Ronan Keating, Destination Down Under

By Paul Cashmere

Ronan Keating is a boyband survivor. His boyband band Boyzone sold over 12 million albums. After Boyzone broke up, Ronan went solo with a hit album Ronan and sold another 4.4 million albums. He has lapped a few world tours and recorded the lead song in the Hollywood big budget flick "Notting Hill".

Now 25 and married with children, the career of Ronan Keating is heading to a new podium. His new album Destination is a joint creation with New Radical Greg Alexander and is set to establish Ronan at that next music tier, away from his original pop star origins. Here is a guy totally comfortable with who he was and who he has become. He sat down for a round table discussion with Undercover Executive Producer Paul Cashmere, MX Journalist Carla Danaher and Shane Cooper.

Carla Danaher: With everything you've done Ronan, don't you think you should be retiring about now?

Ronan Keating: Oh no. It is only the beginning. I know people say "you are 25, you are married, you have kids, you have done this, you have done that" but it is only the beginning. I was only learning when I was in Boyzone. It was a stepping stone to do this for me.
This album I feel is my first album. With the other albums I was trying to find my feet musically with producers and songwriters. I feel now I have finally found a sound I am comfortable with. People are only starting to get to know me now. When you are in a band, it is five people's opinion. When you are in a boy band you get labeled as being in a boy band and people don't allow you to be anything else. So it takes time for people to find out who you are and I think it is only happening now.

Shane Cooper: I was so surprised to hear you are only 25. Had you ever dreamed you would sell 16 million records?

Ronan Keating: No. I was in a band before Boyzone. I was in a rock band. We didn't have a deal. We were only kids at school. I wanted to do it. I wanted to be out there like Jon Bon Jovi rocking. I never imagined I could do it. I never imagined I could be in Australia and people would know my name. It is the oddest thing in the world. I love it. I have a passion for it. I'm a lucky fella.

Paul Cashmere: On to the album "Destination". It is a joint piece of work with Greg Alexander, who we all know here as the guy from New Radicals and that bloody Mitsubishi ad on TV.

Ronan Keating: Did it make an ad, that song?

Paul Cashmere: Yeah, the Mitsubishi ad. Considering the sound he has which is so dominant, was it a concern for you when you went into the studio that his sound would over take yours?

Ronan Keating: Yeah definitely. When you work with any producer that can happen to be honest. Not so much with songwriters, but producers when they work always have the same sound. I worked with Pat Leonard on the first record and he had worked with Madonna and on so many records. I worked with so many people with different sounds. With Greg or with any producer you have to make the record sound like your own. The one thing that people say I have is a distinctive voice so people know it is me. Then, I got involved with the production of the record as much as I could so this time round it is a body of work with a consistency through the album, a similar sound. I have never had that before. The albums I have made in the past, because I had so many song writers and producers, the sound went all over the place. With this one it is for me this time around.

Paul Cashmere: I have heard you refer to him as ...

Ronan Keating: Bernie, I call him Bernie.

Paul Cashmere: Okay, well I have also heard you refer to him as your Guy Chambers.

Ronan Keating: People always compare me with Robbie (Williams) and I hate that because people always want to wrap you up in the same blanket as other people if they come from the same area. Whatever. Robbie has had Guy Chambers through his whole career and has helped him become who he is today. Again, definitely, as a songwriter myself I need someone like Greg to help me and to take some of the songs out of me because I can't do it all the time. He helps me. Just like Elton John needs Bernie Taupin, I need Greg.

Carla Danaher: The album leads off with a country ballad "If Tomorrow Never Comes". That is an interesting choice.

Ronan Keating: It is an interesting choice. For me the first single was going to be "Love Don't Work If We Don't Try". We had done the whole thing, even the artwork had "Love Don't Work If We Don't Try" on it. We were ready before Christmas. I spent time with the album, I listened to the record over Christmas and I thought there was something not quite there. I went back to the drawing board and I listened to the first album and I just thought that I was missing that one sound that I had had for 9 years. You know that Boyzone ballad type of song. I had heard Garth (Brooks) perform live 6 years ago in a football stadium. I am not a fan out country music but when Garth Brooks came to Dublin everybody went. He did like three nights in a football stadium. It was like Michael Jackson. So we went along. It was a massive production and he walked out into a little circle on the stage with a guitar and sang this song and I thought I have to record that tune. So I did just shortly after that. It never saw the light of day, so I thought this was a perfect time for it to happen. It is the first single off this album.

