Born in county Sligo, Seamus McGuire grew up in a family that valued both classical and traditional music. He began taking classical violin as a child, and by the time he was a young teenager, he was proficient in both classical violin and traditional Irish fiddle. At the age of fifteen, McGuire won the Fiddler of Dooney competition, soon followed by the Oireachtas (Regionals) senior Irish Traditional fiddler title. As a young adult, McGuire played with the Dublin Symphony, and in 1983, he and his brother, Manus, formed the band Buttons and Bows with Jakie Daly and Garry O’Brien, a group that would prove to be one of the most influential in Ireland at the time.
Buttons and Bows took traditional Irish melodies and mixed them with traditional music from Canada, Scandinavia, and the Shetland Islands, creating a poignant, multi-dimensional sound. The band recorded three albums, all of which were widely acclaimed, and together the quartet toured all over the United States and Canada.
In 1995, McGuire got together with guitarist Arty McGlynn and flautist John Lee to produce an album of “forgotten” flute and fiddle tunes deriving from Co. Leitrim, titled The Missing Reel. Also in that year, McGuire released a solo album titled The Wishing Tree, 1995, wherin he bridges the gap between classical violin and traditional world music.
One of the contributors on The Wishing Tree was Belfast cellist and composer Neil Martin. Together with violinist Niamh Crowley and violist Kenneth Rice, they went on to found the West Ocean String Quartet in 1999, which has gone on to “effortlessly to combine tradition and innovation like nothing on earth.” The West Ocean String Quartet has released two albums and has gone on to collaborate with some of the most prestigious Irish traditional artists of the age, including Dervish, Tony McMaus, Maighread Ni Dhomhnaill, Cathal O’Searcaigh, and Mary Black, among others.