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Cross country Singer Derek Ryan says he got a 'bit of slagging' for being a Daniel O'Donnell fan as a teen

Derek gives fans a glimpse behind the scenes in Keepin’ Er Country at Home tomorrow night

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Derek Ryan at home

Derek Ryan at home

Derek Ryan at home

Derek Ryan always knew country music was in his heart.

The singer took flak for loving Irish showbands and Garth Brooks as a teenager, but when his pop career stalled it was country that saved him.

And after ten years on the road as one of Ireland’s top artists, the 37-year-old says he’ll never take his success for granted.

“When I got a second break with country, I wasn’t going to let it slip,” says Derek.

“When my career kicked off again, I thought this is a privilege. The public decides, and you have to make the most of it.”

Derek, who’s now a neighbour of fellow country star Nathan Carter after they both relocated to Fermanagh, gives fans a glimpse behind the scenes in Keepin’ Er Country at Home tomorrow night.

It marks a decade of gigging around Ireland, but the singer knew from his childhood that country music was his first love.

“I was singing Big Tom and Daniel O’Donnell at 12 and getting a bit of a slagging because it wasn't the coolest music,” he says.

“I remember seeing programmes about showbands and saying to my dad I would have loved to be in a showband.

“I went to see Garth Brooks in Croke Park and I got serious slagging for that. There were 80,000 people there. It was the biggest stage that was ever seen in Ireland. It made me realise that if other people don’t like that music, fair enough, but I do and lots of other people do.”

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Derek Ryan: 'I went from playing in arenas to playing in pubs with people abusing you, but a gig is a gig'

Derek Ryan: 'I went from playing in arenas to playing in pubs with people abusing you, but a gig is a gig'

Derek Ryan: 'I went from playing in arenas to playing in pubs with people abusing you, but a gig is a gig'

As a shy teen he predicted he’d be a performer and within a year it had happened. The highs of stadium tours and a number one in Japan with D-Side were followed by the lows when it ended, but Derek says he learned everything from the experience.

“I was sitting in physics class at 16 and some of the girls were chatting about Westlife being on Top of the Pops. I was very shy, but I said one day I’m going to sing on that. I wasn’t being cocky; it was more like believing I could do it.

“They were laughing away at me, and the next thing I saw there were auditions in Temple Bar, and I went and got called back and three years later I was singing on Top of the Pops.

“Looking back, it was a massive achievement for us to get there.

“I was the quiet one, I was always observing and learning about touring and promotions and performing.”

After five years the dream ended and Derek was playing to almost empty pubs in London, reluctant to return home to Ireland.

He also found himself in surreal situations in the name of making a living.

“I went from playing in arenas to playing in pubs with people abusing you, but a gig is a gig.

“Everything stands to you, every experience counts, and I don’t think anything could happen now I haven’t seen.

“I was playing one night in a pub in London which wasn’t in a great area and this gang came in with scarves over their faces carrying machetes and batons. They were looking for someone and they went past my stage and into the toilets and ran back out again. I just kept playing.”

His fortunes changed with debut solo single God’s Plan, written in 20 minutes in a London bedsit.

It’s since been covered by Irish country legends like Daniel, Foster and Allen and Lisa McHugh and Derek reveals he knew from the moment he wrote it that the song would change his life.

“I was doing the holiday seasons in Portugal and I said to someone this is my ticket out. They were laughing but I had a feeling it was a special song.”

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Derek Ryan in D Side

Derek Ryan in D Side

Derek Ryan in D Side

After returning to the family home in Carlow and going back to college the track helped to open doors and Derek hasn’t slowed down since he got a second chance at a music career.

In 10 years he’s released 10 studio albums, a greatest hits and Christmas collections, two DVDs, two live albums, and another one is on the way.

The lockdown has slowed his hectic work rate, created virtual gigs and given him more time to perfect tracks.

“Because of the last year I ask myself how we got time to do so much in the studio with all the touring. You’d be roaring in a marquee at 2am so many nights a week as well as producing albums, where you’d write 25 songs and pick 15 or 16.

“I don’t know how we made albums so frequently.”

When restrictions are lifted there might be slightly fewer gigs, but he can’t wait to get back to the buzz.

“That buzz is the best feeling.

“I’m wary of saying I want to work less because when you’re a singer that’s what you dream of, that people want to come and see you,” says Derek.

Keepin’ Er Country at Home: Derek Ryan is on BBC1 tomorrow at 10.30pm.

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