The village that they call The Moy in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland, may be where Ryan Kelly resides, but he’s currently just as comfortable calling the studio and stage home- recording and touring as one of the stars of the highly successful, platinum and multi-gold selling musical show, Celtic Thunder. However, Ryan’s journey to success began long before Celtic Thunder.
Ryan has been singing since he was very young, and was hooked on performing rather early on- his first “official” performance was when he sang at his First Communion at age seven. He continued to sing over the years, for services-often accompanied by his father on the organ, at school, wherever and whenever the chance presented itself. This helped develop his wide range of musical tastes – from traditional Irish songs, to acoustic to rock to showtunes. Ryan taught himself to play the guitar around age thirteen and began writing his own music not long after that. He went on to attend Queen’s University in Belfast, and became qualified as a Chartered Accountant. But while working as an accountant paid the bills, Ryan always held on to his first true love—music. He continued to perform, and joined a well-known local band- Emergency Exit.
In 2003, after weeks of judging and performing, Ryan received an overwhelming 70% of the audience votes to win a place as a finalist in the National BBC Television “Country Cool” competition-where he placed second in the final competition. In 2007, he won the SCOR singing competition. He has performed live with West Life, Girls Aloud and Simply Red for the “Children In Need” televised charity concert at the Odyssey in Belfast. Now a seasoned performer, Ryan was ready to face his next “big” audition.
In 2007, Producer Sharon Browne teamed up with legendary composer Phil Coulter to begin a search for the five men who would become the leads for the show Celtic Thunder. Auditions were held all across Ireland and into Scotland, with thousands of hopefuls vying for their chance. After successfully completing his first audition, Ryan was called back for a second and was chosen to receive a place amongst the stars of the show. Months of rehearsing and recording ensued, and culminated in live performances at the Helix in Dublin for the recording of the very first Celtic Thunder show before a very enthusiastic audience. Celtic Thunder has gone on to many wildly-successful tours of North America. Ryan and Celtic Thunder have made numerous network television appearances, both in the US and Canada, opened the New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade twice, and continue to dominate pledge drives and viewership in the US for PBS stations nationwide. Recently, Ryan had the honour of performing for President Obama and his family at the White House with the rest of the members of Celtic Thunder- “It was amazing to meet the Obamas-they seemed very down to earth. And it was such an honour to perform for them in one of the most famous buildings in the world! It was an experience I will never forget!” Another highlight was the opportunity to sing the US National Anthem for his beloved Boston Celtics at the TD Garden .
Ryan’s talents don’t end with his phenomenal musical abilities, however. He is also an accomplished actor. He has portrayed a variety of characters-from contemplative ballad singer, to lovable rogue, to a jealous and resentful brother, to the ultimate betrayer- and he’s played them all to perfection. He’s taken on such roles as that of Mickey Johnstone in the musical “Blood Brothers” and Judas Iscariot in “Jesus Christ Superstar” to much success and praise.
Performing with Celtic Thunder has allowed Ryan to showcase both his acting and singing abilities to audiences all across North America, Australia and beyond. His ability to transform onstage into the the “bad guy”, or “Dark Destroyer” as he has become known, accompanied by the ease with which he switches tones and make songs such as “Desperado”, “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown”, and “Brothers in Arms” completely his own, have garnered him a large and loyal following. The audience’s enthusiasm for his performances fuel his own onstage and make for a night no one soon forgets, and he enjoys every moment of it- “It’s clichéd, but music is my life. It’s what makes me happy and I feel blessed to be able to call this my job.”
Now a seasoned performer, and no stranger to the studio, Ryan felt the time was right to share his own music with the world. He released his debut album, “In Time”, in the Fall of 2010 to much acclaim and success. In addition to touring with “Celtic Thunder”, Ryan has been touring a sold out show entitled “Acoustic by Candlelight”-featuring his own singer/songwriter compositions, and timeless favourites- with fellow Celtic Thunder member, Neil Byrne, across the United States to very receptive and enthusiastic audiences. In January of 2012, Ryan was honoured to be nominated for and win the 2011 award for “Top Solo Performer in Concert” from the Irish Music Association. This award was just the newest highlight for Ryan in a career that hasn’t seen its top heights yet, and he looks forward to sharing his amazing musical journey with his incredibly supportive fanbase for many years to come.
Ryan has been a true sports fanatic all his life. He has played soccer, gaelic football and basketball since his youth and when not on the road, he can still be found training with his local GAA football club and playing basketball as often as possible. He is an avid runner and recently completed his first 1/2 marathon. And whether on the road touring, or at home in between, Ryan can usually be found catching up on his favourite sports on television and online as well. He is a lifelong supporter of the Boston Celtics and was in the stands for Game 6 when his Celtics became World Champions in 2008. He also enjoys watching American football and he attended Super Bowl XLIV.