The Co Down man with many talents tells Maureen Coleman how his beloved late mum Pauline inspired him to follow his dreams.

He made his name as a presenter, comedian and DJ but Co Down man Ryan Hand is set to add a few more strings to his bow this year. 

For a start, the Q Radio host, who also presents segments from Northern Ireland for the BBC’s The One Show, has written a children’s book called Amazing Archie, The Singing Sensation, which is on sale this month. 

But Ryan has been keeping another skill something of a secret – the Newcastle lad can sing. Teaming up with local popstar and producer Jessica Hammond, Ryan recorded his debut, self-penned track Missing You at Christmas last month and the plan for 2023 is to pursue a long-held ambition of writing songs and releasing his own music. 

And of course, his beloved mum Pauline, who died from ovarian cancer in 2008 and who was his main cheerleader, is never far from his thoughts or his intentions. 

“In the children’s book, the first page is a tribute to mum,” says Ryan, who was 20 when Pauline passed away. 

“And the song Missing You at Christmas, well, of course that was inspired by mum.  

“She got me my first electric guitar when I was a kid and I started writing music, thinking, like young lads do, of bands like Blink-182 or Nirvana. 

“I wrote a poem for mum’s funeral and the song-writing is just an extension of that. I’ve written a few songs about her.  

“I didn’t plan to write it. I just came up with a lyric about footsteps in the snow and it kind of snowballed from that, if you’ll pardon the pun.” 

Ryan played the track for a few people who suggested he should record it. Over the years he had written many songs and had daydreamed about releasing his material. Now he had the chance to let industry professionals hear his music and critique it. 

At Black Studios in Dundonald, production team Jessica Hammond and Matty Graham worked their magic on Ryan’s song. He was encouraged to drop the guitar from the track and include piano and sleighbells to give it a more festive sound. Jessica, a former contestant on TV talent show The Voice, also gave him singing tips. Within a day, the track was ready for release and Ryan was bitten by the bug. 

“I think when I was younger, I was just too shy to sing,” he says. 

“I remember my friend’s mum was trying to teach me the guitar and the song was Eric Clapton’s Wonderful Tonight. 

“She was trying to get the voice out of me but I was holding back; sitting there all embarrassed with a bright red face. 

“My mum wasn’t a singer at all. She was similar to me in that I’m notoriously bad when it comes to knowing the right lyrics. 

“It’s easier to write my own music. That way I’ll never forget what I’m singing.” 

Watching the success of Ireland’s own Dermot Kennedy, Ryan believes the quickest way to make a name in the industry is to write one’s own songs. Apart from Kennedy, he also admires the song-writing skills of Lewis Capaldi, Dua Lipa, Lizzo and Crossmaglen’s rising star Odhran Murphy. 

While a few of his songs are slow-paced, most are ‘guitar-based pop’ and ‘dancey, housey stuff’. He likes to mix it up and says the songs he has written so far are mainstream commercial with catchy hooks and choruses. 

His plan for this year is to record and release more tunes and explore a new direction which he had previously put to the back of his mind. He is also set to appear in a new BBC network cookery show hosted by Colin Murray and Edith Bowman. Then there’s his children’s book out this month and a second book already underway. 

“I had an idea for a while about a young lad aged 13, who goes to a second-hand clothing stall in London and buys a jacket,” says Ryan. 

“What he doesn’t know is that it belonged to an all-singing/all-dancing Hollywood superstar in the 1960s and the jacket has magic powers. 

“He accidentally enters a talent show and goes viral. But when he loses his luggage, he thinks he can’t perform without the jacket. 

“There’s a positive message in there when he’s told that the magic was in him all along and wasn’t down to the jacket. It’s a feel-good story about believing in yourself and I think that’s important for kids to hear.” 

Though a shy child himself, his mum believed that he could do anything he set his mind to and encouraged him to follow his dreams. 

When the BBC advertised a training course for presenters, Ryan, who was working in Maud’s ice-cream parlour in Newcastle at the time, decided to give it a go but almost missed the deadline for applications. 

Pauline, however, jumped in the car and drove to Belfast so her son could hand in his application in time. He got the job and started with the BBC two months after her death. 

Although he would give anything to have one more day with his mum, he says he knows he is blessed to be surrounded by strong women. His girlfriend Christine is a huge support as are his three sisters Jacqueline, Donna and Joanne. And he says he knows his mum would be proud of the man he’s become and backing his dreams and ambitions all the way. 

“Every time I bump into mum’s friends in the street down home, they tell me how proud she would be of me,” Ryan says. 

“She loved radio and TV so would have been so excited about me landing those gigs.  

“Mum was my big motivator. She was always beside me, flying the flag. 

“I was 20 when she died and at that age, we had become good pals and were hanging out together. 

“I wish I’d been able to bring her on the journey with me but I’ll be thinking about her, as ever, every step of the way.” 

Apple App Store
Android Store

Leave a comment