Country Land music festival set for Belfast’s Balmoral


Lisa McHugh will be performing at Country Land at the Eikon Exhibition Centre
Every May the Logan Hall at Balmoral Park is filled with the sounds of mooing as it hosts the cattle competing at the annual Balmoral Show. This November the only reference to cows will be Carlow singer Derek Ryan singing his hit The Cows Are On The Hill, as the first ever music event takes place at the venue.

Country Land features an array of stars from the Irish country music scene including Lisa McHugh, Mike Denver, Johnny Brady, Tiernan Heffron and more. 

Lisburn’s Eikon Exhibition Centre will be transformed with festival stage and sound systems, a barnyard food court and signature Hoedown Throwdown dance floor for an evening of jiving.

Country stars Lisa McHugh and Derek Ryan will be amongst those performing at the first ever music festival taking place at the Eikon Exhibition Centre, Balmoral Park on November 25


Derek Ryan is one of country music’s most popular stars. He has had a busy summer with his Pure & Simple Tour and playing at festivals, country shows and, most recently, the Páirc Festival in Birmingham alongside Mary Black and Van Morrison.

“It’s great to see people of all ages on the dance floor enjoying themselves. I’m busy every weekend until January, but am really looking forward to this new Country Land festival,” the 40-year-old told me at the launch in Balmoral Park.

A former member of the Irish boy band D-Side in the early noughties, Derek has enjoyed phenomenal success both as a solo artist and as a songwriter for a wide-range of artists including Daniel O’Donnell, Philomena Begley and Foster & Allen.


He has also branched across to other genres, including co-writing and producing The Tumbling Paddies big hit of the summer, The Way.

“I love song writing and working with different people. I’ve a studio in the house now and it’s my thing to do when I want to relax. I just go and write and see who they might suit – whether myself or someone else.

“I use piano and guitar, depending on what type of song it is. I wouldn’t call myself a piano player or anything, but I play enough to write songs. If I’m struggling with a song on guitar, I would swap over to piano and it seems to make a difference.”

Whilst his December album Pure & Simple was inspired by traditional music and songs passed down through generations of his family, his forthcoming album will offer fans something very different.

“I’m working on an album at the moment called A Night Like This and it will be out, hopefully, by October.  

“Whilst the last album was stripped back, this one is full on and a bit of experimentation with a couple of soft rock songs. Obviously, there are loads of jives on there as well.”

His new single, from his forthcoming album, The Kickham Inn will be released later this month.

It is inspired by a pub in Carrick – On – Suir in Tipperary, where his dad, Pat Ryan, used to perform years ago.

“It’s not called that anymore, so the song is about this fictitious imaginary pub which is wild and has that kick you in and kick you out thing going out It’s one of those songs  you get a good feeling about that is going to do well.

Country Land partygoers can expect to hear Derek’s new songs as well as his hits.

“I love opening to Hold On To Your Hat or Your Down on Your Uppers. They are my signature songs and I love when people know them and sing along to them. I never tire of singing my hits live.”

This summer Derek also embarked on a new musical journey with his single Leave Her Johnny, infusing his distinct signature Irish country music sound with maritime folklore.

“I remember loving it as a child. I love to mix things up so I recorded it for a bit of fun.”

As for the songs he’s most proud of, Derek admits they are some of his lesser known ones.

“Many of the ones that don’t get the recognition are my personal favourites. Every now and again I sing them for my own pleasure.


“And I did a duet  with Emma Langford last January, Everywhere With You, that I was proud of as it delved into that folk scene.“

Also looking forward to sharing her new music with country fans at Country Land is Lisa McHugh, whose new album, Watch Me, will be released just in time for the event.

The 35 year-old has been a firm favourite with Irish country fans for over a decade and is delighted to showcase a new side to her, with her first ever album of original material.

“The new album is about female empowerment. I’ve been writing my own songs now for quite a few years now and can’t wait to get it out for the world to hear.

“I’m hoping it will show a different side to me that people haven’t necessarily seen or heard before. It’s really exciting.”

The Enniskillen-based singer began working on the album during her  first songwriting trip to Nashville in 2018, whilst others have just been penned recently.

Some of these, including her 2023 hit I Quit, are a personal response to motherhood.  

“Becoming a mum puts everything into perspective and you realise very quickly what’s important and what isn’t necessarily as important as you would have thought before.


“For example, when you look in the mirror you are very judgemental of yourself. Going to the shops you are afraid of what people think so feel you need to put a face of make-up on in. I Quit was about embracing being yourself and quitting being the thing people wants you to be,” she explains.

Lisa’s son Milo is now 19 months and already showing signs of following in his mother’s footsteps.

“Milo loves music. He loves singing, dancing and banging on the guitar. It’s a constant juggle trying to get the balance right with home life and work life but its great,” she beams.


Lisa McHugh stands inside the huge Logan Hall at Balmoral Park which will be transformed into Country Land on November 31 complete with a sprung dance floor


This time last year, Lisa was making history as the first country artist to perform at Electric Picnic.

“It was a huge honour and great experience. I’m not there this year, but hopefully I will be back again. Glastonbury is in my sights as well.”

Last autumn she also made the international headlines when the American country superstar, who spotted her video of singing a cover of his hit, The River to baby Milo on her sofa at home, commenting on his channel “Oh my gosh, what a beautiful human being, beautiful voice.”

“I sent him a message afterwards to say thank you. To get such genuinely kind comments from a massive star like that was a huge gift.”

Perhaps she could support him if he returns to Croke Park?

“You never know,” she laughs.


Country Land takes place at Balmoral Park on Saturday November 25. For further information and tickets visit Ajspromotions.com/countrylandmusic. Over 18 event. 

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