Signed up by Warner Brothers Music as a member of boy band, D-Side, at the age of 16, by his early 20s Moran had travelled the world, achieved massive success across Europe and the Far East, with three top-10 singles in the UK and a number-one album in Japan, and enjoyed the adulation of teenyboppers by the million.
He then moved seamlessly into television, where, for the past five years, he has presented Channel 5 children’s TV programming strand, Milkshake!, whose candy-coloured, cartoon characters are broadcast between 6am and 9am.
Now, having starred in the hugely successful UK tour of its stage-show spin-off, Moran is bringing it to Ireland.
Not bad for a young fellow from Donaghmede. In the fickle world of showbiz, the 29-year-old has landed bang on his feet — even his first big break, in D-Side, was handed to him.
“My mum read about the audition in a newspaper and made enquiries,” he says. “Then, me and my friend, Shane [Creevey], went to the casting. Six months later, we were living in London and recording our first album.”
Stronger Together soared into the top 10 in the UK, Ireland, France, Germany, China and Japan.
Almost overnight, D-Side were thrown into the deep end, appearing on TV shows like Top of the Pops, The Saturday Show, MTV, Ministry of Mayhem, This Morning, The Late Late Show and Ireland AM.
They also toured relentlessly. In the pre-Facebook, pre-Twitter, pre-You Tube world of the early noughties, it was, says Moran, the only way to go.
“If you wanted people to know you had a new single out, there was no alternative — you had to travel,” he says. “Another day, another airport.”
Moran looks back wistfully on those early days.
“To be honest, I’d love to relive them, if only because I was too young to really appreciate them at the time,” he says.
“There we were, a bunch of young Irish fellows, travelling on private jets with our own stylists and make-up artists, being wined and dined, staying in top-class hotels, ordering hundred-dollar breakfasts with absolutely no concept of cost or money. It was a crazy time. But it was great.”
It was also incredibly busy. Moran talks about working 48 hours on the trot, catching up to eight flights a week, doing interviews, shooting videos.
“At one point, we did 89 days in a single stretch. It was absolutely manic.” By comparison Moran’s work schedule now is a doddle.
“The great thing is that even though I have an early start [he’s in the TV studio at 4.30am, Monday to Friday], I’m back in my own bed at night. No more living out of suitcases — except, of course, when we take the show on the road.”
In addition to performing in Milkshake! on stage, Moran also directs and choreographs the show, employing skills he acquired in Dublin’s Billy Barrie Stage School, whose past pupils include Westlife’s Brian McFadden, actresses Angelina Ball and Hilda Fay, and Boyzone’s Mikey Graham.
“I learned more with Billy Barrie than I realised at the time,” he says.
“By the age of eleven, I was appearing on television, picking up tips on studio work that I would never have known otherwise.”
Such knowledge has served him well on Milkshake!, whose stage production comes to Cork Opera House next week.
Moran says his pint-sized fans and their parents can expect to see all their favourite characters: Bananas in Pyjamas, Little Princess and Scruff, Roary The Racing Car and Big Chris, Fifi and Bumble, Noddy and Tessie Bear.
“Without spoiling it for the fans, I can say that this is the most interactive show we’ve ever staged. The audience is involved from start to finish.”
So what’s it like having a fan base of little tykes?
“Ah, it’s great. You’re walking down the street and you hear ‘Oh, look mummy, it’s Derek from Milkshake!’ and suddenly there’s this little kid on your heels.”
Having spent all his working life in showbiz, Moran has mixed feelings about talent shows that can make or break competitors overnight.
“I have a love/hate relationship with shows like X Factor,” he says. “You can’t not watch them. But it’s all about the sob story. I know people with more real talent than some of those contestants.”
As to the precarious nature of the business, Moran is philosophical.
“You make your own luck in this game. I know what it’s like to be out of work, but it’s the only work I know,” he says.
* Milkshake! Come Out To Play!, Cork Opera House, Saturday, May 11, 2.00pm and 4.30pm; Belfast Waterfront, June 16, 1.00pm and 4.00pm.