It’s tempting to view Bry’s story – that of a young independent artist reaching out to a global audience via online videos – as a narrative speaking to the potential of technology and changing face of the music industry. But at its core, this is a much more simple tale: of passion, self-belief, community and a young man sharing songs and stories with anyone willing and open to listen. Following an apprenticeship in a succession of “awful, horrendous” teenage bands, O’Reilly struck out alone as a singer-songwriter, inspired by artists such as Regina Spektor and Ben Folds, honing his craft in the clubs and pubs of the Irish capital.
In 2010, in the final year of his studies at university, with the world of full-time employment beckoning, O’Reilly decided to create a ‘bucket list’ for himself, including a challenge to visit every country on the planet before succumbing to the ‘real world’. This task would be documented on his own YouTube channel – BryBryontour – to allow friends and family to participate in his journey. On his tenth vlog posting, he opted to share a new song with his online followers… and it was this decision which ultimately signaled the birth of BryBry as an artist with his own distinctive voice. As early recordings such as the wry Sum Me Up and the tender Your Life Over Mine connected with the YouTube community the word-of-mouth buzz on the young Irishman grew louder and O’Reilly saw the number of subscribers to the BryBryontour channel grow from hundreds into hundreds of thousands.
“To be honest, I had no idea how the vlog world operated,” admits the self-effacing, charming Dubliner. “When you first see your numbers shoot up it’s a bit bewildering, but there’s this giant community out there’
From day one, Bry actively engaged with his audience, creating personalized videos, conducting Q&A web chats and curating online sessions which would stretch late into the night, fostering a genuine sense of community and kinship.
“I never like any kind of hierarchy,” he says, “and social media and vlogs really allow you to eradicate that gap between ‘The Fans’ and ‘The Artist’. It’s nice to have people invest their time in getting to know you and your music, and the interaction is fun.”
Emboldened by the growth of his channel, the singer saw the opportunity to take his music out of the online sphere and into the physical world. Operating without a manager, booking agent or record label – his methodology was pure and direct: he’d book a trip overseas, Tweet his intention to be in a certain spot in a given city at a set time, and then wait with his guitar to see who might show up to say ‘Hello’. This approach drew 80 people to Central Park in New York, 100 people to an outdoor show in Brisbane, 70 more to Amsterdam… tangible evidence of a loyal, committed community building. This first-hand market research encouraged the singer to book tours of more conventional venues, and led to sell-out tours of Australia and the UK in 2013/2014…all without causing the slightest blip on the music industry radar.
This situation was to change in later 2014, when a word-of-mouth recommendation from a friend led Jonny Quinn, Snow Patrol drummer and founder (alongside bandmates Gary Lightbody and Nathan Connolly) of Polar Patrol Publishing, to check out the singer-songwriter’s YouTube channel.
Bry’s online traffic was undeniably impressive – his YouTube channel had over 360,000 subscribers, with tracks such as Adventure Time and Sum Me Up garnering over 800,000 views – but it was the strength and beauty of the young Dubliner’s songs which struck the drummer most forcefully and encouraged him to reach out to O’Reilly. In early 2015 the singer-songwriter duly joined Belle & Sebastian, Johnny McDaid (Ed Sheeran/Example), Bo Bruce (The Voice), and more as the newest addition to the Polar Patrol stable, with 13 Artists (Ian Brown/Stone Roses/Paolo Nutini/The Kooks/Ed Harcourt/Duffy) signing up the 26-year-old Dubliner for live booking.
“I never really expected credible people to take someone seriously that’s come from social media,” Bry admits. “Things have come together in a wonderfully haphazard way. This is a great chance to reach out beyond our little Youtube bubble at last”
With a 10 date tour of the UK and Ireland scheduled for April (preceded by the release of a new Bry single), and a return to Australia/New Zealand lined up for June, 2015 is already shaping up to the busiest year of the singer-songwriter’s career to date. Expect several more countries on the
Dubliner’s bucket list to get ticked off as the year progresses…
“34 countries in the past two years!” Bry notes. “That’s not a bad start, is it? But there’s so much of the world yet to explore. I need to put some clothes on and tick another one off right away”