It’s been a while since we’ve heard from Ronan Keating. And a rather long one in fact, 6 years to be exact. Having rapidly shot to stardom at an early age while with Boyzone, Keating continued to rise to fame with hit releases such as “When You Say Nothing At All”. And yet despite his international success, Keating remains modest about his achievements, and hopes that fans will continue to show their support for his music.

Having taken such a long pause, Keating’s new album release “FIRES” hopes to provide optimism for his listeners, as it has for him. In an interview in November, Popspoken speaks to Keating to find out more about his new album, his experience, and his thoughts about not-quite-random little things as well:

ALBUM & MUSIC

Q: Tell us more about your new album

A: It’s great to be back, firstly, after 6 years of not making new music, records like “Songs For My Mother”… they were kind of concept albums – great fun and great to be proud of that and to create those but they weren’t new tracks where I was back in the studio to write and record again.

So for me it was a bit of a battle to find out who I was as an artist, where I was going and what sort of music I wanted to make after that long amount of time. And it was like a light bulb went off, it was just “Yeah, I need to make a pop record” and that made sense to me at the time. So the twelve months after that, it was just a wonderful. It flowed, it was very natural for me to make this record and sound the way it did. It was a really healthy and creative time.

Q: Were you nervous about meeting expectations since it has been a few years ago since you last released an album?

A: I guess I was nervous. I hadn’t been on the radio for quite some time. Making records is one thing but getting back on radio with new songs is a big deal. And I wanted to be current again, you know, you wanna get back on you listen to Justin Beiber and Katy Perry and stuff on the radio and think “I can do that… I can do this…”

So it was nice working on the record and start taking different routes with the songs and working on dance tracks, working with rap artist and coming up with this album, which for me is, just the best piece of work I’ve ever been personally involved in. I loved it.

Q: The new album seems a bit different. It’s Pop but it’s got a different vibe to it, compared to your past records. Did you do anything different or new while coming up with the songs?

A: Well what I did do, my god well it’s 12 years since my last album, I decided I was going back to Pop music and that was it. I wanted to make a Pop record, pure Pop. And I worked with a team, I worked with my management, which is something I never did before really. You know, I worked very closely and took their advice rather than do it all myself this time. I thought I needed to see what other people think of what I’m doing and where I’m going. And these I people I really trusted in, you know, my best friends. And it was a real healthy thing to do, to listen to people’s opinions of what you’re doing and sometimes its difficult. Because they might not say what you want them to say. And I think we’re all like that a little bit. You know, we want people… sometimes we ask people questions but we don’t want to hear the answer. So, it was a healthy thing to do and I would probably work that way more in the future.

Image Credit: Laura Nickles for Popspoken

Image Credit: Laura Nickles for Popspoken

Q: Your music has always been very vocally and lyrically driven. Do you see your music going towards the electro- genre?

A: Well I tried some new things on this album. There’s a song called ‘Oxygen’, which is a proper form of a dance track, which is something I hadn’t really done before and I really enjoyed it. You know, I just saw so much of these dance tracks as disposable, without enough meaning. It’s funny, I was having this conversation with someone yesterday and the Swedish House Mafia track “Don’t You Worry Child” – brilliant song, that for me is one of those first proper dance tracks that connected with youth. But the message in it is not the usual “Oh baby, I’m gonna get you in the night club and do this… then I’m gonna do that…” and all this rubbish that you hear. It’s actually about a father talking to a son and it’s a really clever little story, and I thought “Yeah! I like this!”

My son introduced me to the track, and I loved that. He’s 13 years of age and he’s telling me about Swedish House Mafia and this track. You know, that’s cool. That shows that you can make this really cool dance track but you don’t have to be talking about champagne, or what Lamborghini you’re driving, or what lady you’re gonna get in the nightclub you know. Who cares?

Q: Why did you pick the name ‘Fires’?

A: For me, well… Before the invention of light, fire was a beacon that allowed us to find our way. And boats that were traveling across the ocean, to see the coast at night, they would see fires. And I guess I wanted this album to be for people a beacon, to show them a lot of hope and light, and to get through difficult times because it’s an album about optimism and hope. 

Q: Could you sum up ‘Fires’ in one sentence?

A: Oh, it’s so hard! I guess I got back to what’s real. I was gonna call the album “Get Back to What’s Real”, it’s one of the tracks on the album… and I didn’t. I called it “Fires” haha but that to me is what kinda what the album is about, getting back to pop music. Yeah… Thank you! Really appreciate it!

CAREER & EXPERIENCE

Q: If you were 19 again, what would you do differently?

