Born in County Kilkenny, Ireland, DARREN HOLDEN is a very versatile and talented performer. As well as being an accomplished musician, with an exceptional vocal range, he is also a prolific songwriter. His wonderful interpretation of lyrics, together with an ability to perform in so many genres of music, continues to win him praise from audiences wherever he performs around the world.
Having put together his first band 'Wanted' at the age of 16, they extensively toured the UK, Europe, and the US, developing an excellent reputation for their country-rock style. When they disbanded, Darren turned his concentration to his songwriting, twice competing in 'Irish Song For Europe'. In coming a close second on both occasions, he was invited to perform in Finland, Sweden, Greece, Los Angeles, Kiev, Kazakhstan and Cairo, winning several prizes and composing awards in various competitions.
Darren's early career saw him in much demand supporting many artists such as Boyzone, The Backstreet Boys, East 17, Paul Young, Bonnie Tyler, Peter Andre, and Belinda Carlisle, on major tours. He also had top 20 hits in Ireland with cover versions of More Than I Can Say and Don't Give Up On Us, with his own composition, After Tonight, reaching the top 10. During this time, he worked with producer Ray Hedges (Take That, Boyzone, B*Witched,Towers Of London). As his passion for songwriting continued, he also got the opportunity to work with country music legend Rodney Crowell on a song for the Celtic Harmony Festival, as well as collaborating with R'n'B artist Montell Jordan and Lindy Robbins.
Darren's next career break took him to America where he was cast as the lead vocalist in Riverdance, performing initially on Broadway before taking the show on a 3 year tour of the US and in to Europe. As his contract with Riverdance came to an end, with hardly time to draw breath, he successfully auditioned as the lead vocalist/pianist in the Tony Award-winning hit Billy Joel/Twyla Tharp musical Movin' Out. This saw him once again performing on Broadway, before embarking on another extensive 3 year tour of the US, Canada and Tokyo. The tour was a major success, breaking all previous box office records in many cities in the first year. Darren was ever present as lead 'Pianoman' on the original US tour, from Jan 2004, until the production closed in Birmingham Alabama in Jan 2007. This gained him a huge fan base for both his interpretation of the Billy Joel back catalogue, and his own music. He also became a regular face on American Prime Time TV, clocking up more than 500 appearances on CBS, FOX, NBC and ABC. His natural ability in front of the camera charmed both presenters and the millions of viewers, as he shared his amusing experiences and treated them to his amazing rendition's of the Billy Joel classics.
Solo Music Career
Darren has released 3 solo albums, each in a different genre of music. His debut solo album, Suddenly, a pop album of original and cover songs, was released in Ireland at the end of 1998. The album includes his 2 top 20 hits and the top 10 After Tonight, and gained him 'Album of the Week' status on the national Irish music radio station 2FM. While in New York with Riverdance, Darren recorded his second album Live and Learn. This by contrast is a collection of original traditional/contemporary country songs from recording sessions in both New York and Nashville. Released in the US in 2002, the album produced three top 30 airplay hits, with Wherever You Are, hitting the Top 20. This success gained Darren much deserved industry recognition and he was subsequently nominated in the 'Best Country Male Artist' category for the 2004 New Music Weekly Awards in Los Angeles. In November 2005 Darren released Through Hell and High Water, dedicated to the victims of Hurricane Katrina. It became one of the most downloaded songs of the year in the US, gaining him much praise for the touching lyrics, and heartfelt message, from fans of all ages and backgrounds. The song is included on Darren's album, Roadworks, released in August 2006. This album has a fine blend of beautiful ballads and rock songs and is the result of two years of writing and recording while on the road touring with Movin' Out. It features all original material co-written by Darren with other Movin' Out band members and Billy Joel's guitarist Tommy Byrnes.
Later Solo Career Performances
Despite a heavy touring schedule with Riverdance and Movin' Out, Darren still had the opportunity to progress other avenues of his career, appearing in concert at both The Cutting Room in New York City and the famed Whisky A Go-Go in Los Angeles. This gave him the chance to showcase some of his original songs backed by members of the Movin' Out band. He has also regularly performed with the New York State of Mind band which features the Billy Joel band, with Darren taking the place of the main man on piano and lead vocals. The group perform at major corporate events in the US and often feature guest appearances from world renowned musicians.
