainment including band, event and concert management – in addition to wedding bands Ireland. In 2010 Limelight Group expanded it’s operation buying the Gossip.ie, Bands4u.ie and DJ4u.ie brands, domains and business from another company.
In 2010 the prestigious Gerard Manley Hopkins International Society gave him a special award for his contribution to their annual event. The citation for the award read: “Shane’s contribution to the Festival has been substantial over many years. His involvement in the Words and Music Workshops has proven both popular and enlightening especially with our younger members. We especially enjoyed his pivotal role as Gerard Manley Hopkins in the dramatisation – using James McKenna’s adaption of Hopkins’s epic poem, ‘The Wreck of the Deutschland’”.
In 2011 Shane Produced, Directed, Designed and Starred in the first ever film of that most challenging of Hopkin’s Poems. The film has been very well received from scholars and literary critics throughout Europe. Shane is currently seeking a high profile film festival from which to launch the film commercially.
In the meantime his band Harlequin have been nominated best band of the year by www.WeddingsOnline.ie, Ireland’s most successful resource for wedding planners. In fact the band have been in the top five wedding suppliers in Ireland each year for the last five years.
Despite being so busy, as ever, and with the exception of his beautiful wife Sabrina, his daughter Lily (6) and son Morgan (2), Shane loves the stage and screen more than anything. Whether performing with the band, on camera or in a play it’s his life, calling, home. In 2013 Shane is focussing on self-producing his film script which is a romantic comedy based loosely around the ongoing of his wedding band touring the roads of Ireland.
Harlequin still play at corporate events, sporting events, festivals, weddings and private parties of every size and kind. In addition to his role as singer in Harlequin Shane is also available for wedding ceremonies, funerals and memoriam celebrations.
As an M.C. entertainer Shane has been hosting corporate events, charity gala events and awards ceremonies since 2005. His main function is as Master of Ceremonies ensuring that his pre-event plan is delivered ensuring that the event flows smoothly and all attendees are kept entertained, enthused and interested. Shane creates a specific bullet-proof event/show plan for each and every hosting engagement by liaising researching with the client. Shane loves this type of event and it is an ambition of his to present TV shows.
Over the past 15 years Shane has also been writing and recording a catalogue of songs for wedding couples and his own use. These recordings are also available to other artists to cover on their own recordings. The soundtrack of his new movie is of course penned by himself…
“I never get tired performing”, he closes, “In my personal life I’m awkward and uninteresting really. The audience are like a drug to me really, I never tire of them. Being in front of them is the only place where I’m completely comfortable, if that makes any sense…”.
Press information: Aileen O’Brien PR, Newbridge, Kildare.
2011 Hopkins, The Wreck of the Deutschland, Shane McGrath, Limelight Films
2011 Director, The Wreck of the Deutschland, Shane McGrath, Limelight Films
2008 Cable, South Pacific, Am
2008 Hopkins, The Wreck of the Deutschland, Conor Mahony, IMMA
2005 Playboy of the Western World, Chris Mahon, Neil O’Shea, Danish & French Schools
2005 Merchant of Venice, Antonio, Noel Cummins, Nueus Theatre, Halle
2005 New Pirates of Penzance, Director, Am
2005 Juno and the Paycock, Director, Paddy Melia, Am
2005 Juno and the Paycock, Jerry Devine, Am
2004 Portrait, Detective Brown, Stephen Smith, Brown H Productions
2004 Who? Carl, Rob Rooney, Boston Six Films
2003 Shepherds , Jeremy, John O’Donnell, Pine Valley Prod’s
2003 Walk Away, John, Claire Walsh, Pink Lady Prod’s
2003 King Arthur, Ganis Warrior, Antoine Fuqua, Evergreen Prod’s
2003 Jesus Christ Superstar, Jesus of Nazareth, Barry Kavanagh, Am
2003 Jesus Christ Superstar, Jesus of Nazareth, Art McGauran, Am
2002 Importance of Being Ernest, Jack Worthing, Noel Cummins, European Theatres Tour
2002 Waiting for Godot, Estragon, Noel Cummins, Pasinger Fabrik, Munchen
2001 Beauty Queen of Lenane, y Dooley, Mary Linehan, Am
2001 Merchant of Venice, Director, Bassannio, Pasinger Fabrik, Munchen
2001 The Wedding, The Victim, John Byrne, Red Cow Inn
2000 The King and I, PhraAlack | Interpreter , Tony Finnegan, National Concert Hall
2000 Midsomernights Dream, Puck, Bottom, Noel Cummins, Muffat Halle
2000 Celtic Tiger, Sammy, Various, Noel Cummins, Parkside Theatre, Wisconsin
2000 My Fair Lady, Harry, Tony Finnegan, National Concert Hall
1999 Millennium, Host, John Byrne, Red Cow Inn
1999 Aisling, Dan, Tony Finnegan, Garter Lane Theatre
1999 Crazy For You, Lank Hawkins, Tony Finnegan, Am
1998 Romeo and Juliet, Tybalt, Noel Cummins, European Theatres Tour
1998 Othello, Iago, Neil O’Shea, University Theatre, Aachen
1998 Dublin Cradle of Genius, Swift / Swing, Noel Cummins, European Theatres Tour
1998 Merchant of Venice, Bassanio, Peter Hussey, The Crypt Theatre
1998 Merchant of Venice, Arragon, Peter Hussey, Aula Maxima, Maynooth
1997 Life of Shakespeare, Marlow/Swing, Noel Cummins, European Schools Tour
1997 Oklahoma, Curly, Paul Laycock, Am
1996 Guys and Dolls, Sky Masterson, Tony Finnegan, Am
1996 Brigadoon, Harry Ritchie, Tony Finnegan, Am
1996 Sive, Carthalawn, Pat Melia, Am
1996 Juno and the Paycock, Jerry Divine, Pat Melia, Am