Former Boyzone singer Ronan Keating tells Jade Wright how X Factor makes him reassess himself.
RONAN KEATING is not a man for counting his cash, nor for sitting on a throne made from melted-down platinum discs.
The days when he measured out his success in his fleet of fancy cars are long gone.
“I had 11 at one time!” he says with a sheepish grin, “including a 63 Chevy Corvette, a 66 Mustang, a 72 Dodge Charger, a Ford Bronco, two Range Rovers, a Porsche.
It was ridiculous. It was just gluttony – but when you’re a kid and you make too much money you do stupid things like that...”
Yes, he is proud of his achievements. But never one for looking back, right now he’s more interested in what comes next. And that’s playing the ECHO Arena to perform tracks from new album Fires – as well as a few old favourites.
“I’m really excited,” says Ronan, 35. “There are so many uptempo songs that lend themselves to live performance. It is the most excited I have been about a live tour ever.
“There will be the songs that everyone knows me well for – Life Is A Rollercoaster, When You Say Nothing At All, Lovin’ Each Day etc, but the setlist will be full of the new songs from Fires. There will be at least eight new songs.
“I’m really excited about Fires itself. I think it is definitely the best live track on the album and this is the song that I am thinking about opening the show with. I’m going to both open and close the show with a new song, which is quite a big deal for me and I am hoping it will work well.”
But don’t try disturbing the former Boyzone singer before he goes onstage.
“I spend about an hour by myself in the dressing room before I go on, warming up, listening to music, singing and just getting myself in a place where I am mentally ready for the performance,” he says.
“You get into a routine when you are on the road, which is great. My lifestyle working in the music industry means there isn’t a lot of routine and there is a different schedule each day.
“But the tour is routine and I find that great to have in my life – knowing where you’re going to be every morning and every night and you’ve got the same people around you. I find that a great comfort blanket and it is a great environment to be in.”
It’s a good job as Ronan seems to be spending lots of time on the road at the moment.
“I’m touring up until the middle of March, in the UK, then Europe, Australia and New Zealand, then working on 20 years of Boyzone – we are just in talks about what we want to do for the new album – Australian X Factor auditions and then heading out there again for the live shows at the end of the year,” he says, barely pausing for breath.
“And then I have the launch of my film Goddess in Australia at the end of March.”
Ronan is a judge on the Australian version of The X Factor, alongside former Spice Girl Mel B.
“I’d never done anything like that before, and it was brilliant for me,” he says.
“I loved the whole process, and I loved working with Mel B. Twenty years doing it, and I only feel I can now sit on that panel and tell people the truth, whereas before I wouldn’t have had the knowledge.
He admits that the insight that came from picking apart the nuts and bolts of songs and performance also fed into the making of his own new music.
“Being a judge on X Factor makes me stand back and look at myself in a way I wouldn’t usually look at myself.”
After a run of three concept and collaboration albums, including a partnership with Burt Bacharach (When Ronan Met Burt), he’s looking forward to touring his first album of new material in six years.
“I actually compare this album to my first solo record, and I don’t think I’ve made a record as good as my first record until now.
“This is the one I’ve been trying to make since 2000 – seriously. Twelve years in the making, and it’s finally here!” he laughs.
“I’m excited and I’m passionate about it. I wanted to go to radio with something first that was dramatically different from anything I’ve done in the past – something exciting, up-tempo, energetic, that felt now.
“Obviously I’ve been through a turbulent time over the last few years. (Ronan and his wife Yvonne announced their split last year).
“Really for me the song Fires is like lighting a fecking fire under my a---! It’s time to move, it’s time to get myself up out of this hole and get moving. I created the issue, I created the problem and I had to correct all my wrongs, and try get myself back on my feet, and start moving forwards. And that’s what this song says to me. That’s what it’s about.”
There’s a similar gung-ho spirit in I’ve Got You, a U2-go-pop belter, and Nineteen Again, a bright, singalong rocker written by Rick Knowles and Greg Alexander (who Ronan worked with on Life Is A Rollercoaster and Lovin Each Day).
“It’s a fine line – I don’t want be going, ‘oh, right, I’m young, free and single, let’s go and have some fun…’ That’s not at all what I’m trying to say in any of this stuff,” he says.
“It’s really about, OK, I’m 35 years of age, I’m not a kid any more, I’ve been doing this for 20 years, I still love what I do.
“I’m lucky and feel blessed that I’m still doing this and have an opportunity to do it. I want to put my best foot forward, I want to be the person I want to be. I don’t want to hide.”
RONAN KEATING plays the Echo Arena on February 1.