- 10 May 22
Monaghan singer-songwriter Ryan Sheridan sat down with Hot Press to talk about inspiration, the making of a good cover and the history that inspired his May 6th release, Americana — read all about it, below...
When you think of Ryan Sheridan, maybe the first thing that comes to mind is the breathless guitar playing on 'Dreamer,' one of his traditional-tinged folk-pop releases, or, even, his brief stint as a 'Riverdance' cast member when he was a teenager. But now, with his latest album Americana, the Monaghan singer-songwriter is back to subvert expectations.
A collection of 11 songs, Americana sees Sheridan putting his own spin on classic tenants of the American songbook — evolving time-honored tracks into his own guitar-forward, bluesy interpretation. It's an album that reads more as a passion project than anything else, a pursuit spurred by the singer's love of storytelling and American folk tunes.
"I was always interested in Americana music; country, bluegrass, everything," shared Sheridan. "Along with traditional music, it's always influenced my stuff."
With a range that reflects the contours of the genre, the album has a little taste of everything — from 1969's 'Rock Salt and Nails' by Bruce "Utah" Phillips to Marcus King's 2020 'The Well.' So how did a fleeting interest turn into a roots deep-dive? According to Sheridan, one song kicked it all off.
"I was sent 'Parachutes' by Chris Stapleton, and that gave me the idea to do an album of Americana music," the singer explained. "I went down a rabbit hole, searching for songs. I had the time to dig deep, and one artist led me to another and so on. I just kept, digging — it was definitely an inspiring process."
The song, which marries heart pumping drums with rhythmic guitar and layered vocals, is the perfect intersection between old and new. Woven with traditional folk storytelling and gruff vocals while still holding the thread of modern instrumentation, 'Parachutes' is the perfect microcosm of the project as a whole.
But Sheridan's interest in American musical traditions stems back further; to when he was 16, to be exact. A member of the 'Riverdance' cast, his dancing brought him to the United States on tour, a time that would set him on the twisting path of music.
"America was like a new world," he said. "It was an incredible experience to travel, have that crowd and play in front of an audience — it's also where I found the likes Tim O'Brien.
I toured a lot, for about three or four years, and then we went to Broadway for a couple of years. It's in New York where I started songwriting; it's such a melting pot, I was in the awkward age of 18 and 19, living on my own, and I was like 'I need to write about this.' So America has always been a massive inspiration for me."
Now, Sheridan is ready to look back and pay homage to the place that started it all. Showcasing a variety of tracks that chart the evolution of bluegrass, folk and grassroots, he is excited to make his own mark on the genres that have fostered his career for the past 12 years.
"I love driving songs, I just love open road songs. It feels like you're going somewhere with them, it feels open. Those songs where you can just sit behind the beat — 'Get Yourself Together,' The Black Keys tune, really resonates with me in that way."
Everything has pitfalls, however, and whether it's drawing on titans the likes of The Lumineers, or aiming for more deep cuts akin to Tyler Childers' 'All Your'n,' the singer is acutely aware of the pressures of making a good cover song.
"You have to be careful," he admitted. "There are songs like 'Have a Little Faith in Me' — it's a Grammy Award winning song by John Hiatt. I'd never heard it before, but I was nervous choosing that song because I was so aware that it was a Grammy Award winning song, and you don't want to fuck it up. You want to keep it's originality and just add your own little part, without messing up what made it a great song in the first place.
There are songs that jump out at you, and make it clear whether you can do something with them or not. There are some where it's just obvious — I can't touch them. When making the covers it was important to have the acoustic as the root instrument and hold on to my style of playing; that's where I started, and then just built them up from there."
Despite it being a cover album, in many ways Americana forced Sheridan out of his creative box more than ever before. Whether it was pandemic-era recording, the song selection process or his production debut, the project marks several 'first's' for the artist.
"I was making the album during lockdown, so I was my own worst enemy," he laughed. "I was combing over the songs thinking, 'oh it doesn't work. No, it does work!' over and over."
Above all, though, the release opens back up the world of live gigs after a two year drought. For Sheridan, who is currently embarking on a headlining German tour before playing a string of Irish dates in July, distance only made the heart grow fonder.
"The two years have been good considering we have two small kids, so it was a welcome break from touring. You can miss so much with them being at such a young age, so it was great to be home. But I'm definitely ready for the road. I love getting to play the music live — it's what I miss most."
With Americana, the excitement is tinged with apprehension as he brings the new material to the stage.
"If people don't like it, I just won't tour," Sheridan joked. "No, I'm really looking forward to playing the new stuff. Hopefully people like what I've done with them, as well. There are some songs that really just felt like me, the first time I heard them — it really goes to show that good music really is timeless. It trains you."
Check out Ryan Sheridan's latest release, Americana, below: