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Monday, November 5, 2012

Ryan Kelly (profile/bio)

[Last updated May 17, 2013]
[A lot of this information is on biography pages on various sites, though IMDb is woefully out of date, and much of what is stated regarding Ryan's music life prior to Celtic Thunder is confusing, incomplete or incorrect. Since the crud that went on in late 2011, the information remaining online anywhere about Mr. Kelly seems to be copied and adapted from the same few limited sources. I strongly dislike gossip, and do not intend to provide juicy details on any of Ryan's private life. However, there is a lot of gossip to be had about this fellow in particular, and this profile hopefully can provide enough information to derail at least the more obnoxious, irresponsible or hurtful rumors which occasionally surface around Ryan Kelly. Substantiated corrections are always welcome, but much of the basic information for this profile comes from or is backed up by Ryan's own webpage bio, and I consider that a fairly reliable source.]

Current location/activities: Ryan is currently finishing up a tour in Australia with Celtic Thunder. Following that tour he will be in Canada touring with Neil Byrne to promote their album, Acoustic By Candlelight. This fall Celtic Thunder will be doing a much smaller orchestral tour in the US and Canada, with far fewer dates and locations, and Ryan will be on tour with Celtic Thunder for that. In between, one would hope he will get to spend a few weeks with his dog, Larry, in Moy.
Birthday/ Marital Status: Ryan was born on November 6, 1978. He is currently 35 years old. He is currently happily single, as far as anyone has been officially told.
Hometown: He is from the tiny village of Moy, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland.
According to wikipedia the population of Moy is 2,129 (as of 2013). This means his entire town is just a little bigger than the population of my old high school.
Pets: No musician's profile is complete without some mention of pets. Ryan's newest pet is a small terrier named Larry, named of course after one of his favorite basketball players. After all the wistful posts we've seen on social media from Ryan about dogs, it was only a matter of time before he added a new dog to his family. Ryan's parents also have a family dog, Molly, and Ryan has a cat, Rory, who he got as a kitten in 2012. Ryan took suggestions from fans to arrive at the name Rory, which of course is also Damian McGinty's character's name on Glee.
Instruments: Voice(singing since he was a small kid), guitar(learned to play starting ~13yrs), tin whistle(he plays this during "Galway Girl"), ?
First “official” performance: First Communion at age seven.
Education: Queen’s University in Belfast- Bachelor of Science in Accounting and also a Graduate Diploma in Advanced Accounting, qualified as a Chartered Accountant. (My sister and I have a theory that somehow accountancy draws in lots of people who really ought to be musicians, and that maybe the folks who try music and find it is not the life for them ought to try accountancy instead. There seem to be a lot of former accountants in music, in any case.)

Bands and Ensembles: Emergency Exit (before Celtic Thunder), Celtic Thunder (2008-2011, 2011-present). I would love to have photos and information to post on Emergency Exit, and the musicians who were in this band alongside Ryan, but unfortunately there seems to be nothing online about them. Brownie points are to be had for anyone who sends me substantiated information on this band and/or any other music projects Ryan was involved with. Also, jpgs of show posters or other imagery from this era of Ryan's music life would be lovely.

Other Music Related Activities:

2003- Finalist in BBC's "Country Cool" TV competition, which led to Ryan performing on stage for the televised 2003 "Children in Need" concert at the Odyssey in Belfast, a show which also included Westlife, Girls Aloud and Simply Red. While this show was indeed broadcast, it also does not appear to exist in any recorded form online now, so this is another item which ought to have photos and video if only I had them to share. And yes, I am still a bit jealous of all the folks who got to see this concert live.

2007- Ryan came in first at the Scor na Sinsear Tyrone County Final, in the Amhranaiocht Aonaoir (Solo singing) event, representing his local GAA club An Mhaigh Tir na nOg. (He sang Danny Boy for this competition.) I wish we had something like the culture surrounding GAA clubs here, btw. I always knew these clubs supported local sports, but I had no idea they did cultural events until I started trying to fact-check a note in a biography on Ryan about some 'Scor' singing competition he won. Again, I wish I had photos or video from this event or from the semi-finals for the Ulster regional competition, which Ryan did not win. I don't know enough about SCOR, and certainly don't know enough Irish Gaelic to happily navigate GAA's SCOR website, but I got the impression from the results archive on that site that Moy has not had a history of winning the county competition in this event- it looked like the last time Moy won this title was in 1974, though I may easily be reading the site wrong.

Ryan sang "Only Our Rivers Run Free" at the Ulster semi-final, and was 'runner up' at this round of the competition. I have to admit (and if/when Ryan ever reads this I may be losing whatever favor I ever had with him for this one) the only good thing I had to say about the last 4 recordings I have heard of this song was that it is shorter than many political tunes the Wolfe Tones played. "Our Nation Once Again" can go on almost literally forever, and "The One Road is almost as interminable. But, Ryan has a much nicer voice than the fellows on the recordings I've heard, so maybe his rendition of "Only Our Rivers Run Free" would be the one that would redeem this song for me. :) [UPDATE: I did find a version of this song that I actually like, so while in general this is still not a song I look forward to hearing, it is possible that this song might turn out pretty good.

Celtic Thunder
Ryan auditioned for the new show Sharon Browne and Phil Coulter were putting together in 2007, and he was among the few who made it through both rounds of auditions. After months of rehearsing and recording, Celtic Thunder performed at the Helix in Dublin for the recording of their very first Celtic Thunder show. Ryan has remained one of the principal singers of Celtic Thunder continuously ever since, except for a brief hiatus during the summer of 2011. Celtic Thunder has appeared on PBS, QVC and various talk shows and news programs throughout the United States and Canada.
They opened the New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade twice, performed for President Obama and his family at the White House, and recently performed a show at the US Pentagon. Ryan also got to sing the US National Anthem for his beloved Boston Celtics at the TD Garden, and while I'm sure he loved singing for the Obamas and for the Pentagon audience, I suspect that if he had to pick just one to do again, Ryan might go for singing at another Celtics game, especially if it meant he would get great seats to the game.
Ryan Kelly has a fondness for musical theater, not just singing, and while we have yet to see him perform musical theater songs from his past shows, he has played a wide range of characters on stage. IMDb mentions that Ryan played Mickey Johnstone in the musical “Blood Brothers” and Judas Iscariot in “Jesus Christ Superstar”, and perhaps when Celtic Thunder takes some time off from the road next year, Ryan can find another musical to keep his musical theater skills from getting too rusty. On stage with Celtic Thunder Ryan takes a 'bad boy' role, singing songs like "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown", "Heartbreaker" and the rogue of the duet "That's a Woman".

Solo Music Projects
In October 2010, Ryan released his debut full-length album, In Time. This album includes a lot of original songs, for the most part not referencing traditional Ireland, but rather drawing from a rock/pop sound and edginess that no doubt is a lot closer to the music he performed with his rock band prior to joining Celtic Thunder. In spring 2012, Ryan joined fellow Celtic Thunder singer Neil Byrne to tour the US East Coast with a show called “Acoustic by Candlelight”. Their setlist included songs from both songers' solo work, along with traditional folk tunes and Celtic Thunder songs, and was very successful. The second leg of this tour, covering the US West Coast with a few more central dates as well, took place in December 2012, and other mini-tours covered still more locations throughout 2013. This duo will be touring Canada next in 2014, and will be promoting their new, long awaited, Acoustic By Candlelight album.

Ryan also has a second solo album out, called "Life", though I have been too poor so far to buy it and it is not available on spotify to hear for free yet. Ryan does post bits of his songs from his new album on his website, though, so I have heard bits and pieces of some of them. After his brush with death 2 years ago this month (he was in the hospital in a coma 2 years ago, for much of June) his new album shows a new appreciation of the fact that he is not dead.

Ryan won the 2011 award for “Top Solo Performer in Concert” from the Irish Music Association, and the award for this was presented to Ryan while he was on the spring 2012 Acoustic By Candlelight tour with Neil. Ryan also received enough votes during the Best in Britain online campaign to remain in the top 20 for the last few months of this online event, though sadly while he ranked higher than the Queen for quite some time, he did not beat out the top entertainers on that site's list. He finished 18th overall, bracketed by J.K. Rowling at 17th, and William Shakespeare at 19th.

2011 Drama
I had removed all mention of this episode of Celtic Thunder history from this profile when it looked like the harassment problem had finally gone away, but as it appears not quite dead after all, here again is briefly what was going on in 2011.
Ryan has been a member of Celtic Thunder since the group was formed back in 2007, but he did leave the group briefly at the end of the spring 2011 promotional tour. The details remain fuzzy, because the whole point of his leaving the group was so he could focus on his private life more. However, by the end of the summer that year Ryan was back in Celtic Thunder, and all information pertaining to what had happened in the intervening months has been pretty much scoured from the internet. Yes, this is exactly why it is so easy for nasty rumors to catch- many fans remember reading posts and other information online that no longer exist, and it is easy to start speculating as to what really happened. I do not know exactly what happened, nor do any other fans, because Ryan has never told any of us what happened. I do know that there was a significant invasion of privacy, his and that of people close to him, and there has been an ongoing issue of at least one of those people being harassed online since. Needless to say, this sort of behavior is not what the Thunderhead fan community supports, but it only takes one crazy 'fan' to keep this sort going.

2012 Accident
Last, but not least, the fact that Ryan scored so high in the Best of Britain rankings is of particular interest because at no point did Ryan post anything about this contest. His nomination and all the reminders to vote were fan-driven, an unusual dynamic for such internet contests anymore. Ryan was actually in the hospital and not online, or even conscious, shortly after this competition started. Early in June (the night of the 2nd here) a message went out over Ryan's facebook stating

“For all those starting to post and ask questions, yes, Ryan is in the hospital, and prayers would be much appreciated. More information will be shared as we can. For now, just love, support and prayers will do- thanks!”

I've said plenty, probably more than enough at this point, about the month that followed this message. Just seeing the text of this dire message again gave me cold chills [and still 2 years later this remains true- Ryan, you are not allowed to ever scare us like that again, ok?], so if you missed this brief but scary chapter in Celtic Thunder history, check out some of the other posts I have on here about Ryan. I'd say that Ryan ought to be careful lest his fans or his producer insist he wear protective pads and a helmet at all times, but seeing as Keith was in an arm-brace for part of the 2012 winter tour, having cut some of his veins and arteries in an ill-fated encounter with some window-glass, I suspect we'll just have to hope that whatever graces have kept these men alive so far will serve them a while longer. Ryan made a full recovery, though he admitted in 2013 that his sense of smell was compromised and was not yet back to normal after his accident.

Ryan did successfully complete the entire 2012 US/Canada tour, the 2013 Australia/ New Zealand tour and another mini-tour with Neil Byrne at the end of 2012 for their Acoustic By Candlelight show. He seemed more committed than ever before to sticking with Celtic Thunder, and was back in fine form for the 2013 Mythology tour. As far as I could tell when I saw him in November 2013, he seems to have recovered and he is quite well, at least till his next adventure.

Useful Links:
Ryan Kelly's website, ReverbNation page, Ryan's Official Facebook page
Celtic Thunder website

Albums, Solo/duo: In Time (2010), Acoustic By Candlelight (2013),
Life (2013)

Albums, Other: Celtic Thunder: Celtic Thunder The Show (2008), Act II (2008), Take Me Home (2009), It's Entertainment! (2010), Celtic Thunder Christmas (2010), Storm (2011), Heritage (2011), Voyage (2012), Voyage II (2012), Mythology (2013)

SOURCES: Almost all the above information on Ryan Kelly was obtained through some combination of his own website, the various relevant pages on the Celtic Thunder website, and from profiles on sites like Reverbnation. Information regarding awards and competitions Ryan participated in was obtained online as well, from the websites of the organizations involved and from other reasonably reliable sources. Some of the information I've included on Ryan is just from my own personal knowledge as a fan who pays attention to Celtic Thunder's activities online and spends way too much time on social media, but whenever possible I have tried to corroborate everything from other sources as well.


