Hugo Duncan: Country star Ryan pens moving tribute to late mum Sally
Today is yet another red-letter day in Derek Ryan's stunning success story. The supremely gifted singer-songwriter is launching his 10th album, only on this occasion, the songs are self-penned numbers that not only highlight Derek's singing ability, but also provide a further insight into his creative talent.
Derek is noted for his innovation, both on stage and off, so it is no great surprise to learn that the title of his new album is Ten. And it certainly includes songs that make a considerable impact on the listener.
He has gone for numbers such as Honey Honey, which he recorded with Lisa McHugh and which proved a sensation at the recent Farmers Bash at the SSE Arena in Belfast, as well as Ya Can't Stay Here and Hayley Jo - songs with which Derek is already synonymous.
He also includes an emotional tribute to his late mum, Sally, who died earlier this year, called To Waltz With My Mother. She passed away peacefully at St Luke's Hospital, Kilkenny in July.
"I went back gigging almost straight away, because I didn't know what to do," said Derek (35).
"I had gigs coming up and tickets were on sale and, in our business, you can't really just take a week off.
"I performed two days after the funeral, because I thought I felt okay. People were so good to send cards and well-wishes and that helped us through it.
"But it was tough getting on stage, because people expect you to be up for it and stay smiling. But you can't smile - there is nothing to smile about. I was in the zone, I got through it and that was it."
There are 12 tracks in all and they all bear testimony to Derek's genuine feel for music and ability to catch the mood of a number.
It's not often that an Irish artiste - particularly in the country music sphere - brings out an album of original self-penned material, but then Derek is no ordinary artiste.
He has always been inventive and enterprising, a young man who knows exactly where he is going and what he would like to accomplish.
He has certainly accomplished a great deal to date, yet he always seems to derive additional inspiration when he sits down to compose new songs.
Indeed, when he went to Nashville he impressed songwriters there to such an extent that he actually bucked a long-time trend: instead of Irish acts like himself seeking guidance and expertise from US songwriters, Derek was actually able to provide them with ideas of his own, which I am told they were only too happy to embrace.
He is a professional to his fingertips, although I probably did not endear myself to him when I appeared at his show in the Ulster Hall.
I was under the impression that I was to sing a couple of songs, so I bounced onto the stage, saw a guitarist and another musician there, assumed they were to back me and asked them for the key of A.
Imagine my surprise, two numbers later, when Derek whispered in my ear at the side of the stage: "But, Hugo. You were only to introduce the next support act. Your singing part is to come later."
While Derek continues to go from strength to strength in his own right, it is worth noting that he has written for a number of Irish country singers, including Philomena Begley, Johnny Brady, John McNicholl and Lisa McHugh.
They all have reason to be grateful to Derek for his painstaking creative work - he sets high standards for himself and ensures that those for whom he writes are provided with only the best material.
Derek has worked with people ranging from top US songwriter Trent Wilman to Eleanor McEvoy and has collaborated with the likes of Gerry Carney and Eoin Glackin, both noted songwriters.
His album Ten - just like all the rest - is on the popular Sharpe Music label and we can certainly expect to hear a lot more about it and from it over the coming weeks.
Come to think of it, the album would certainly make an ideal Christmas present for anyone with an interest in country music.