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Music Makers: Patrick McGuire

July 2, 1998

NEW YORK (AP) _ Patrick McGuire measures his success by what other people say.

But not just any people.

Whether it’s millions of TV viewers or a small pub crowd, McGuire, whose rich baritone fills the new album ``Big Brown Sofa,″ says he listens to what audience members have to say when he performs with the other five members of The Pat McGuire Band.

Driven by the enthusiastic responses he receives from those who’ve heard his music, his challenge is making sure the greatest number of people have access to it.

And McGuire is doing his best to get his music heard. He’s been knee-deep in a round of road trips, concerts and publicity. The band performed on ``Late Night With Conan O’Brien″ and recently opened for Squeeze in Pittsburgh.

He and band members Sharkey McEwan (guitar), Vinnie DiLeo (percussion), Don O’Keefe (drums), Eric Boyd (bass) and Linsey Vannoy (keyboards) were recently touring throughout the Northeast to promote their CD.

Released last fall on McGuire’s own Inverin Records label, ``Big Brown Sofa″ offers the comfort its title implies: Listeners sink into its well-formed melodies with immediate familiarity. McGuire’s vocals blend with guitar, Celtic violins, percussion and gospel harmonies. The album was produced by Grammy Award winner James P. Nichols and two songs feature electric fiddle great Eileen Ivers, who performs with Riverdance.

The debut single ``You’re So Beautiful″ is on the soundtrack of an as yet unreleased independent film, ``Brass Ring.″ McGuire also sings the folk song, ``Where Have All the Flowers Gone,″ in the HBO movie ``A Bright Shining Lie.″

Even though he’d love to be on tour right now, he never takes his audience for granted, whether it’s a crowd of thousands or a couple of people at the pub where he and McEwan perform weekly acoustic arrangements.

``I enjoy the acoustic sets because they’re another outlet,″ McGuire says. ``It keeps me in touch with people. There’s something about it I like; something about it that scares me.

``It’s a different thing when there’s a big stage, a lot of people and a distance between you. But when you’re playing to someone sitting next to you, drinking a beer, ... you learn a lot about performance, people and how to deal with an audience. It’s a lot more intimate. You know, people will tell you to shut up.″

People in his spirited, standing-room-only crowd at the Elbow Room, a New York showcase for new talent, arrive with pocket cameras and sing the words to every song as McGuire performs.

Mike Walter, who owns the Elbow Room, books dozens of bands each week. He says McGuire is popular, and he’s had him back many times.

``Audiences don’t want to spend hard-earned money to see the same thing over and over,″ Walter said. ``Pat keeps it interesting. He makes people feel like they can’t afford to miss him.″ Walter, a drummer himself, says McGuire’s music has ``got the catches, got the hooks. You remember the songs.″

McGuire attributes his grassroots success to having the right ingredients: a strong album, a great live performance band, the right management and a working environment that invites good things to happen.

``It’s about contacts, hard work, tenaciousness and favors. It’s very powerful and exciting when someone puts themselves on the line for us and we’re there with the goods to back it up,″ McGuire says.

McGuire, who was born in the New York City borough of Queens and grew up in East Northport on Long Island, began playing guitar when he was 14. He was influenced by his father, who was also a guitar player.

``There was always music in the house and this was a very magical thing to me,″ McGuire says. ``I remember as a kid sneaking down to the basement and watching my father’s band play. I was singing from a very early age in front of a mirror to my favorite records.″

Over the years, McGuire, 35, has played with a couple of bands while working all kinds of regular jobs in and around New York City, from manager of an auto-glass shop to window cleaning. He committed himself to his musical career full time about four years ago.

While a big record deal could be appealing, McGuire is ready to continue as an independent. ``I know I have something to say. This is my life. This is who I am. I’m ready,″ he says.

And if he doesn’t find a huge success, he says he’ll be satisfied knowing that he gave it his best shot.

``It won’t be a crushing defeat _ I’ve had some good successes,″ he says.

He adds with a playful smile, ``Maybe I’ll move to Ireland and become a sheep farmer. In my twilight years, I’ll go down to the pub, have a pint and just sit around playing the uilleann pipes.″

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