A: I wouldn’t take myself so seriously. When I was 16, 17, 18 in Boyzone, I was so busy with the band and traveling, that Boyzone slipped me. It got away. I didn’t appreciate it enough. And I think you know, I look at One Direction and I look at Wanted and these bands that are starting now, the collective bunch of lads that I mentored on ‘X Factor’ in Australia, I say to them just to enjoy it, you know, live it. It’s amazing. It’s the best job in the world!

Q: What has been the biggest challenge in your career?

A: Longevity. When you get things wrong and you need to come back, and you’re worried, you know… that’s the risk – that you come out with the wrong album, you get it wrong, and you try to correct it, do it right. But still, being here after 20 years is for me is my greatest achievement. I couldn’t ask for more than that.

Q: How do you feel Pop music has evolved since Boyzone?

A: It’s funny because I was just talking about how it goes in a cycle. You know we had boy bands and girl bands back in the 90’s. We had Spice Girls, Boyzone, and then it evolved and went into Brit Pop where we had Oasis and Blur. And then you had Rock music and your solo artists and it changes in a cycle. It’s in cycle all the time.

Over the last few years we had the Katy Perry’s and the Adele’s, and the Emeli Sandé, and all the female artists. And it seems to be back with boy bands and girl bands, Pop music again. You know, we’ve got The Wanted, One Direction and Little Mix, and all these bands coming out again. I think it’s great, I love pop music. I’m a pop baby! I love it!

Q: How has your experience been in the X Factor?

A: I’ve really enjoyed it. You know after, enough time in the industry, I now feel confident enough to sit in the panel to tell people what I feel is right and wrong. I couldn’t have done it 10 years ago because I wouldn’t have felt that I’ve had the experience. But I’ve loved it, you’re a one-man record company, picking songs, haircuts, outfits, you know you’re a one-man marketing team and a sales team, everything all in one. It’s a lot of fun. I’ve actually learnt a lot about my own career, by sitting there and telling these guys about theirs. It’s been a healthy thing.

NOT-QUITE-RANDOM LITTLE THINGS

Q: Do you have any quirks or is there anything that you must do before you perform?

A: Well I have something that I do. I take time out, I lock my dressing room door, I play some music, I drink special tea for my throat, I start to warm up my vocal cords and hum, I say my prayers, and you know, ask God to get me through the gig without forgetting the words without losing my voice and without anybody getting hurt haha.

The very last thing I do is I sing a Frank Sinatra song, and I have to. It’s a really weird thing but it was Barry Gibb told me that he always sang Frank Sinatra before he went on stage because of the range… Frank Sinatra’s range was so good for warming your vocal cords that he always sang Frank Sinatra. So I started to do that and now, out of habit, I’m worried that if I don’t do it it’ll be unlucky. So I have to sing this song every time I go on stage. So I sing a Frank Sinatra song.

Q: What song is that?

A: ‘Love’s been good to me’ It’s called.

Q: So, besides Frank Sinatra, what other artists do you like listening to?

A: Everything. Ray LaMontagne, John Mayer, Justin Beiber, One Direction, I like all sorts of music. I love pop music but I love good heartfelt singer-songerwriters. Damien Rice… everything.

Q: What’s the best live concert that you’ve ever attended?

A: I saw Coldplay last week in Sydney. It was amazing… AMAZING. I mean, like goose bumps – even thinking about it right now. I don’t know if they played live here… Unbelievable production. 50,000 people and they gave everybody a wristband. Three different colors, and these wristbands had lights all around it. And they pressed a button at certain times and the whole stadium lit up. 50,000 wristbands… STUNNING! It was just a work of genius. And Chris is a great front man, a great performer! So that was one of the best live gigs.

But if I’m being honest, seeing U2 live, Pasadena, 4 years ago in the Rose Bowl on the 360 tour was probably the best live show I’ve ever seen. They are AMAZING live. Bono is just the best front man in the world. He’s just brilliant. And he happens to be Irish, which is a bonus haha.

Q: There’s a little tip that you auditioned for a role in The Hobbit. Can you tell us which role and why did you decide to audition?

A: Yes! It was for the elf warrior, similar to Orlando Bloom’s role in Lord of the Rings. I really wanted the role. It would have been amazing! I mean this is a huge $200-300 million project. You know, shot in New Zealand, Peter Jackson, Guillermo del Toro – amazing producer-director combo. Would have been brilliant. And the first film world premieres next week in New Zealand, so exciting. But I didn’t get it! I was too tall! Haha to play the hobbit I had to be short so sorry… haha silly joke. I just guess I wasn’t ready. But it was a good experience to try out for something that big. I’ve been reading for films for 10 years and it took me some time for directors to believe in me.