  1. Thanks for putting this info together. I really found the Best in Britain online campaign interesting. I have not read that elsewhere. Yeah for Ryan...

  2. Thanks for the info. Did not know about Ryan being 18th in Best of Britain. Quite an accomplishment!

  3. hard to believe Ryan was at the recording studio a mere 10 days after getting out of the hospital and on stage for the taping of mythology --

    looking forward to the release of Ryan's second album (coming soon) but which CD will be released first Ryan's new CD or the amazing ABC CD also set for a "soon release"

  4. Can you enlighten me on this "Profile of Cruelty" website regarding the activity that went on in 2011. Why do they keep documenting everything?

    1. I am just guessing at the moment about which website you are referring to (I think I came across it a while ago, but can't find it now). I do know that there was an element of cyber-harassment involved in the drama that Ryan and his loved ones went through in 2011, and generally people who think it is ok to harass others over the Internet don't just suddenly realize they were wrong and stop. Harassing people online can leave longer-lasting effects, too, since it can be tough to erase everything on the web afterwards. So, documenting everything ensures that false rumors are more easily stopped. Since not all Thunderheads even know THAT anything happened to Ryan in 2011, it is not something that Celtic Thunder or Ryan talks about now- the Celtic Thunder community has moved on. But there are probably still archived chat-room threads, fan pages and other sites that still hold remnants of the nastiness that was going on online during that episode, and some of people who were involved in the cyber-harassment are still online somewhere.

  5. This "Portrait of Cruelty" site is about Anna Kavanaugh and how she is being harassed by some of Ryan's fans. They feel he should somehow get them to stop it or at least acknowledge it. It documents everything and mentions threads that trace these posts to whoever is posting them.

    1. I figured as much. Thanks for the clarification. I can't say for sure, of course, because Ryan has never said what happened, but from what I gathered in 2011 and since, Ryan and Anna were romantically involved, and one or more 'fans' started harassing Anna and starting vicious rumors against her online that developed a lot of traction. Anna and Ryan have both moved on now, but it is quite possible that not all the 'fans' have stopped bugging Anna yet. Since most people don't even know that anything unusual happened in 2011, it is debatable how effective anything Ryan could say would be. The fact is that those 'fans' have victimized both Anna and Ryan, but they are such a minority fringe of the fandom that very few Thunderheads have any clue there is still anything of the sort going on. Bringing it up again, even just to support Anna, might just restart a lot of the drama they managed to minimize back in 2011 by keeping things so quiet. Anna has become involved with the whole cyber-bullying issue as a direct result of her experiences in 2011, and has no doubt done a lot of good for other people who were victims of cyber-bullying in bringing this issue more into focus. It is between her and Ryan though, how much Ryan should say or do on her behalf, since it is still something from their PRIVATE lives that they would be revealing.

  6. I have a couple comments stalled in my queue now on this topic, that I WILL NOT PUBLISH, dealing with Ryan's private, romantic life. I won't do into any details, but I do want to reiterate that I won't encourage irresponsible gossip about Ryan. He's a very nice man who shares himself with all of us to a degree that we as fans never come close to reciprocating, and I think it is very important that he has the freedom to be a grown man in private without his fans having to know all the juicy details. Thanks for all the well-meant comments, but publishing them would perpetuate such violations of Ryan's privacy as I would hate to read, let alone support and publish.

  7. Thank you for snuffing out the inappropriate comments and gossip about Ryan. Dredging up details would only add fire to what I hope has become just a tiny dying ember. Having been a fan of CELTIC Thunder since the beginning and of Ryan & Neil in particular I must say you've done an outstanding job on this site. You really, really need to buy "Life" Ryan's newest solo cd. It is a masterpiece. Cheers!