“Busking was the best thing I’ve ever done” Ryan Sheridan – from the streets to the stage

Ryan Sheridan Live on Busk a Move, Flirt FM

By Aoibhé Hopkins

Ryan Sheridan sat down with Aoibhé Hopkins from Galway Pulse ahead of ‘The Preview tour’ to discuss his upcoming album, his experience busking on the streets of Galway and how his iconic ‘sound’ came to be.

When you hear the name Ryan Sheridan you might think about his hit song ‘Jigsaw’ or that ‘Long Story’ Heineken ad campaign featuring his song ‘Dreamer’, but who is Ryan Sheridan and how did he become a platinum-selling artist?

The Making of Ryan Sheridan

It all started back when Ryan was only a teenager. Growing up in Monaghan, he had always been creative with a particular passion and talent for dance.

At the age of 15, Ryan packed up his life to tour the United States as a member of River Dance, only returning home for two weeks a year at Christmas. Fast forward three years of touring, he was now performing on Broadway and living alone in ‘The Big Apple’.  

As a young lad, alone in a big city, Ryan resorted to songwriting as an outlet for the emotions that he was dealing with at the time. ‘‘I was living on my own in New York at 18 and I needed a way to express that and that’s where I started.’’

He played his first gig in a small venue, Arlene’s Grocery, on the Lower East Side, and continued to play small pubs & clubs in New York. The experience was ‘‘nerve-wracking but it was a start’’. After five years, at the age of 20, he left the bright lights of Broadway and returned home to Ireland.

Busking in Galway

Upon return, Ryan was invited to go busking by friend and music partner, Artur Graczyk, who was already playing the cajon on the streets of Dublin and Galway.

“He asked me if I wanted to come busk with him and I was like, I don’t know, it’s not really for me, but we went busking and I absolutely loved it. The two of us together was just the acoustic guitar and the cajon, and I had to keep up with him because he was really rhythmic and really fast, and that kind of percussive sound then developed and I wrote Jigsaw with this sound in mind. So that’s how the sound came around.

“Busking as a whole is just phenomenal for anyone to get out there and get their songs in front of people, so Galway was always amazing to be in, being able to play in front of people and try out new songs. If people stayed, the songs worked, if they left, we would have to look at that again and work on our craft. We always had the best craic in Galway.”

The Turning Point

Before he knew it, everything changed for Ryan. ‘‘After that, I got a record deal off the street straight away, a manager picked me up and we got a record deal. It was like a whirlwind. It all happened and I needed to get an album out, but I only had two songs of my own at the time.’’

With the aim of quickly releasing his debut album, Ryan rented a quiet cottage in Glencolumbkille in rural Donegal and completed ‘The Day You Live Forever’ in 4 or 5 days, which included his hit songs ‘The Dreamer’ and ‘Stand up Tall’. It reached number one in Ireland and Germany.

“We were doing big festivals, walking out to thousands of people and then we would go busk later on. It was a crazy time around that time.”

When asked what effect busking had on his confidence, Ryan says ‘‘Busking was the best thing that I’ve ever done, I’m not going to lie. It was definitely the most freedom I ever had playing music. You could understand what people like to hear, really interact with people and I still say to this day its the best thing I’ve ever done.’’

Well, The rest is history.

What’s next?

Ryan has been in the studio working hard for months on his upcoming album which is set to drop in 2024. Taking it back to his roots, just like when he was busking, he is going on tour to seek honest feedback on the new material, from the audience. 

‘‘It goes back to the busking thing again. You’re playing on the street and if people sing along to a certain point you know that song is going to work. That’s what I’ll be looking for, if people pick up on the songs or the choruses, any of the little feedback stuff’.”

Of course, Ryan had to return to one of the places that helped kick-start his career, Galway. 

As part of ‘The Preview Tour’, Ryan plays Monroe’s on Saturday, 30 September. Tickets are available for purchase through the Monroe’s website.

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