Wednesday 18 October 2017

Ryan Sheridan: 'I was writing songs in the toilets of a Broadway theatre, it was crazy'

Ryan Sheridan
Ryan Sheridan

It's the morning after Monaghan beat Donegal to claim their 16th Ulster senior football title, and Ryan Sheridan - born and raised in the Drumlin County - is in very good form.

"I am ecstatic," nods Sheridan, taking a seat in Whelan's. "I was gonna go up [to the match] and I said, 'You know what? I'll give it a miss. Because I'll end up staying up there for three days!'" he laughs.

"This would be a whole different interview now if I was hungover!"

Indeed it would. This interview might not have taken place, either, were it not for Ryan Sheridan mixing things up in the career department.

You may know Sheridan - everyone's favourite, cap-wearing, acoustic guitar-slinger - as that bloke who used to busk in Temple Bar; the one who went on to support Taylor Swift and Bryan Adams on the big stages, and whose debut album sold more than 60,000 copies in Germany alone.

But there was a time when Ryan Sheridan (33) used to be part of an ensemble. Yep, he was once a mover and shaker with the Riverdance Company in New York.


"I was so young when I joined," he recalls. "I think I'd just turned 16, and that was phenomenal. I learned dancing when I was three, so it was kind of second nature to get up and do it at that stage of my life. But I used to stand out on stage before the shows, and I'd go 'I wanna be here on my own'."

Raised in a musical family (everyone dances - his mother plays accordion and his father the banjo) Sheridan had also mastered the fiddle from an early age.

He knew he wanted to be a performer, but even with a sweet gig in one of the world's greatest cities, Sheridan still wasn't sure if a career in dancing was for him.

"It was an amazing time," he explains.

"I toured for three years and then I did Broadway for two. I only picked up the guitar when I was on tour. I was 18 when I went to Broadway, and I had my own apartment. Everything was a total culture shock and it was then that I started writing songs to express that."

Every spare second, Sheridan would knuckle down with his six-string and a notepad.

"I was writing songs in the toilets of the Gershwin Theatre between performances. So I'd be up dancing and then I'd run back down and sing in the showers.

"Everybody would be shouting in: 'Shut up!' But that's how it started with me. Then I was playing gigs in the East Village. It was a crazy experience."

Alas, Sheridan's visa eventually expired. Instead of returning to Ireland, the hopeful music maker headed for Glasgow to start a band. It didn't work out. Back in Monaghan, he did his best to keep another group going.

"That kind of fell on its ass as well," he remembers. "So I said I'd come back to it at some stage, and then everything else took over. Life took over - bills took over. I got into bar work and that was it then, I left it alone."

That, he explains, was the end of Ryan Sheridan playing music for the next eight years. He had his reasons.


"I wanted to do two things in my life," he recalls. "I wanted to play music and I wanted to own my own venue, and the opportunity came up to open a venue in Monaghan, so I went with it. I'll tell you, it was tough. I was just working my ass off and I had bands up playing, you know, and I was sitting there going, 'F*** this, I gotta get outta here and give this one more lash'."

Luckily, a musician friend - percussionist and former right-hand man Artur Graczyk - told him he was going busking. Sheridan gave up everything and moved to Dublin to do the same.

The story goes that in March 2010, his future manager was taking a stroll through Temple Bar when he liked what he heard and left his card.

"The busking thing is where it all kicked off," Sheridan remembers. "That story as well, like, I was so lucky that day because I was gonna head home and maybe come back later on, but I decided I'd stay on for an extra hour."

Ryan Sheridan had been 'discovered'. A major showcase followed; radio airplay, festival dates, recording sessions and so on. Within months, the songwriter had become a major contender in Irish music.

Indeed, Sheridan had set up his guitar and coin case in the right place at the right time. The recent introduction of new busking by-laws in Dublin - reducing noise limits along with the amount of time an act can perform in the one spot - might yet hinder other artists from following a similar path.

"That's upsetting, for sure," says Sheridan. "I mean, Ed Sheeran was a busker as well, and that's where you go out and where you have that freedom. You have no pressure when you're busking - you can sing what you want, you can do what you want, and then you know what works, so you're working on your trade."

Granted, Ryan Sheridan's busking days are well and truly behind him. Debut album The Day You Live Forever achieved platinum status in Ireland back in 2011. Later that year, Ryan performed at the Concert for Obama on College Green. An extensive touring schedule across Europe and Australia led to further deals and bigger sales.

Believe it or not, Sheridan is a very big deal in Germany, and he's about to release his second studio offering, Here and Now (an unexpected bout of "second album syndrome" delayed proceedings, but rest assured, he's pleased with the end result).

Another world tour kicks off soon - it can't be easy, being away from family for so long. "Yeah, I'm married, and I've got a wee one-and-a-half year old son," he explains, "so that's been taking up a lot of my time.

"I haven't been touring over the past two years, so it's been great to be at home with them. After three weeks or so [on tour], I'll fly them over…it kind of keeps everybody happy.

"I'm the luckiest man in the world to be doing what I want to do," he says. "I'm singing and writing songs and I've an album coming out. I'm ecstatic where I am."

Here and Now is released Friday August 28

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