Singer-songwriter duo Kate Lee & Forrest O’Connor have earned national recognition as co-lead singers and primary songwriters of the O’Connor Band, an Americana group they co-founded along with O’Connor’s father, seven-time CMA Award-winning violinist Mark O’Connor. They wrote the majority of the band’s debut album, Coming Home, which debuted at #1 on Billboard’s Top Bluegrass Albums Chart and won a GRAMMY Award in 2017.
Since 2015, the O’Connor Band (changed in 2018 to the Mark O'Connor Band) has showcased Lee and O’Connor’s writing prowess and powerful, expressive vocals in more than 250 performances across the country at classic venues (the Grand Ole Opry), major performing arts centers (Eastman Theatre, Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall), festivals (IBMA, DelFest), and nightclubs (The Hamilton Live, Hotel Cafe). Their music has accumulated more than 350,000 streams on Spotify, and in the last year, they have toured with the Zac Brown Band and recorded on Paul Simon’s forthcoming album. This summer, as part of the Mark O’Connor Band, they will be opening for Zac Brown (including two appearances at Fenway Park) and co-billing with Brandy Clark at The Ryman Auditorium.
Lee and O’Connor were introduced in 2014 and soon began performing together as a folk duo called Wisewater, whose EP, The Demonstration, reached #13 on the iTunes Singer-Songwriter chart. O’Connor, a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Harvard and former Tennessee State Mandolin Champion, shared a love of ‘60s classic rock, ‘70s folk rock, ‘90s country, and modern pop music with Lee, a Belmont graduate and violinist who frequently backed up stars ranging from John Legend and Kelly Clarkson to Keith Urban and Carrie Underwood at the CMA Awards and CMA Country Christmas shows.
After touring as a duo for a little over a year, Wisewater evolved into the six-piece O’Connor Band, and the pair spent the following three years criss-crossing the country, with O’Connor serving as de facto road manager on numerous tours. In their off-time, they wrote a number of songs that didn’t quite fit the O’Connor Band’s bluegrass bent, which prompted them to launch a project in which they could revisit what brought them together in the first place: their chemistry as a duo.
[Cover photo by Laura E. Partain.]