Darren became a favorite at sporting events for his phenomenal rendition of the US National Anthem. He has performed the Anthem for an estimated 1.5 million people, the largest audience being 90,000 at the San Diego Charger's V Pittsburgh Steeler's NFL game in October 2006. His performance of both the US and Canadian Anthems before the Maple Leaf's took on Sacramento in Toronto, was broadcast to a TV audience of over of 12 million viewers. Darren has also performed for President and Mrs. Bush and other dignitaries at the Annual White House Christmas Pageant of Peace and Tree Lighting Ceremony in Washington, DC.
Joining The High Kings - The Early Years
In June 2007, Darren was invited to be a member of brand new Irish group, The High Kings, along with Brian Dunphy, Finbarr Clancy, and Martin Furey. Their debut album was produced by David Downes (Riverdance, Celtic Woman) and the live concert DVD, recorded over 2 nights at Ardmore Studios Dublin, was directed by Declan Lowney (Celtic Woman) and produced by Ned O Hanlon (U2). Both were released in the US on the EMI MANHATTAN record label on February 28th 2008. Within 3 weeks of release, the album broke into the Billboard Top 200 at No. 154, and went to No. 2 on both the Billboard World Chart, and Billboard's Heatseekers, as the week's highest gainer! The group made their debut US TV appearance in Chicago on Jan 12th and went on to make appearances on The KTLA morning show, The Today Show on NBC, The View on ABC, and countless PBS stations across the US.
In their first year, the High Kings performed in many major cities of the US and picked up thousands of fans along the way. They also performed to over 60,000 fans during two sell out tours of Ireland, receiving a fantastic reaction from audiences at every show. A highlight was performing Fields of Glory at the All Ireland hurling final at Croke Park,in front of 82,000 sports fanatics.
The full production show with a band was a huge success both sides of the Atlantic, but 2009 saw a change in format as they presented their new show playing all 13 instruments themselves. This was an overwhelming success and for the last 4 years they have continued to be met by thunderous applause from sell out audiences at every venue. They have also twice been invited to perform at Áras an Uachtaráin for Irish Presidents Mary McAleese and Michael D Higgins.
As well as the Irish tours, during the summer of 2010, The High Kings performed at a number of Irish festivals including Europe's biggest music festival, Oxegen, where they went down a storm in front of 4000 fans of all ages. In August, they were invited back to America where they performed at the Irish Festival of Minnesota at the start of their six show mini tour, including Chicago and NYC.
The High Kings 2011 - 2013
In 2011, the band spent March undertaking a 25 date tour of the US promoting the release of Memory Lane. They also returned to the US during the summer for several Irish Festivals, including performing on each day of the Milwaukee festival to huge crowds. Later in the year, they were welcome additions to Irish festivals at the Balve Hole in Germany and Hoogeveen in Holland where they received a fantastic reaction and gained many new fans. Back home in Ireland the tours continued to sell out, but a highlight of the year had been being invited to perform for President Obama on his much publicised visit to Moneygall. The end of 2011 and the early months of 2012, saw the High Kings headlining the ‘Young Voices’ Arena tour in the UK and Ireland, including a charity gala at the Royal Albert Hall and 4 nights at London’s O2 Arena. Over the 20 shows at 6 venues they performed with over 90,000 children to a combined audience of close to 250,000.
2012 was a very busy year. The band were in London to headline the Mayor of London’s St Patrick’s Day concert in Trafalgar Square before jetting off to the US at the personal invitation of President Obama to perform at his St Patrick’s Day celebrations in the White House. During the summer, they returned to the US for the Irish Festivals. The year also saw them heading back to Germany for a very successful 6 date tour,as well as sold out first ever dates in Norway, Sweden and Denmark.
In Ireland the High Kings are frequently interviewed and perform on both the national and regional radio stations and are regulars on RTE 1’s prime time TV Late Late Show.They were the last act introduced by Pat Kenny, when they closed his final show as presenter. They have also made two TV appearances performing at boxing matches,including singing the Irish National Album at the title fight between Andy Murray and Oisin Fagan at the National Stadium in Dublin. They performed The Parting Glass to a packed O2 Arena at the end of the Notre Dame - A Welcome Home concert on 31st August 2012. This was televised by RTE 1 and transmitted live around the world via the RTE website and YouTube. The group released a live album 'Live in Ireland' late in 2011, recorded during the Irish tour.
They returned to the studio in 2012 to record a third studio album. The album 'Friends for Life' was produced by Sharon Shannon and included original material written by the group for the first time. It was released in Europe late September 2013 with a US and Canada release February 2014.
