Neil Cavanagh was raised in Queens and on Long Island, and he began playing guitar when he was eleven years old, spurred on by a deep love of his parents’ record collection. His first radio airplay came after joining a local rock band at age thirteen. Later, he went to NYU to study classical music composition. While in college, Neil took bass lessons from session legend Jerry Jemmott (Aretha Franklin, B.B. King), studied the tabla with Pandit Ramsamooj, and sat in with bands on piano or drums, though the guitar always remained his focus.
Following a period of study at Berklee College of Music in Boston, Neil returned to New York, where his chops and diverse musical vocabulary led him into a variety of professional situations, including sessions at The Hit Factory with pop legend Michael Jackson. Neil also developed a local reputation for wildly diverse solo shows that blended dynamic and ephemeral acoustic songs with offbeat cover arrangements and hypnotic improvisations, using his voice, an acoustic/electric 12-string guitar, loop pedals, and an occasional bass drum and synthesizer.
It was around this time that Neil released his first album, Pines Brook Road, an eclectic and thematic collection of instrumental pieces spanning from synthesized ambient landscapes to complex, odd-time acoustic guitar instrumentals. Pines Brook Road was re-released at the end of 2018 for digital download, in a remastered form.
Neil Cavanagh’s album Short Flight To A Distant Star was first released on September 11, 2007 through the Kindred Rhythm Music Group (KRMG), an eclectic Manhattan-based label group that had released vocalist Roberta Gambarini’s Grammy-nominated debut album, and jazz legend Jack DeJohnette’s first new age project (which was also Grammy-nominated). KRMG distributed the album to all of the major digital retailers, and to traditional retail through its agreement with Koch Entertainment Distribution. The release of the album was celebrated with a performance in Los Angeles at the Hotel Café, revered at the time as the premier singer/songwriter venue in the United States.
On Short Flight To A Distant Star, Neil played all of the instruments (vocals, guitars, bass, keys, drums, harmonica), handled all of the production and most of the engineering (along with friends Pat Woodward and Michael Valerio), and wrote and arranged all but one song (“The Kiss” by the late Judee Sill – a haunting, classically inspired folk singer from the 70s.) The recording began at The Hit Factory in New York, and was completed in Los Angeles, where Neil was nominated in the Best Adult Contemporary Artist category in the 2007 L.A. Music Awards. He was also nominated for Best Male Singer in the Long Island Press in both 2008 and 2009.
After being unavailable for a number of years, that album is now available online again (on iTunes and Amazon) for download, in a new and improved form. The record has been reconfigured, remixed, and remastered wherever possible. There are also a few physical copies of the out-of-print original CD release still for sale on Amazon.
In recent years, Neil has continued to work with other musicians, taking on lead vocalist duties with the progressive rock ensemble The Yes Project. He was a member of the NYC band Natalie Mishell & Co., playing shows and contributing guitars and backing vocals to their 2013 album, Goodnight Stranger. He also joined friends in Domino Kirke’s ethereal rock band, performing a series of concerts with them in 2014 at venues such as Bowery Ballroom, Rockwood Music Hall, and Glasslands.
In the fall of 2017, Neil Cavanagh released his most recent album, City of the Sun, Valley of the Moon, on his own Pines Brook Records label. An eclectic but meticulously conceived sequence of alternative, experimental, and progressive rock, the twelve tracks on the album were written, performed, engineered, produced, mixed and mastered by Neil. Additional backing vocals were performed by John Cavanagh (on “Sun Coming Out”) and Michelle Ingkavet (on “Another Morning”). The album is now available for digital download on iTunes and Amazon.
Since 2018, Neil has been working on a new project called Soul Rock City Orchestra.