Michael Tiernan
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Michael Tiernan

Vista, California, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2001 | SELF

Vista, California, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2001
Band Rock Singer/Songwriter




"Deft lyricyst and memorable hooks"

Tiernan’s cleanly recorded disc captures the warmth of his persona, whose mainstream heartfelt nature shines on “Swim”. The tune’s harmonies and acoustic guitar basis evokes early Neil Young. “Slow Down” is another accessible pop tune, while “Born Again Contradiction” nods toward country music with a West Coast vibe. Tiernan is a deft lyricist whose melodies unfold at their own pace, yet reward the listener with memorable hooks. - Music Connection Magazine, May 2005

"Fine Music with Real Introspection"

"Tiernan makes you think while he entertains you." - FolkWax Magazine

"Lets the Music Breathe"

"Tiernan is adept at tender ballads, country-inflected ditties and smart, savvy pop-rock. His songs are finely crafted without sacrificing their emotional essence for aural slickness, and he has a knack for letting his music breathe." - George Varga '07

"Poetic, thoughtful songs sung with a compelling earnestness."
- Marcia Manna '06 - San Diego Union Tribune

"Going places..."

"With a groovy guitar style a la Jack Johnson and a songwriting style a bit like Toad the Wet Sprocket,
it's little wonder Tiernan is a multi-award winner. An amazing singer/songwriter who's definitely
going places." - San Luis Obispo New Times

"Songwriting star on the rise..."

"...Tiernan is a fresh voice of very high quality. Michael's songwriting star is definitely one to watch for." - Folk and Acoustic Music Exchange (FAME)

"Adheres to no boundaries"

...Tiernan's music adheres to no boundaries; every genre is crossed as Tiernan showcases his technical skill with exceedingly intricate guitar work.
- The San Diego Reader, March 2004

"Great Sonic Spaces"

A supple and clear voice, Tiernan’s presence is a throwback to the alt-folk lessons set down by Jessie Winchester or Jessie Colin Young: ruffle no feathers, make great, sonic spaces for a listener – that’s Tiernan. Tiernan is the pick of the litter. Favorites: “Same Sky,” “I’m Ready.” - Dave Good - San Diego Reader and NBC News

"Props for Jumping In"

...Edgy and moody, Tiernan's music is anchored solidly with beautiful melodies and warm harmonies. His new songs have that instant familiarity that the best tunes all seem to possess. And his voice, which seems to range from a midbaritone to a low tenor, is equally as warm.

The result of all of this is an accessible album with both pop and alternative strands that is eminently listenable and fun. - North County Times Preview

"Denver Post Full Bio and Review"

Michael Tiernan has gathered enough life experience for several careers' worth of material. The folk singer-songwriter has beaten cancer, traveled the world, studied to become a priest and met Pope John Paul II.

Three times, even.

But the San Diego-based musician, whose smooth tenor and crisp acoustic work has garnered multiple songwriting awards, works his life experience into music in more oblique ways. His spare lyrics touch upon universal sentiments, avoiding the shorthand polarization of overt religion or politics.
"I'm not for or against any one thing through the music," Tiernan said over the phone from his home in California. "Music is just a statement of where you're at personally at any one time."

Touring through Colorado inspired Tiernan to write much of his new album here, so it makes sense that he'll release "Spaces," his third full-length, in the friendly environs of Swallow Hill Music Association on Saturday. Tiernan also lived in Denver from 1997 to 1998 while attending seminary school.

"I had known the Archbishop of Denver (Charles Chaput) before he was archbishop, having met him at a little retreat in South Dakota," Tiernan said. "When I decided I was going to go to seminary school, he offered to support me."

Tiernan had been considering it for some time, and a meeting with Pope John Paul II - courtesy of Chaput - pushed him over the edge. He moved to Denver and eventually to Rome to study at the Vatican, but his love of music began conflicting with his higher calling. While studying he would often play pub shows around the city.

When the higher-ups at the Vatican got wind of the shows, they put him on probation. He searched his heart and decided to eventually withdraw from the seminary. When Chaput visited in spring of 2000, Tiernan sat down with him to break the news.
"I was kind of scared he'd be disappointed, but he said, 'Michael, what are you still doing in here? Go travel. Go to Japan. Go see your family. Go surf and go play music.' And that's what I did."

Music had long been one of Tiernan's passions, having turned to it after beating testicular cancer at age 16. He used it as a healing agent to come to terms with his mortality and deeper philosophical issues.

He played drums in a grunge-influenced band in the '90s and was music director of a traveling "Catholic hippie retreat," but it wasn't until after college that he struck out on the solo path. Since launching his career in 2003 he's been recognized by the Los Angeles Music Awards, KRCL, Billboard and was even named a finalist at the prestigious Kerrville New Folk Songwriting Competition, among others.

His songs alternately recall the effortless calm of David Wilcox and the spiky melodies of an indie rock band, versatile in their construction as they straddle genres and instrumentation.

