Iarla Ó Lionáird (pronounced ear-lah o-linnard) was born in the West Cork gaeltacht area of Cuil Aodha in 1964. The area was rich in singers and the 12 Ó Lionáird children were no exception. Their mother taught them many traditional songs, passed down from her own mother, and her sister, Elizabeth Cronin. Iarla began performing at the tender age of 5, his first radio broadcast was at age 7, and he recorded Aisling Gheal at age 12 for the Gael Linn label. He also performed with the Cor Chuil Aodha (choir of Chuil Aodha), founded by Sean O’Riada.

Since then he has worked in radio, film and TV production, and is the lead singer for the Afro Celt Sound System. Not just a pretty voice, Iarla has a B.Ed from Carysfort College in Dublin and taught primary school for 7 years, while still maintaining a strong interest in matters musical and performing as time allowed. In 2003 he completed a MA in Ethnomusicology at the University of Limerick.

Iarla lives in County Kilkenny with his wife, Eimear, and their three children: Liam, Eabha and Iseult.
"... poets aren't afraid to exchange visions. And music can blur the boundary between the real and the imaginary. It can get you to an exalted place. That's what draws me to it."