Shane Cooper: Is it a little frustrating when radio chooses to play the dance mixes?

Ronan Keating: Yes it is. I didn't make this record for it to be turned into a dance record but there is nothing I can do about it. Even if I choose to say no to it someone will do it and it will be turned into a dance record somewhere. They will just do it anyway. At the end of the day, there are certain markets that aren't fond of ballads. It happened in Europe as well. I remember hearing Enrique's "Hero" record around Europe. I was travelling and hearing this dance remix of Hero being played. It is such a beautiful song, why would they want to do that to it? There is nothing you can do about it. I hope people like the song enough to go and by the single and hear the song in its true form.

Shane Cooper: Do you get to choose who remixes your singles?

Ronan Keating: I did on this one. Someone was going to do it anyway, so I had to agree to it. We did it through the London office. My A&R guy would get in touch with a few people. It is the same guy who did Enrique's one. That's why I chose to do it.

Paul Cashmere: On your forthcoming tour, will you be sourcing the entire catalogue and dipping into the Boyzone material?

Ronan Keating: No, I might do one or two more than what I have done in the rest of the world because I haven't had a chance to tour here. Boyzone didn't tour here so I might do a few of the Boyzone songs for that reason. Boyzone obviously toured in the UK and Europe and the fact I have done two or three tours in the rest of the world as a solo artist now, I think I should do a couple of Boyzone songs when I come down. I think it is only right. Maybe "No Matter What" or "You Needed Me", some of my favorites."Picture of You", who knows.

Paul Cashmere: That Boyzone split. Is it totally over?

Ronan Keating: Yeah. We are over. We had six great years. We went out on top with a number one album and single. We had four number1 albums. We were very lucky. Not a lot of bands can say that.

Paul Cashmere: The U2 video was a marvelous marketing exercise. They benefited from your younger audience and you benefited from their credibility.

Ronan Keating: Exactly, very much so. There was a lot of cred there to be put in the same video as the lads. They just called. I remember talking to Bono at a social do. He said he was making this video and the whole idea was for his wife because he had missed her birthday. He was trying to make a video that said "sorry". We had worked with Ali, his wife, quite a few times and she is very much involved in Ireland with various charities. She was quite fond of Boyzone, so, it was a bit of a joke between us all. He sent us this brilliant fax after the video with 5 rings, one for each of us. It said "what do you call 5 guys who pull you out of a rut when you are in trouble with your Missus... Boyzone". He drew this picture of 5 lads, little stick men. It was really cool. It was a great honour to be in the video.

Shane Cooper: Are you aware of a gay following left over from your Boyzone days?

Ronan Keating: Yeah. At least with every album I get the chance to do the G.A.Y. show in the UK. It is a club show that we do. Boyzone did it, and I did it on the last album and I am sure it will be coming up soon. It is great fun. I know the promoters very well. Every night you can be sure of one of the best audiences I can play for. They love all that. It is great fun. With Boyzone, there was a very large gay following. Then, when Stephen came out it opened it up even more. I don't know if I see it as much now as a solo artist as I did with Boyzone. I don't know if it has faded away. I don't see it as much but I support it as much as possible.

Carla Danaher: How is your acting career going? Didn't you try out for Moulin Rouge?

Ronan Keating: I did try out for Moulin Rouge. I was in New York when Baz Lurhmann called and asked me to try out for it. I was a fan of the Romeo and Juliet movie so I went along and sang a few songs and read from the script. I was crap. So I didn't make it. Ewan got it. He told me I did well but I know he was lying. I met him at the Grammy's in February and he said he had another project coming up and would keep me in mind. We'll see what happens.

Paul Cashmere: Well, you did have success in a movie in Notting Hill.

Ronan Keating: Yeah with the song "When You Say Nothing At All". It was a great moment for me. This is why I became a solo artist. Richard Curtis came to me after the 3rd Boyzone album, going into the 4th. He asked me to record the song for the movie, not an album, just a song. A voice that fits the shoes. He knew where the song was going. I knew the song, the Alison Krauss version, so I went in and it just took off. They asked me then to do promotion for the single and go to the premieres. It was a smash around the world. Even the US it fed into. The company then came to me and asked me to make a record. It was something I wanted to do but didn't know when the right time was. It was perfect. It just happened.

Paul Cashmere: Did you go to the cinema to hear the song?