Tiernan will present a stripped-down version of his music at his Saturday show, with accompaniment from fiddle player Alex DePue.

The folk scene's emphasis on thoughtful, often spiritual songwriting resonates with Tiernan, who continues to study philosophy and theology. He values the interaction between audience and performer that defines the folk ethos.

"That whole scene is about the song itself - what it's saying and how it's going to connect with the audience," he said. "It's a challenge and a great comfort that (audiences) want to get into it and share those experiences with you."

Like many artists, Tiernan claims the greatest benefit of his music is the therapy it provides him. Fortunately, it also helps others. He donates part of his CD sales to the Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Foundation and appeared on a benefit CD for the Steps for Living survivors network, which featured cancer survivor musicians. He also plays at many of their fundraising events.
"Music is a very powerful tool and a healing agent," he said. "It's a medicine."
- John Wenzel, Denver Post, 2007

"A Wealth of Wisdom"

A wealth of Wisdom: Tiernan has more to sing about than your average suburban homebody.  He blends his life lessons as a proper artist well and paints a landscape in your mind as vivid as other professionals twice his age. ...A more upbeat Counting Crows. - Santa Barbara Independent


"L.A. Can Wait" - 11 Song Album release October, 2010
"Spaces" 13 Song album released in April, 2007
"Jumping In" 12 song album released in March of 2005
"Still Listening", 14-song album released February of 2004.
"Allied Gardens" - 10 song album released with side project band "Allied Gardens" - 2008
"Two Weeks (with Nothing to Do)" 14-song album released March of 2000.
"Beatnik", 13-song album released with the alternative rock band, ScrapApple, in 1994.



Music may have saved his life.  After surviving cancer at age 16, music became his helpmate in processing the ‘big questions’ that came to him at an early age.  At 18, he took his newly found passion for life and music to traveling the country in a van with a group of wacky Catholic ‘hippies’ giving spiritual retreats to young people.  College found him criss-crossing through Europe with his guitar.  It was through hanging with monks deep in desert monasteries and, later, living in the Vatican as a seminarian in his 20’s on the way to becoming a priest, that he discovered his true calling was that of a songwriter.  He left the seminary and landed in his native Southern California, beginning his quest to re-invent himself as an artist.  Years later, he is now a seasoned performer and award-winning songwriter.  What would a person with such a story have to say about life? Plenty, especially when magnified through the prism of a song.

Meet Michael Tiernan.  Through the experiences of what could be ten lifetimes, Michael is an artist who has plunged into and explored the deep spaces of personal and worldly conflict, the beauty of love and nature, as well as the meaning of suffering and pervasive unhappiness that threatens our human experience on all sides.  In his music, he resurfaces from these depths with a positive yet real outlook for all of us, while taking us on a sonic joy ride through the many genres he straddles in his music.

Throughout Tiernan’s career, he has seamlessly melded elements of folk, reggae, bluegrass, blues, soul, and modern pop rock into his own brand of acoustic guitar-centric music.  Regarding Michael’s most recent release, the San Diego Union Tribune’s George Varga notes, “On his fifth and most accomplished album, the 12-song “Inside Your Head,” the usually upbeat San Diego singer-songwriter and former seminary student also explores more gritty themes. Some of them are conveyed in the titles to such absorbing songs as “Dark Heart” and “Rage.” The result is the most musically and lyrically varied work of Tiernan’s career.”  The San Diego Troubadour notes, “Inside Your Head” is relentlessly catchy, slickly produced pop that reflects Michael Tiernan’s ability as a master of hooks-and it has something to say.”  

2017 finds Michael currently set to release his 6th studio album on March 25th with an EP entitled “Love and a Gun”, produced by current 2017 Grammy nominee, Andre de Santanna.  In “Love and a Gun”, Tiernan dives deep into the often heart-wrenching events of the past couple years both in the world at large and in his own life.  He vacillates between tender acoustic love songs for his kids, to blue-eyed soul playful love ballads, to all-out rock-driven criticisms of modern dilemmas such as war, gun control, and misuse of technology.  Michael is also currently recording a new EP album to be released later this year, as well as working on a retrospective album that will be a compilation of selections from his last six albums, remixed in an electronic style, performed by the artist/producer, 9 Theory.  

Bart Mendoza from the San Diego reader comments, “Tiernan’s rep grows with each release. Crucial to his success is that he’s a great all-around entertainer, from musicianship to between-song banter. All of his albums to date have won or been nominated for music awards around the country, but it’s his live set that’s helped Tiernan become one the area’s most popular singer-songwriters."

Noteables:- 2-time Los Angeles Music Awards winner for Winner for: Male Singer/Songwriter of the Year and Triple-A Album of the Year- Songwriter of the Year, Pacific Songwriting Competition- International Acoustic Music Awards Male Artist of the Year Runner-Up- International Songwriting Competition Finalist- Great American Song Contest Finalist- Best of San Diego, San Diego Magazine- Falcon Ridge Festival Songwriting Finalist- Kerrville New Folk Songwriting Competition Finalist 

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