RISING singer-songwriter and one of this year's Britain's Got Talent finalists, Ryan O'Shaughnessy is to play his first ever major headline show in Dublin this week. The Skerries star is riding the crest of the wave at the moment after his debut self-titled album went straight to the top of the Irish charts and hurtled in to the UK's Top Ten. Now Ryan is set to play The Academy this coming Saturday, September 8. Nineteen-year-old Ryan was catapulted into the public's consciousness when he performed the moving 'No Name' for judges on this year's Britain's Got Talent, a song of unrequited love. He has now just released his minialbum of six self-penned songs, all as sparse and beautiful as his ITV1 highlight would have his millions of new fans hoping for. Explaining the reason to shun covers, Ryan said: 'People know from the show that I write my own songs – it's what they expect from me. The acoustic side is what I feel comfortable with. I have a few songs that are more uptempo, they're more groovebased and bluesy, but these six songs fit together nicely.' It's only the outside world that will be surprised by Ryan's haunting music, as he's been immersed in song all his life, laughing as he recalls family camcorder footage of him singing Boyzone's Love Me For A Reason aged three at his brother's Holy Communion dinner. Ryan learnt the saxophone at 12, switching to guitar two years later after seeing YouTube footage of Eric Clapton's Tears In Heaven with the help of screen instructions to play it. He plays most of the instruments, including piano, on his new release too. 'I can pick up most instruments and get a good sound. I have a good ear, which makes things a lot easier. It's been drilled into me. Like with harmonies – me and my mam were always singing harmonies in the car along to the country channel.' It helped that Ryan grew up in Dublin surrounded by his father's guitars and mother's piano, writing his first songs with his brother two years ago. Although both parents are decent amateur musicians – his father played a season of gigs in the Canary Islands – Ryan doesn't have them to thank for his love of past greats. ' There wasn't any Joni or James Taylor at home, which baffles me,' he said. 'I've asked mam 'How can you not love Joni Mitchell?' I'd have loved to be around when Blue was released, listening to music so raw and so fresh. Once you hear a bit of Joni, you don't go back.' Ryan's discovered the greats via YouTube and Later With Jools Holland. It's a love that comes through in his own songwriting. 'I've loads of influences that come together,' Ryan said. 'But I don't try to model myself on any one person; I let whatever comes out come out. I need to be absent from my head when I write – pick up the guitar, press 'record' on my phone, then listen back to it to see what makes sense.' Eventually, as can be heard on the longing First Kiss or elegant Lost In You, Ryan's lyrics are perfectly formed vignettes, tales of love and
loss shot through with an ageless wisdom. Although it may seem an unusual move for a John Martyn devotee to audition for Britain's Got Talent, Ryan said it's been a win-win situation. Besides, it was his friends who entered him. 'I'd just started getting the courage up to play my songs to other people. We were on the balcony one night and one of my mates said "Play that song of yours." I hadn't named it, and after a couple of days of this the lads were just saying "Come on, play No Name again." And it stuck. 'At the audition, I said to myself that I wouldn't be anyone else. I'd talk how I talk, wear what I wear, sing what I sing – my own songs. The worse that could have happened was they'd all buzz me out and I'd walk off the stage to chat to Ant & Dec. ' That first audition was one of the best experiences I've ever had; 3,000 people applauding me. It was amazing.' By then, Ryan had also appeared on the Irish version of The Voice, reaching the live rounds. He was again entered without knowing. This time, his mother was responsible. Ryan's own songwriting has been strengthened as one of the pupils in the first year of the Irish version of BIMM, the course run by musicians which teaches vocal skills and songwriting. At BIMM, Ryan began earning his gig miles, playing to 'eight people, none of them there to hear some singer' at Dublin open-mic nights. Now, he wants to start gigging in earnest and eventually playing festivals such as his beloved Oxegen. 'I'd love to have a full band at my disposal eventually. I want loads of guitars, strange percussion like on Paul Simon's Graceland, anything to give my shows that sense of fun that I have onstage.' Catch Ryan O'Shaughnessy in the Academy September 8. Tickets cost €25.