He may be a former boyband idol who conquered the teen pop world with his old outfit Boyzone, but Irish singer Ronan Keating is under no illusion about his current position in the pop world.

And he is perfectly fine with not being at the centre of attention anymore.

"After 20 years of doing this, I have to understand and realise that you can't always be No. 1 and you can't always be what people are talking about," he tells Life! in an interview. He was here to promote his recently released ninth album, Fires.

"I'm 35 years of age, I'm not a kid anymore. You have to accept your position in your genre and for me and what I do, there are a lot of young kids, a lot of new young boybands and we get replaced and you've got to evolve."

Fires might not have topped any charts but it still did pretty well. It peaked at No. 5 in Britain, No. 3 in Scotland and No. 8 in Norway. Keating will be doing a string of European and Australian gigs to promote the new songs next year and hopes to bring the tour to Singapore too.

Keating, one of Ireland's most successful artists with a total of 55 million album sales through Boyzone and his solo work, describes the songs in the new record as being good old-fashioned pop tunes.

"When I started working on this album, it was like a light went off. I just wanted to make an outright pop record, go right back to my roots and make an outright pop album. And that's what Fires is, it's a pop record, plain and simple. I loved every minute of it, I love the songs. In my eyes, it's my best piece of work."

But while he is feeling good about himself artistically, the same cannot be said about his personal life. His marriage of 14 years to model Yvonne Connolly ended in April, two years after he admitted to having an affair with a back-up dancer. The couple have three children, Jack, 13, Missy, 11, and Ali, six.

Three years ago, Keating suffered another devastating loss when his close friend and Boyzone bandmate Stephen Gately died suddenly of an accumulation of fluid in the lungs.

And with his packed working schedule - besides his music career and being a judge on The X Factor, he also runs a cancer charity named after his late mother - he confesses to having difficulties making time to see his children.

"I haven't seen much of my kids lately, which is very sad for me and very hard. I can't wait to get home and see them. I'm juggling a lot of things constantly and that can put a lot of pressure on you. I'm feeling a bit of pressure lately trying to make it all work."

Still, he says he is fortunate that he is still able to hang on to one of his major loves - making music.

"You've got good days and bad days. I'm lucky to still be doing it after 20 years."

You worked with legendary songwriter Burt Bacharach for your eighth album, When Ronan Met Burt, last year. How did that collaboration with a master songwriter help you with your current album?

I guess he gave me the confidence to be me, which is something I never realised until you asked me that question. It took me time to realise that he believed in me, he took a chance on me. He found out about me, listened to my previous work and decided, "I want to work with this kid".

That's special to me. I'm pretty honoured he would even think of me, so I think he gave me confidence to make this record. Thanks to Burt, I made Fires.

How has the experience of being a judge on the Australian version of The X Factor benefited you as an artist?

Being on The X Factor allowed me to stand outside and look at my career and what I was doing wrong and what maybe I was doing right.

As a member of X Factor, on the panel, I guess you're a one-man record company and you do everything, from the haircut to the song choice to the clothes. You do it all, you're a marketing department, you're a sales department, you're everything. It allowed me to stand back and look at my career, which was healthy.

You acted in your first movie, Australian musical comedy Goddess, that was shown in Cannes this year. How do you find acting?

I absolutely loved it. I didn't want the whole thing, the whole process to end. I can't wait to do the next film. I don't know what it will be yet, it's not confirmed.

I would like to think that acting could work in tandem with my music. It would be great, I'd like to do both together.

I think automatically, people put me in romantic roles but I would love to do darker, deeper, gritty roles. I am just looking to find a great, meaty script that I can get into.

Your children - are they as musically talented as you?

Jack plays guitar and sings while Missy's a great little singer. They are little performers, I don't push them but they do perform. Would I encourage them to go into the music business? If they wanted to be great singers or great drummers or guitar players, yes but not to be famous. The problem with youths today, they all want to be famous for the wrong reasons.

You have been involved in the music industry for 20 years. Where will the next 20 years bring you?

Ten years ago people asked, what will you be doing in 10 years' time and I said, hopefully I'll still be here. And I'm still here. So yeah, hopefully I'll still be here. What can I say?

How would you like to be remembered?

Someone who entertained, made people laugh, made people feel good about themselves. A good father, a good dad would be nice. A good man.

By Eddino Abdul Hadi

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