Passing through the crossroads

Ryan Sheridan erased an entire album because he thought it wasn’t good enough, he tells Ed Power. What he did next went straight to number one

RYAN SHERIDAN was worried. It was 2013 and, after months of increasingly unsatisfying toil, the Monaghan singer stood at a crossroads. The clutch of new songs he had written weren’t terrible, exactly. But they lacked the rawness he had always felt essential to his musical identity. He knew what he had to do. Press ‘erase’ and start over.

“I had recorded my album with a rocky ‘band’ sound. I wasn’t happy. So I scrapped it and began again.”

Fuelling his unease was the knowledge that, by the time the LP eventually appeared, nearly four years would have elapsed since the release of his chart-topping debut, The Day You Live Forever. By music industry standards, that was quite a hiatus. Would his audience have stayed around?

“You have to be out there touring constantly,” says Sheridan (33). “When you’re not doing that, you are concerned. Things move so quickly in music these days. To make a living, you have to be on the road all the time.”

He needn’t have fretted. Released in late August, Here And Now debuted at number one, a remarkable feat for a homegrown artist without major label backing.

“Second time around, I had an opportunity to write some new songs — change things around. The important thing is that I captured that acoustic sound I was going after. I was very happy that I was able to do that.”

Career-angst was not a new experience for Sheridan. In his late 20s, he had given up on music, more or less. After touring with Riverdance and an unsuccessful stab at a solo career, he’d moved back to his native Monaghan town and was running a music venue. It was rewarding work after a fashion – but who dreams of one day managing a rural bar?

“As a young man I was very ambitious,” he recalls. “As I grew older, I arrived at the point in life where I had to start taking paying jobs. I still wanted to be a singer-songwriter. Then the opportunity came to open a venue in my home town. It was tough work and one day I just thought ‘to hell with this – I have to give music another chance’. So I went to Dublin and began busking.”

It was the making of him. “On the street, you have absolute freedom. And you have to push yourself, work very hard. The crowd isn’t there to see you — they can move on whenever they want. You learn how to hold an audience’s attention.”

He was discovered by Rubyworks, the Dublin label that had earlier stumbled upon acoustic virtuosos Rodrigo Y Gabriela performing on Grafton Street. From there Sheridan’s career took off — he was soon playing to packed rooms across Ireland and, via a deal with Universal Music’s Berlin division.

“For my German gigs, I perform 2,000 capacity vents. It’s phenomenal — you only get a sense of how vast a country it is when you’re travelling. It’s two, three hours between all the cities. Absolutely huge.”

To his surprise and delight, he discovered German audiences are far less fickle than their equivalent in this part of the world. Through it all, they really do stay with you.

“I have seen that,” he nods. “Once they like you, they stick around. I’ve had people flying over from Germany for my gigs in Ireland. And I’ve played to crowds of 2,000 in some tiny corner of Germany you’ve never heard of. The crowd don’t say a word and then I come on and they know the words to all my songs. It’s a remarkable thing.”

Ryan Sheridan plays the INEC Killarney, tonight and Pavilion Cork, tomorrow


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