Everybody’s had things they’ve missed during 2020, and for Ronan Keating, not being able to perform on stage has felt like “a piece of me is missing”.
The Dublin-born singer-songwriter knows he’s fortunate though, especially compared with artists who don’t have the financial means to stay afloat during tough times – “and all our crews, drivers, all the people behind the scenes who make stuff happen”.
It’s fair to say he’s worked incredibly hard, and 2020 marks two decades of music industry success for Keating.
As well as soaring to global stardom with Boyzone in his 20s, he’s had a stellar solo career – which he’s celebrating with new album, Twenty Twenty. He and wife Storm also welcomed their new baby daughter Coco in March, making Keating a proud dad-of-five (he also has three-year-old son Cooper with Storm, plus Jack (21), Missy (19), and Ali (15), from his first marriage).
Yet the self-confessed “worrier” has had his share of struggles and his life’s been marked by grief – his mum Marie died from breast cancer aged 51, and Boyzone’s Stephen Gately died suddenly in 2009 aged 33.
Today though, a “happy” and “lucky” Keating is counting his blessings. Here’s more…
How does it feel to be marking 20 years as a solo artist?
“I feel very lucky, it’s wonderful, a blessing. Although 2020 does feel like everything’s kind of been put on pause, to have an album out, it’s been a great experience and very enjoyable to look back on the 20 years with joy and a sense of achievement.”
You also had the joy of welcoming baby Coco, what’s that been like?
“Absolutely wonderful. She was born during a dark time for everybody, finding positivity was very, very important for us all, and she was that for us. Every morning, she’s just a ray of light.”
What does being a dad mean for you?
“The same as for everybody. It’s a wonderful privilege, to be a guide, a mentor, to be someone to care for someone like that. It’s a commitment and you’ve got to respect it and look after those kids.”
One of the songs on your new album was a tribute to Stephen Gately, wasn’t it?
“Yeah, The Big Goodbye, a duet with Rob [Robbie Williams]. Rob was in the studio the week Stephen passed. He started writing this song after hearing the news, and 10 years later he reached out to me.
“The first time I heard it was very emotional. I remember standing in my kitchen when Rob emailed it to me, with tears in my eyes. It was the 10-year anniversary [of losing Stephen] the day I heard it, so there was a lot of emotion.”
Did Gately’s death alter your perception of life?
“Absolutely, it scarred us. You just don’t expect anything like that to happen to someone you know and love so much, and at such a young age, with so much living left to do. It’s still hard to believe he’s gone. It makes you hug your children that little bit tighter, and love more, definitely.”
You’d already experienced how fragile life can be with losing your mum, hadn’t you?
“Yeah, I lost my mum when I was 21. That was hard, that’s still hard today, not having her around, especially when I look at my kids and think what they’ve missed out on too.”
Do you speak to them, Gately and your mum?
“I do. I can still hear what my mum might say to me, or what Stephen might say to me in situations. I often thought about it through lockdown too. It’s funny because you know they’re not here, so you try and imagine what it would have been like with them here.”
You’re 43 now – do you feel it?
“No! I still feel like I’m 18 or 19. I think we all sort of freeze ourselves in a certain age, until you get little slip-ups or all of a sudden your knee starts to hurt or the hangovers hurt that bit more, and you think, ‘Oh yeah, I’m a bit older than I thought I was!’ I’m trying to keep strong and stay fit.”
What do you do for your health?
“I go to the gym regularly and don’t eat crazy takeaways and so on. I like a red wine, but I don’t go drinking crazy spirits. There wasn’t really any excess back in the Boyzone days either. We didn’t have time! I think we burnt the candle at both ends in terms of how much work we did. We were constantly exhausted, but it was an amazing life.”
How much has your wife Storm changed your life?
“She’s taught me to open my eyes to the things I value, like slowing down and appreciating what we have around us. Before, I would fly to cities and not see them; I’d land and go to a studio, go to a hotel. But when I met Storm, we started to just stop a bit and take it in. That was amazing for me – I’d been around the world but not really seen it.
“And to love the way I love, and to have someone to love like I have with her. To watch her as a mother, with the kids. She’s taught me a lot and I don’t take that for granted.”
How do you look after your mental wellbeing?
“I think looking after your mental health is about listening to yourself, paying attention to yourself, and [remembering] it’s never as bad as it feels – that’s something I’ve learned along the way. You have to tell yourself: ‘Yes, it’s not great right now, but it’s going to be OK’.
“That’s something Storm has definitely helped me with, because I’m a massive worrier, I get that after my mother. I can go down that path sometimes, and I really believe it can make you sick in your physical person.”
Do you have any regrets?
“No. There’s certain things you look back on and think, ‘I wouldn’t do that again’, but it makes you the person you are today, and I’m very happy in my skin. As long as you’re happy with the place you’re in – and I am.”
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
“’Your health is your wealth’ was my mum’s motto, and it’s so true. I’ve got a seven-month-old, I want to make sure I’m here to watch her grow. I want to watch [all my kids] live and travel and grow. I want to be around and the only way I’m going to do that is if I’m healthy.”
When are you at your happiest?
“When I’m at home with my family. I like being in the kitchen, having a glass of wine and cooking and having my family around me.”
What would you tell your younger self?
“Have more fun! Enjoy yourself! We were flat-out and took it very seriously. I enjoyed it, it was phenomenal, but it was full-on. So yeah, not to take myself too seriously. As we get older, we get better at not taking ourselves too seriously.”
Ronan Keating’s new Christmas single The One with Nina Nesbitt and his full album Twenty Twenty are out now on Decca Records.