Ronan Keating interview: ‘Private jets and Pavarotti – it was such a crazy time’
Owner of one of the most familiar voices in British and Irish pop music of the last three decades, Ronan Keating will soon be treating a no doubt eager Cambridge audience to many of his biggest hits.
Reading some news stories about Ronan ahead of our interview, one story that stood out was that the former Boyzone singer, solo star and television and radio presenter, was worried that, despite all his fame and success, people might have forgotten him.
“Well you know it’s 30 years since I started doing this,” laughs Ronan, speaking to the Cambridge Independent via Zoom, “and there’s been so many different evolutions of the style of music that’s out there and the people that are performing it, and there’s only so long you can do something and be relevant.
“That was probably me taking the mick a little bit but you do want to somewhat try and stay current and relevant in some shape or form – and today you have to do different things to do that.
“So whether that’s having your own radio show or being on The One Show as a host or whatever it may be, you find different ways to keep your profile up or to stay in the public eye. But I don’t live in fear of it, not at all.”
The 45-year-old, who has also branched out into acting (a notable film appearance was in 2017’s Another Mother’s Son), has certainly put out some memorable songs throughout his career – including When You Say Nothing at All (memorably featured in the film Notting Hill), Life Is a Rollercoaster, and (with Boyzone) Love Me for a Reason, Baby Can I Hold You, and No Matter What.
Expect to hear all the classics when Ronan, who hosts a show on Magic FM, rolls into the Corn Exchange next week. “A hundred per cent,” the singer confirms.
“That’s the thing; I think especially with this tour because we’ve pushed it back for two years and I have not been able to perform for my audience and they have been... I don’t want to use the word ‘deprived’ because it’s not food, it’s music – but they haven’t been able to listen to that and I want to give them the songs that they want to hear.
“So if that’s Boyzone or if that’s songs that I’ve released that were hits, I’m going to do just that. I’m not going to go on to obscure album tracks or b-sides or anything like that, it’s going to be the songs people want to hear.
“There’s quite a lot of Boyzone songs in there too because I want to celebrate those years as much as my years as a solo artist.”
A much-loved quintet (then a quartet following the untimely death of the group’s other lead vocalist Stephen Gately in 2009), Boyzone were put together in 1993 by former X Factor judge Louis Walsh as an Irish alternative to Take That.
Does Ronan cringe when he looks back at footage from the early days of the band, or does he view it as that’s just who he was back then? “Oh absolutely, I’ve got a lot of pride,” he says. “I love showing the videos to my kids.
“My eldest kids are 23 and 21 and my youngest are five and two, and obviously the older ones will be privy to a lot of stuff but the younger ones not at all.
“So to go back in and show them who daddy was when he was 25 years of age or 21 years of age, or 16 and 17, is brilliant. I have great pride in it and I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for those years.”
Understandably, Ronan reflects on that whole period as a very exciting time. “Yeah, it was – the 90s for Boyzone were incredible. The first year that we went out on the road and we ran around the place doing nightclub gigs trying to establish ourselves, very quickly we catapulted into fame and from the moment of our first hit, Love Me for a Reason, it was just good news.
“And Keith [Duffy, fellow Boyzone member] and I often talk about that. There was just good news all the time – all the time it was number ones and sell-out tours... It went from strength to strength, it was a magic time for pop music, for Boyzone, so yeah, you look back on it with rose-coloured lenses for sure.”
Sharing further memories of that time, Ronan, whose most recent album Songs from Home came out in 2021, says: “One of the key moments for me would be singing with Pavarotti in Modena.
“We came off stage in Dublin, sang to 35,000 sell-out at the RDS [Arena], jumped on a private jet and flew to Modena and sang with Pavarotti.
“I mean, just ridiculous; all of those words that I just used there – ‘sell-out’, ‘35,000’, ‘private jet’. Some young kid from Northside in Dublin, when did I ever think that was ever going to happen to me? So for all of these dreams that came true it’s just ridiculous, it was crazy – I feel very blessed.”
For anyone hoping to see and hear more from Boyzone, Ronan has some potentially upsetting news “We’re done, we wrapped it up in 2019,” he says. “We had 25 great years and we called it a day in 2019 with a wonderful, successful world tour that took us everywhere – places Boyzone hadn’t been in the 90s. China... unbelievable – just amazing tours, amazing dates, venues. It was outrageous.”
One of the other news stories I saw when preparing for the interview was that Ronan’s daughter Missy, 21, may be appearing on Love Island. Is there any truth to that rumour? “I don’t know anything about that,” he replies. “I mean you know more than I do if that’s the case!”
At the present time Ronan is busy preparing for the tour. “I feel I’ve got a lot of work to do getting myself match-fit for the shows,” he states, “so I’m getting fit, getting healthy, getting the immune system strong and ready for it because I’m doing a lot of shows back-to-back. You don’t want to be getting sick, you don’t want to be getting any bugs...
“So yeah, just getting ready for that, that’s what I’m doing musically. I released two albums in two years – last year and the year previous [2020’s Twenty Twenty] so I’m going to take a break from releasing music for a while and just tour for the next couple of years, and then I might start writing later in the year for another album in a couple of years’ time.”
Ronan did quite a lot of writing during lockdown and also found other ways to occupy his time. “I brought an album out in 2020, called Twenty Twenty,” he recalls, “and in the year previous to that – 2019 into 2020 – I did my writing and recording and I got that album ready.
“Then I was busy through the back end of 2020 and [early] 2021 with radio and One Show and other stuff that I’d got on – my family were building a home...
“So for me now it’s touring time; get my touring hat on and do that for the next couple of years, and then off the back of that I’ll get ready for another album, but it’ll be a while before I do that.”