Ronan Keating: The one I went to was the premiere in London. I had met Hugh Grant before but never Julia Roberts. She came over to me and gave me a big hug and said the song made her cry first time she heard it. I don't know if that is true or not, but she said the song made her cry. It was really nice. She didn't have to say that. It was very kind. It was like a seal of approval on the record. It was brilliant. I was sitting beside Rowan Atkinson at the premiere (you know Mr Bean). The song came on and he starts nudging me in the seat beside me. It was great. It was brilliant.

Shane Cooper: How difficult is it to mix family with being a popstar?

Ronan Keating: I don't spend any more than 10 days at one time away from my family. I didn't get married and have kids to be away from them. This is the end of the trip now. I know I am going home tomorrow. You know what it is like when Christmas comes around. You just cave in. I am feeling that now and can't wait to get home. My wife understands. She is great. She lets me do what I do and then the time we spend at home is quality time.

Shane Cooper: Was she a fan of Boyzone when you met her?

Ronan Keating: Possibly not. I don't think so. She was a bit of a rock chick. She didn't like my stuff too much. We knew each other for a few years beforehand. We had this great friendship. There was a group of us who hung out in Dublin. We were just good mates, drinking. We literally just hung out together and had a laugh. The more we hung out the better I got to know her. It just happened one night. I got up some Dutch courage one night and told her. It was great having that friendship. There was no awkwardness. There was no first date business. It was lovely.

Paul Cashmere: Your son would almost be old enough to realize he has a pop star father by now, wouldn't he?

Ronan Keating: He is three now. He is more into Power Rangers and Bob The Builder than daddy's music. I try not to bring it home. I don't have any discs hanging on the wall. I don't do anything like that to push it on them. Even when I'm out with the kids and people ask for a photo I say "not when I'm with my family". I don't mind signing autographs but not a photograph. It is hard for them to understand. Autographs and photographs I do all day but when I am with my kids it is their time. I try not to push it on them. As hard as it is going to be I want them to grow up away from it.

Shane Cooper: Does he get excited with daddy's video comes on after Bob the Builder?

Ronan Keating: He goes "daddy". Who knows, maybe he thinks everyone's daddy does this. Maybe he thinks I am Bob.

Paul Cashmere: What do you think of the whole Pop Idol thing? Are you aware that Greg Alexander wrote the hit in Australia by the guy who won here? (Scott Cain "I'm Moving On")

Ronan Keating: No. He didn't tell me that. Greg wrote that? Oh fuck, I'm getting on the phone. He's getting a slagging when I get home over that one. That is mileage for me now.

Paul Cashmere: Your mentoring days of Westlife. Is that over now?

Ronan Keating: Yeah. I kind of used the term very loosely. I got them a record deal and I picked the songs on the first album. I moulded the whole thing at the beginning. After that there was no more I could do for them. They had to learn on their own so off they went. They have done a great job. I am no longer involved. Just good friends.

Paul Cashmere: Would you do it again?

Ronan Keating: I don't know much about management. I would definitely help someone again if I believed in them and felt they had a chance.

Shane Cooper: Who inspires you musically?

Ronan Keating: George Michael is someone I have always looked up to from his transition from Wham to solo artist and right into today. His has kept it real and I am a fan. I loved his last single. It was as cool as it gets. It was great. I am looking forward to hearing the album. The Daft Punk stuff he has done is going to be very exciting. I had older brothers and sisters so I was listening to their music growing up from Cat Stevens to Squeeze. We had everything going on in the house. I liked a lot of that. The first record I ever bought was "Last Christmas" by Wham. There's two ends of the spectrum there from Squeeze to Wham. My record collection is very mixed.

Paul Cashmere: Your new album will be out around the same time as the new Oasis album. You seem to be always competing with Oasis.

Ronan Keating: Love Me For A Reason came out the same time as their first single in the UK for Boyzone and pretty much since then we have been banging them out at the same time. I don't anyone who would buy an Oasis album would buy my album, so I think we are all right, you know.

Ronan Keating tour dates 2002:

FRIDAY JULY 12 SYDNEY ENTERTAINMENT CENTRE
SATURDAY JULY 20 BRISBANE ENTERTAINMENT CENTRE
MONDAY JULY 22 MELBOURNE ROD LAVER ARENA
WEDNESDAY JULY 24 ADELAIDE ENTERTAINMENT CENTRE
FRIDAY JULY 26 PERTH ENTERTAINMENT CENTRE

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