Born in Wheeling, West Virginia in 1954, Grammy winning singer songwriter and multi- instrumentalist Tim O’Brien grew up singing in church and in school. After seeing Doc Watson on TV, he became a lifelong devotee of old time and bluegrass music. Tim started touring nationally in 1978 with Colorado bluegrass band Hot Rize. His songs “Walk the Way the Wind Blows” and “Untold Stories” were bluegrass hits for Hot Rize, and country hits for Kathy Mattea. Soon more artists like Nickel Creek, Garth Brooks, and The Dixie Chicks covered his songs. Over the years, Tim has collaborated with his sister Mollie O’Brien, songwriter Darrell Scott, and noted old-time musician Dirk Powell, as well as with Steve Earle, Mark Knopfler, Dan Auerbach and Sturgill Simpson.
Living in Nashville since 1996, O’Brien’s skills on guitar, mandolin, fiddle, and banjo make him an in-demand session player. He tours throughout the US and abroad, most often with his wife Jan Fabricius on mandolin and vocals. A voracious reader who loves to cook, he has two sons, Jackson (born 1982) and Joel (born 1990). The International Bluegrass Music Association awarded him song of the year in 2006 and named him best male vocalist in 1993 and 2006. He was inducted into the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame in 2013 and into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame in 2022.
O’Brien recorded output includes 18 solo releases, and countless collaborations. His new project “Cup of Sugar” drops June 16. It follows 2021’s “He Walked On”, which wove historical and socially conscious themes in songs about ordinary and not so ordinary people just trying to “keep it between the ditches”. Other notable O’Brien recordings include the bluegrass Dylan covers of “Red on Blonde”, the Celtic-Appalachian fusion of “The Crossing”, and the Grammy winning folk of “Fiddler’s Green”. His duet recording “Real Time” with Darrell Scott is a cult favorite, and he won a bluegrass Grammy as part of “The Earls of Leicester”. His 2017 release “Where the River Meets the Road” paid tribute to the music of his native West Virginia.
New Album, Cup of Sugar
With a career spanning more than four decades, there are not a lot of "firsts" for Grammy-winner Tim O’Brien, until now. O'Brien's new album, Cup of Sugar, finds the renowned songwriter and multi-instrumentalist delivering 13 original new tracks which he's either written or co-written. The cover art says a lot about the album, with its black and white hands extended in a neighborly fashion. The title track features the lyrics, "I try to pick my battles, don't want to start a war. If I need a cup of sugar, I'll knock on my neighbor's door." O'Brien and his band kicked off the album release at Telluride Bluegrass Festival in Colorado this past weekend, followed by a summer full of festival dates, an appearance on Woodsongs Old Time Hour, and shows at Nashville's famed Station Inn in July. Cup of Sugar includes songs about a bear, a fish, lambs, horses and some people too — a grave digger, a neighbor, and even venerable '60s and '70s CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite. May of the songs deal with aging with humor and poignancy. Bluegrass Today notes O'Brien's "terrific" sense of humor and droll wit, both in evidence in throughout the album, but also points out that there's "cleverness behind the japes, some wisdom in the jokes."
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