Belfast Telegraph

Q&A: Co Down singer Ryan McMullan talks local heroes and touring with Ed Sheeran

Co Down singer Ryan McMullan is about to embark on his first solo headline tour, and with fans such as Ed Sheeran, Foy Vance and Snow Patrol's Gary Lightbody, big things are predicted for the Portaferry man.

Ryan, 27, supported Ed on the European leg of his recent Divide tour, which saw him perform to sold out crowds at the O2 in London and Dublin's 3Arena.

He is also set to support Bangor singer Foy Vance during his biggest ever show at Custom House Square in Belfast next week.

After that Ryan will be heading out on his own, including a show at The Limelight in the city this September, and he spoke to the Belfast Telegraph ahead of the upcoming gig.

Q. How does it feel to finally be heading out on your first headline tour?

It feels amazing - it kicks off in Germany on September 2, I've got a few shows there and then I'll be heading all around the UK and Ireland.

The feedback from fans has been really great, everybody is really excited and so am I, to finally to it on my own as a headline act is exciting.

I don't want to look at it in any negative way with like nerves or anything - I'm just going to keep positive and enjoy it.

Q. You've supported some big names in the past, who will be your support acts on this tour?

For the European shows I'll be joined by Travis Is A Tourist from east Belfast, then the UK leg will be Stephen MaCartney, who is from Bangor, and the Ireland shows will be with Nathan O'Regan, who is from Cork but living in Bangor - so I'm keeping it pretty local!

Q. How are you feeling about performing in Belfast?

I think that's going to be a really special gig, with the full band and a few friends joining me on stage, it's going to be lovely.

Q. Are you bringing lots of family and friends to see the show?

They will probably come along, but whether or not they will actually pay attention I'm not too sure because they've heard the songs a hundred times.

Q. How would you describe your music?

I've been trying to figure that out for as long as I have been writing. I guess it's acoustic/pop/folk/soul fusion.

Fundamentally I guess it is acoustic pop music with, hopefully, a bit more of a deeper meaning to it but I suppose that's for everyone else to decide.

So I'll just keep writing and let everyone else decide what it is.

Q. Do you prefer to write on your own or do you think you work better when collaborating with others?

A couple of songs on my last EP were co-written with a local guy called Jason Clarke but the rest have just been my own. My latest single 'Oh Susanna' was a collaboration with Foy Vance.

I like to write on my own, but I also like to write with other people and whatever songs suit me best are what I use.

Q. You'll be supporting Foy Vance in Belfast next week for his Custom House Square gig, you must be looking forward to being part of such a big event?

I'm privileged to be there to celebrate the day Foy is going to have because it's going to be the biggest gig he has ever done.

I think it's something around five thousand people will be attending and I'm really proud to be part of the support acts for the concert.

Q. Who would you say has influenced your music?

Foy is one of my heroes, so to work with him has been great. Paul Brady is also a huge influence, and so are The Beatles. I'm a massive fan of Snow Patrol as well.

I listen to a lot of different kinds of music.

Q. What are your thoughts on the music coming out of Northern Ireland at the minute?

I find that in Northern Ireland, any time there's a dip there's then a huge resurgence and I think right now we are at that point. Everybody is really bringing their A game.

There's so much talent in this country, and I don't think people seem to understand how big it is - we are such a small country and it's just so concentrated with actual quality. It's brilliant to be a part of it.

Q. How did you end up becoming Ed Sheeran's support act on his recent tour?

I was invited to a writing camp with him and we hit it off as friends. He liked my music and came to a gig where I was supporting Foy at Shepherd's Bush Empire in London.

After my set finished he offered me the tour and that was pretty much it.

Q. What was going through your head at that point?

I have no idea! I honestly can't remember but I know we ended up celebrating that night, very heavily.

Q. What was it like to be part of such a huge tour?

Ed is just a fantastic guy, he is so down to earth and normal.

At the time I didn't realise it but now I look back with hindsight and think, 'Wow, we played to half a million people in less than two months.'

But at the time I didn't think about it, I just got up and did the gig and that was that.

Q. You must have been inundated with ticket requests from family and friends?

Luckily I didn't have much of a ticket allocation, so there wasn't much I could do for them!

Q. What have you got planned for the future?

I'm planning on just enjoying the tour and to be constantly writing songs. I'm hopefully going to release an album next year and tour with that - and hopefully it breaks through.

The game plan is simply just to keep working.

Someone said to me the other day, something like, 'Isn't it funny how hard working people always get the luck' and I thought that was a great sentence.

I feel very lucky for everything that has happened so far, but I know I have worked pretty hard to get it.

So I'm just going to keep working and keep writing and sooner or later luck will find it's way.

  • Ryan McMullan will be performing at The Limelight in Belfast on Friday, September 29. Tickets are on sale now.

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