The High Kings 2014 - 2015
Originally intended for TV promo, they recorded and filmed a special show at the Millennium Forum in Derry during May 2014. This was subsequently released in Ireland only as a CD/DVD bundle 'Four Friends Live' and made available worldwide via the High Kings official website and Celtic Collections.
2014 saw them perform at the Isle of Wight and Cambridge Folk Festivals for the first time. They also sang Ireland's Call at both Twickenham and the Aviva Stadium in Dublin, before international rugby matches. After the Aviva performance, they flew to the UK to record for BBC's Songs of Praise, performing Everlasting Arms and Be Thou My Vision, broadcast in October.
The Irish rugby anthem Ireland's Call, written by Phil Coulter, was 20 years old in 2015. To mark the 20th Anniversary, the High Kings were proud to be invited to record a brand new version produced by Phil Coulter. The recording process in the studio was part of a TV3 documenary celebrating the songs anniversary and the finished song was included on the 2015 Rugby World Cup Anthem CD. Darren launched the song on Today FM's Anton Savage Show with Phil Coulter.
The High Kings 2016 - Present Day
The early part of the year was spent in the studio recording Grace & Glory released in Ireland and Europe in May 2016. The album charted at No1 in the Irish Indie chart and was very well received by both fans and critics. The rest of the year was spent touring extensively promoting the album, including the US where it wasn't officially released until early 2017.
Easter 2016 marked the 100th Anniversary of the Easter Rising. The High Kings were very proud to be invited to take part in 'Centenary' a special one-off cultural celebration to mark the anniversary. The event was streamed live 'worldwide' from the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre on RTÉ One International Player and received an amazing response around the world. They performed Schooldays Over from their new album.
The High Kings continue to annually tour Ireland, the US, UK, Germany and a number of other countries for both their own shows or to perform at Festivals. The words 'SOLD OUT' are becoming a regular feature on most shows now, both overseas and their native Ireland.
Solo TV Interviews and Presenting
A regular on TV both sides of the Atlantic throughout his career, Darren has always been a natural in front of the camera. During 2016 Darren made a few appearances on the couch of TV3's Seven O'Clock Show. But 2017 was to give him his first taste of presenting on a new show 'Country Showtime' on the Keep It Country channel on Sky and Freeview. Among those he interviewed were Brian Kennedy and Johnny Logan.
Darren Back to His Roots
Although Darren has been busy touring around the globe since early in his career, he has never forgotten his roots in Mooncoin, Co Kilkenny. He has given his time to support his local community whenever the opportunity allows. In 2010, he did a parachute jump for the Bubble Gum Club in Kilkenny, the event raised €11,500on the day. He has also performed at events at St Mary's Cathedral in Kilkenny, gone 'Back to School' in Mooncoin to raise their Green Flag for 'Energy Awareness, returning home to open the Parish Hall/Youth Centre the following year. Ireland's Gathering initiative throughout 2013 led to Darren being invited to be an Ambassador for Kilkenny, which he was very proud to accept.
Supporting National Charities
Darren has been very active supporting a number of children's charities, including undertaking a trek to Machu Picchu in aid of Irish Autism Action in September 2009.
In October 2010 he set off to Tanzania, with a number of other Irish celebrities, where they took on the Kilimanjaro Challenge and climbed the great peak. The climb was for the benefit of the sick children of Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Crumlin and the National Children’s Research Centre and had already raised more than the 250,000 Euro target by the time they returned to Irish soil. The climb was filmed for an RTE 1 documentary, screened in Ireland July 2011 to an estimated 365,000 viewers.
In 2014, Darren was very proud to be invited by Sile Seoige, along with Brian Dunphy and a number of other Irish celebrities, to be involved with the 'Maybe This Christmas' single. This was released in support of Make-A-Wish Ireland and ISPCC Childline.
In 2016, Darren became an ambassador for Emerald Guitars and was presented with a custom made Artisan X20 guitar which he proudly performs with during a couple of songs on tour with the High Kings. Emerald are an Irish company based in Donegal and Darren has since been presented with a 12 string model and the relationship between Darren and Emerald continues to strengthen.
Performing with The High Kings is keeping Darren very busy, but whenever he get the opportunity, he is still continuing with his songwriting, collaborating with a number of songwriters, keen to work with him.
"Wow, Bad Tattoo by Darren Holden, is so much better than Tattoo by Van Halen."
January 2012 London.
"One of the finest Rock Voices I have heard in many years"
Tempe Arizona 2007
"Darren has the whole package and then some."