old favourites Former pop idol Derek Ryan reveals how lockdown gave him time to record Christmas album
FORMER pop idol turned country singer Derek Ryan takes a positive personal view of the last 10 months in a Covid world that has seen a total ban on live music and entertainment.
Like his contemporaries, Derek, who has just released his first Christmas album, suddenly lost his income at a time when his career on the Irish country music scene was at a peak.
"This time last year we were closing doors from Tyrone to Kerry," Derek tells Shuffle, as he recalls the packed venues where he played with his band.
The closure of all venues and the shutdown of live events was a devastating blow, but Derek says he's learned to "expect the unexpected in the music business."
Back in the Noughties, the Carlow man was topping the UK and Irish pop charts and touring the globe with his boyband D-Side. They even scored a number one hit in Japan.
Then the group split in 2006, leaving the former pin-up pop star struggling to make ends meet.
"There are ups and downs in every business, and I've had a few downs in the music business," Derek recalls. "With D-Side, one minute we were on a roll and the next minute we were ringing home looking for money.
"So you have to expect the unexpected when it comes to music or any self-employed business. But I can't really complain because we had such a good run of it in the country music scene here over eight or nine years."
Derek says he's also grateful for the fact that he got the Covid unemployment payment, plus a grant to make his next album.
And after a hectic decade when his feet barely touched the ground as his career in country took off, the prolific songwriter and singer says he took advantage of the first lockdown to rest and recharge his batteries.
"I'm well aware that the industry is in such a worrying place with so many people unemployed, with musicians and crew and promotions companies, but from a personal point of view I found a lot of positives in it," Derek says.
"I found positives in the break, just pressing pause in life and reflecting, looking after the basics - health, exercise, eating right - and relaxing for the first few months. I just took a break and really enjoyed it."
Derek also used the time to complete a long-held ambition of recording his first Christmas album, which includes his own self-penned song, The Road To Christmas.
Recording the album also saw him team up with former D-Side producer Mark Kingswood.
"In February, I contacted Mark. He also produced my debut solo single, God's Plan, and a few other songs, and he'd said to me, 'If you're ever doing a Christmas album come back to me because that is my baby.'
"Out of all the albums I've done, it's the most I ever put into an album because I had the time, so that was a blessing too. I was thinking it might be my only Christmas album of my career, so I really wanted to get it right. Weirdly it worked out that this year was the perfect year for it."
Many of the album's festive favourites are personal to Derek, who gives Last Christmas a trad twist. "I reckon that was the first Christmas song I ever heard," he says. "Daddy came home one time with a hits cassette and that was on it and I sang it over and over. I must have been only four or five. That was first on the list when I was going to record Christmas songs."
However, Derek has stayed true to the original versions of songs such as White Christmas. "I wanted to do the classics. All of these songs have been recorded so many times and I wanted to get as close to the traditional or the original versions as possible."
H DEREK Ryan's album, The Road To Christmas, is out now.
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