He's been busy releasing a solo album of Burt Bacharach songs earlier this year, and is back working as a mentor and judge on X-Factor Australia for a second season after successfully mentoring rocker Altiyan Childs to victory in the 2010 series. He'll be returning to New Zealand to perform two shows in February 2012.

You've been keeping very busy with the third series of X-Factor Australia, how do you keep a show like that feeling fresh - even for yourself, let alone the viewers - given that you've done it all before and we've seen it all before?
I think the key with a show like X-Factor is honesty. And if you as a judge are not honest, then the audience can see that and they get bored. So that's one thing I've always been, is honest. If someone is terrible, I'll tell them they're terrible, I'm not going to soften it up, but if someone is brilliant, I'll tell them. I think that's a strength of the panel this year, we're all very honest, and it's very funny at times.

So with the TV job, is your life less of a rollercoaster and more of a merry-go-round?
Yeah, it's a merry-go-round for sure. TV is a different animal all together, and if you go into a show like X-Factor thinking as a producer as well as a judge, well, then it'll work, because it really is all about creating a great TV show.

Do you get any inspiration for your own music from working with the contestants?
Yeah, it's great to work hands-on with these acts and try to create something new and fresh. It has made me think a lot about my career and what I'm doing.

Do you still keep in touch with the winner of the previous series, Altiyan Childs, who you mentored, at all?
I've seen him a few times and we've talked. He came on the show a few weeks ago and we spoke, which was great, and he performed. But he's got a new manager now and he's trying to keep his head down, and you know, I spoke to him, and I hope he does get it right because I still believe in him as a talent.

So on your next trip to New Zealand, we get to see you perform with a full seven-piece band and a string quartet, what can we expect from the show?
Well, yeah, there will be a lot of us on stage, it'll be a big show. When I perform, I'm not one of these artists that likes to do all the songs off the new album, I like to give people what they want, so you're gonna hear When You Say Nothing at All, Life is a Rollercoaster, If Tomorrow Never Comes, all of the big songs that I've been lucky enough to have sung over the years. And then there will be tracks from the Burt Bacharach album and Songs For My Mother, so it'll be a real mixed bag with something for everybody.

What was the experience of making an album with Burt Bacharach like for you?
It was amazing, to work with him was such an honour. And to be in Capitol Studios in Los Angeles with a 40-piece orchestra with him, it was nuts. It was intimidating though, I felt intimidated at times. He's quite overpowering, quite a strong character, and he was in the control room, constantly on the button, telling me what he wanted, what he needed.

And those tracks themselves have such a legacy too.
It's ridiculous. These songs, my God, when you've got Dionne Warwick, and these amazing people who sang these songs before you, it's tough to make them your own.

Quite a few of the songs on the album are tracks that are best know for being sung by women, was that intentional?
Yeah, I did that on purpose, because I thought that was the best way to change the songs and do something fresh with them was to pick the ones with more female vocals, if it's me singing another guy's song, it's harder for me to make it my own. It's an easier flip and an easier transition I think.

There are some great promotional shots of you with a motorcycle, with your initials on the side, is it yours?
I'm a bit of a motorcycle fan to be honest, but no that's not my bike actually. We got a computer-generated one, so it's not actually real. It would be a nice thing to do though, it's something I might do, I have a bike similar to that, so getting the initials is something I would do.

Will you be bringing the bike with you to try out on our windy roads on your day off?
Deus Ex Machina is in Auckland isn't it? I might end up in there buying a bike. I am a big fan of their bikes.


Who: Ronan Keating, solo artist and X-Factor judge

What: Latest album When Ronan Met Burt, Australasian tour in 2012.

Where and when: Performing at TSB Arena in Wellington on Feb 2 and at Vector Arena in Auckland on Feb 3 with Sharon Corr (of The Corrs) supporting. Tickets available Dec 2 from Ticketek (Wgtn) and Ticketmaster (Akl).

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