Shaun Davey was born in Belfast. At Trinity College Dublin he played in a college blues band. While studying for an MA in the History of Art in London, he recorded an album of original songs with James Morris. On return to Dublin in 1974 he continued songwriting, formed an experimental band with Donal Lunny (Bugle), lectured in art history and developed recording skills while composing and producing music for dozens of commercials for radio and TV. Early theatre work included music for plays by Stewart Parker; in 1977 he produced and recorded the score for the BBC TV version of Catchpenny Twist in Dublin. He has worked fulltime as a composer since then.
In 1979 he began work on The Brendan Voyage, generally regarded as a groundbreaking meeting between a solo uilleann piper and a classical symphony orchestra. The suite, which marked the start of a lifelong collaboration with Liam O'Flynn, is constructed within the narrative framework of a voyage across the Atlantic in a medieval leather-skinned boat; a voyage undertaken by the historian-explorer Tim Severin which proved St Brendan could have reached the shores of America.. Since then Shaun Davey has continued to compose concert works which bring together traditional musicians and singers with orchestras and choirs. They include The Pilgrim, Granuaile, and The Relief of Derry, all recorded on the Tara label, with collaborations with many artists including Rita Connolly, Seamus, Brendan and Eóin Begley, Nollaig Casey, Iarla O'Lionaird, Liam O' Maonlai, Iain MacDonald, Carlos Nunez, Edelmiro Fernandez, Noel Eccles, Mark Redmond, Neil Martin, Sean Keane, Gerard MacChrystal, Martin O'Connor, and the members of both the RTENSO and RTECO. His works have featured for many years on the Irish schools syllabus.
Shaun Davey has also pursued a career as composer for theatre, TV and film. In these roles he worked at the Abbey Theatre, Dublin (The Silver Tassie, Observe the Sons of Ulster marching towards the Somme, Well of the Saints), and for many years at the RSC (Fair Maid of the West, A Winter's Tale, King Lear, The Tempest, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Pericles). In U.S. theatre he has received Critics Awards in San Diego (The Tempest), and New York (James Joyce's The Dead, the score also nominated for a Tony) and was nominated in 2016 for a New York Drama Desk award (Pericles). As composer for TV he has been twice nominated for a BAFTA (BBC's The Hanging Gale and Ballykissangel), received an Ivor Novello for The Hanging Gale and a TRIC award for best UK TV theme (Ballykissangel). Other TV scores include Loving and Pentecost for the BBC, and Who bombed Birmingham for Granada. Feature films include Twelfth Night (Ivor Novello-nominated), Waking Ned Devine (Golden Reel Award), Tailor of Panama and The Abduction Club. As recording producer, whenever possible he has always recorded in Dublin.
Recent activities include music for the Special Olympics, songs for the sean nós band Béal Tuinne, concert tours in Romania with Songs from The Merry Cemetery, a suite of sea shanties - Songs from the High Seas, Four Christmas Carols, Sunt Angelis- Chants for choir and orchestra (based on a score for Gulliver's Travels), and songs based on the life of Nora Barnacle. Shaun Davey has four children and lives in Wicklow with his wife, singer Rita Connolly.