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destiny d-sided Derek Ryan struggled with rent after early success with D-Side, but later made it big on his own

Derek said when playing solo in smaller venues after D-Side he 'learned more in those pubs than I did in the arenas'

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Derek Ryan

Derek Ryan

Derek with his bandmates in D-Side.

Derek with his bandmates in D-Side.

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Derek Ryan

IN the early Noughties, Derek Ryan was living the dream, jet-setting around the globe as a pop idol.

Posters of the Carlow star's group, D-Side, adorned the bedroom walls of female fans in that era, and it looked like he was heading for millionaire's row.

However, in the fickle world of pop music, D-Side's momentum eventually fizzled out as the hits dried up, and they called it a day.

Now a major Irish country music singer and songwriter, Derek tells the Sunday World that he came out of D-Side in 2006 with very little money, and ended up struggling to pay the rent in a London bedsit while playing solo gigs in pubs as he picked up the pieces of his life.

That period has inspired a song called Carlow Tonight on his new album, Soft Ground. "The most personal song is Carlow Tonight," Derek says. "I wrote that about living in London around the time of the bedsit, and gigging and not having a whole lot of money, and trying to get stuff together for rent.

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Derek with his bandmates in D-Side.

Derek with his bandmates in D-Side.

Derek with his bandmates in D-Side.

"My mam rang me one night with sad news from home, a death in the local area. When I started writing the song it took me back to that time and I remembered how I just wanted to be home. Anybody living away from home can relate to that… 'I need to be there, what am I doing here?' It got the ball rolling inside of me to move home."

However, Derek reveals that he learned more about the art of performing when he was singing solo in the bars of London and later in Portugal than he did in the major league doing pop concerts.

"I learned more in those pubs than I did in the arenas," he says. "One of the main things I learned, which is something you really need, especially in the Irish country music scene, is how to read a crowd. It's something that performers underestimate.

"You could be a great singer, but a great singer singing the wrong songs won't go down too well. So you're better off being a mediocre singer and reading the crowd, and knowing when to do what.

"I learned that in Portugal when I was gigging over there. There were three or four Irish pubs in one street and there was competition to hold the crowds. Once you got the crowds into the pub you had to hold them.

"You'd be looking around trying to figure out what the crowd wanted to hear, trying to read their minds, and it was a priceless experience. Even when I do the set list before a gig now, I go, 'what kind of audience is going to be there, is it sit down or stand up, what age group was there the last time?'

"You're thinking of all these things before you make a set. So I generally have the set in place before I go to the likes of a festival, and that is all because of Portugal. It is a priceless experience to just get out there and gig."

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Talking about another of his new songs, The Road, Derek admits that behind all the glamour and glitz of performing on stage at sold out shows, the relentless touring can sometimes take its toll.

"That song is about life on the road and how it changes you," he tells me. "It definitely changes you as a person. You're kind of high and then you're low. People only see the high on stage.

"The lyrics of The Road are 'nights you'll be flying, days you'll be crying.' You certainly have that experience sometimes where you're at this big gig, there are thousands at it, and inside you're going, 'I never felt worse.' It's a tough life. Even for your own well-being, it's a tough one. Sometimes you can get too used to being on the road.

Derek Ryan's new album, Soft Ground, is out now.

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