In the music business for more than 25 years, Ronan Keating went from a popular boy band to a successful solo artist and music mentoring career. In an exclusive interview he tells us about his music career and commitment to the Marie Keating Foundation, a cancer charity named after his late mother.
Ronan, how have you achieved the longevity in the music business?
Ronan Keating: Hard work is very important and keeping your feet on the ground. Some people may say talent and ability are crucial. In my case, it has been the hard work and commitment. In 25 years, I haven’t never taken time off. I have constantly worked and tried different things all the time.
What has been the most difficult challenge in your career?
Leaving Boyzone and going solo has been the most difficult challenge in my career. This was a big deal for me. I was coming from a highly successful act that sold more than 20 million albums, and then the song “When you say nothing at all”, from a movie called “Notting Hill”, was offered to me as a solo artist. I took the song on, recorded it, released it, and it was a huge hit. And the record label said: “Let’s make a solo album!” These were the crossroads, a difficult thing to do as it meant to take that leap of faith. I just hoped it was going to work out and it would not be a failure. Luckily, it was a success and I went on to do great things as a solo artist.
Do you regret going solo?
I do not regret it at all. It made me who I am. I have been a solo artist for 18 years now and I step in and out of Boyzone – which is fun. But I love being solo at times.
What has inspired you to become a mentor on X Factor?
I like passing on what I have learned. I started in the music business at such a young age and I realized the benefit of having mentors that can help, guide and teach you. When I did these shows, such as X-Factor or The Voice, it was about giving people a chance. I would like to think that I have learned something in all these years in the music industry, so I like passing that on and help someone else.
How do you motivate people who deal with insecurity in their singing?
It is a very simple thing: the more you sing, the better you get. It is like going to the gym. The more you train, the better and stronger your muscles will get. I wasn’t the best singer back in the day, but I worked on it all the time. I am not the best singer now, but I am a strong singer that can walk in a room and deliver a vocal. I am confident and have learned a lot in the last 25 years. I have definitely bettered myself. I am not saying I am the best, but I am better than I was! (smiles)
Is there anything you would have done differently in the past?
I should have enjoyed myself more in the first six years of my career. I took it very seriously. Although I was the youngest in the band, I took the responsibility and the weight of the band on my shoulders. I wanted Boyzone to be successful and I didn’t want the band to fail. So, I took it upon myself to be almost the father in the band, trying to guide the guys and help them so that we could get it right. I didn’t enjoy it as much as I should have at 16 years of age. Now, I enjoy what I am doing more than I have ever in my life.
Together with your family you set up a cancer foundation in memory of your late mother. Can you tell us more about the Marie Keating Foundation?
The Marie Keating Foundation was set up more than 20 years ago when my mum died of breast cancer. She was 51 years of age when she died. She was a young woman and she would still be alive today if she had been more educated about the disease. And if her four children had been more educated about the disease. We were naïve, and so was she. She came from a generation that was scared to go to the doctor to get her breasts checked. It was a scary time for women.
When mum passed away, we were angry, resentful and bitter. We turned that negative energy into something positive, which became the Marie Keating Foundation. Our goal was to educate people so they wouldn’t be in the shoes we were in. We raised enough money to put mobile trucks on the road, driving to underprivileged areas and giving a free service by an oncology nurse to educate about cancer and what to look for. If they found a lump, we would advise on how to act on it and fast track them to a specialist.
Early detection of breast cancer can make the disease easier to treat and to cure. How important is it to raise awareness?
Today, there is a 98-percent survival rate in breast cancer patients in Ireland. It is phenomenal how it has changed. This is down to education. My mum died of the most curable form of breast cancer. That is heart-breaking for us children. That’s why we set up the foundation. Now, we work globally with incredible charities around the world.
Any advice on how to set up a foundation?
It is important to surround yourself with people who know what they are doing. People, who understand how the charity tax works and how to set it up. Then, you want to set it up right from the beginning so that people see where the donated money is going. Transparency is key!
What is your legacy to your four children?
I want them to remember me as a good dad and good guy that treated people with respect. And that I was happy. They probably think that I am a bit crazy and wild, but they know I have a big heart.
Video production: Scott McNamara, Fabio Kobel
Making your mark
Philanthropy is on the rise! This article is part of the ‘Making Your Mark’ series, in which we explore which options are available to you.