He’s just back from a trip to South Africa, and briefly goes off the camera to help his daughter push a pram presumably up the stairs.
The Irish charm is very evident and throughout our conversation we can’t help but gently hum along mentally to When You Say Nothing At All. Which, when you think about it, is not the most appropriate song to play in your mind when face-to-face virtually with one of the most celebrated (and need we say extremely good-looking at the cost of sounding superficial) singer-songwriters out there, Ronan Keating.
He’s got a repertoire that plays out like a love-lorn theme of one’s romantic escapades down the years. There is no escaping the fact that conversing with Keating, whose music has been the soundtrack to most of your life, is a surreal moment.
“I love music myself; I love how music makes me feel,” he says by way of explaining how it feels to have his songs play out across the globe as a beacon of love and hope. “I love where it takes me. It can transport you to a time and a place (gives a flick of his thumb) instantly.”
He goes on to add that like most artists he has had a tough time during the pandemic. “I have struggled over the last two years mentally not having the outlet of performance which is something I’ve been doing since 16 years of age.”
Happy to be on stage
Keating was selected from an audition advertised in Irish newspapers for the build up of a boy band by talent manager Louis Walsh. Boyzone came into existence in 1993 with Mikey Graham, Keith Duffy, Stephen Gately, Shane Lynch and Keating. They were the first Irish act to have four No. 1 hits in the United Kingdom charts. They broke many sales records and No Matter What is said to be the biggest selling record for any boy band.
After 6 years they split to pursue solo careers; came together after 7 years in 2008 to embark on another series of record-breaking world tours. The tragic death of Gately in 2009 hit them hard but the band still brought out chart topping albums and in 2018 released their last album together so far, Thank You & Goodnight, the tour for which brought them to Dubai as well. Keating has had a stellar career away from the band, performing with Elton John at Madison Square Gardens, singing for the Pope, and a stint as a judge on X Factor Australia.
The dapper 45-year old is looking forward to heading to the city where he has performed with Boyzone, shot a music video, and hosted a charity gala among other things. The pandemic has impacted artists badly and he says only time can tell the toll it has taken on him. But for now he is happy to get back on stage to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day at the Coca-Cola Arena on March 18.
“Its been a real struggle and it has had a major affect on me,” he admits. “To get back on stage again on the 18th is such a joy. The Coca-Cola Arena looks incredible. I appreciate my songs being a part of other people’s lives because it is a huge part of my life.”
He is most excited because he will be performing solo in Dubai after nearly 15-20 years and he can’t wait to get back to the city where besides the concert he is looking forward to catching up with friends, exploring the night life, and just enjoying the sun in “the most magnificent jewel of a city”. Excerpts from our Zoom conversation:
How does it feel to get back on stage in Dubai?
It’s always nice to play a shiny new arena. It is going to be incredible. Every one is going to be happy with the set list I have put together for the night because there are no curve balls; it is just the songs people want to hear. There is also some Boyzone in there for people who want to get their Boyzone fix. You just take the lid off and I am ready to go. It’s been 2 years since I have been held back. I’m like a racehorse that is ready to go and is held back in the traps!
Your songs are as relevant today as they were when you first sang them. What makes them so evergreen?
The choice of songs… finding the right songs whether you write them or record some one else’s songs. It is the message in them, and the sound.
Working with producers and making those songs sound timeless is really very important. Producers like Stephen Lipson who I worked with on When You Say Nothing At All, who worked with Annie Lennox. When you listen to Annie’s songs from the Diva album, they too stand the test of time; you could listen to it any year and they are still relevant.
So I think the producer who I worked with over the years really put the stamp on it, that allows the song to live forever.
At 16 you had it all — mass hysteria, fan adulation, world tours. But looking back what advice would you give your younger self?
Don’t take yourself too seriously. I wish I had been able to enjoy it more in the 90s — it went by in a blur and I took it seriously. I mean that’s important; you’ve got to take it seriously, but I didn’t get to just lap it up, because the next day we were on a plane and then we were in the next city and then on to the next city.
I didn’t get to enjoy it; didn’t get to see the places I was in, feel the energies like I should have and really celebrate the success that we had.
Is it better now?
Yeah. I get to experience the towns, the cities, and the people. I’m 45 now and for me life is meant for living.That’s the thing you realise as you get older; it’s about living your life experiences with the people you love, so I make the most of that everyday.
How do you balance it out today?
The family comes with me as much as possible. We were in South Africa for a big charity event and Storm (his wife) and I brought the young kids. The older ones are here (in the UK) they have got jobs or are at school, so it is harder for them to travel. But as much as possible we travel as a unit. It is very important. I want them to get the chance to experience things like I have.
As part of Boyzone you were probably used to leaning on each other. What are the joys and challenges of being a solo performer?
I enjoy that it’s my time; it is me, the decisions I make, that’s on me; the creative moments I pour into it, they come from me. When I’m solo on stage doing my thing, it’s just me and that is a powerful feeling.
I miss the camaraderie (of the band) and I miss the friendship, the brotherhood, the humour, the bubble that we created around us, that protects you. It also has a certain energy that is hard to replace. So I miss that in the band but from a solo point of view I love that energy of pouring my heart into it — what you see is what you get.
Along with your music you have also worked for raising awareness on breast cancer through the Marie Keating Foundation. What is the most important message you want people to take away from this?
That early detection is your biggest chance of survival. “Educating people about cancer has always been the most important message from the Marie Keating Foundation because when our mom died, she died of the most curable form of breast cancer which is heart breaking. She could still be with us today if we had caught it earlier, so education is key. My mom’s generation was scared to go to the doctor and get the breast checked. As men today we are scared to go and get our testicles checked. We are scared to get bad news or scared of the big C. (We need) to shake that off and be body aware; listen to your body, listen to the messages that your body is trying to give you, and take action. You know, go to the doctor and say — ‘Oh I’ve got a pain, I’m not feeling too well, I’m tired’. Just go and ask the question. You want to live a long, healthy life.
Catch Ronan Keating Live as part of St Patrick's Day celebration at the Coca-Cola Arena on March 18. The concert is managed by Navin Rishi’s Speed Entertainment Dubai and By Arrangement with Solo.For tickets go to Platinumlist.net, Bookmyshow.com, coca-cola-arena.com
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