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Ronan Keating. Image Credit: Supplied

Ronan Keating was born for the stage, and he’s not afraid to admit that being away from it due to the pandemic has been hard on him.

The Irish singer repeatedly mentioned his excitement about his upcoming Dubai concert as he spoke to Gulf News over Zoom from his home in the UK. The star, who used to be one fifth of the massively popular boy band Boyzone, will take to the stage on March 18 at the Coca-Cola Arena for the St Patrick’s Day weekend.

Keating’s concert will mark his first time back in the UAE after a few years, having last performed in Dubai in 2019 with Boyzone on their farewell tour.

Ronan Keating
Ronan Keating Image Credit: Supplied

“I’ve struggled to be honest, mentally, with the lack of performance and live entertainment. So I am really eager to get back. I cannot wait,” he said.

The 45-year-old singer commands global appeal not only for his historic run with Boyzone, which started in 1994 when he was just 16 years old, but also for his instantly recognisable hit solo tracks such as ‘When You Say Nothing At All’ and ‘If Tomorrow Never Comes’.

On his own, Keating has recorded 11 albums and sold more than 20 million records worldwide and is arguably one of the most famous Irish music artists ever. He has also dabbled in acting and TV presenting, having been a judge on ‘The X Factor’ and a coach on ‘The Voice Australia’.

Underneath all the titles and his obvious celebrity status, Keating — who had a genuine warmth and openness as he took the call in a casual sweatshirt — is ultimately a man in love with his craft and with being a family man. His youngest child, daughter Coco, even popped in to say hello at one point in the conversation.

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The Boyzone farewell concert in Dubai. Image Credit: Antonin Kelian Kallouche/Gulf News

In his interview, Keating spoke to us about his memories of Boyzone, whether he gets stage jitters and what fans can expect from his Dubai show.

How does it feel to be gearing up to get on stage again?

It’s quite emotional, to be honest. I’m so excited about getting back at it. It’s been two years since we’ve had live music, live entertainment in our lives. I’m very eager to get back ... I have a brilliant show put together for the night in Dubai. It’s the first of the rest of the year for me ... the first show of the year, and I’m very excited.

What can fans expect from the show?

I’m giving them what they want, don’t you worry. There’s no new songs from the new album or anything like that — it’s everything people want to hear from. If you’re coming to my show, it’s ‘When You Say Nothing At All’, ‘Life is a Roller Coaster’, ‘Lovin’ Each Day’. And Boyzone is no more so when I do shows now these days, I like to tip the cap out of respect for the band that got me where I am today. So I do a bunch of Boyzone songs as well. Very special night.

You’ve performed in the UAE before a number of times. Is there a particular element that draws you back here?

When people show you respect and love, it’s pretty powerful, it stays with you. So you know, you want to come back to that, you want to feel that energy and that joy and that happiness. So every time I come to Dubai or across the Middle East, generally, I feel that; I get that love from people. So I’m very eager to get back.

You’re coming back for St Patrick’s Day [which is on March 17]. As an Irish person you must be pretty proud to know that your people are all over world and they are ready to see you perform.

Absolutely, it’s very special. I mean, the Irish, we love to fly the flag especially on Paddy’s weekend. It’s going to be a magic time to be in Dubai and perform at this incredible arena, Coca-Cola Arena. It just looks insane ... I just want to get back on stage and perform again. And I hope there’ll be lots of Irish there but also I hope people from all over the world. Whoever you are in Dubai, come down to the show and let’s all have a fun time.

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Ronan Keating of Boyzone on stage at the V96 concert held in Chelmsford in 1996. Image Credit: Reuters

You’ve been know for being part of Boyzone and it’s part of who you are, but how do you want to be known now?

A singer, a performer, that’s who I am — singer-songwriter. Whatever title you want to put on that, but that’s who I am. That’s what I’ve been since I was 16 years of age. So all the other things that you pick up along the way, whether it’s acting or a TV host or radio host or whatever, they’re only spin-offs of what came first, which was singing, performing on stage as a band member or as a solo artist.

You must have lots of fond memories from that time. Do you look back on it a lot?

So many memories, so many good times. So many wonderful memories. You know, I miss the camaraderie, I miss the boys a lot. But things change when you grow up and you get older ... you need change. We all need change. That’s just the human way. It’s what we do. We’re all doing different things now, and this is what I do.

You’ve been a performer for so many years. Have there been any special moments that stand out?

There’s been loads. Singing with Elton John in Madison Square Garden, or singing with Pavarotti or opening the World Cup in Berlin ... there’s been millions, so many brilliant moments with Boyzone and solo. I’ve been very lucky. I’m very lucky to sing with incredible people on my album ‘Twenty Twenty’, which came out two years ago, to sing with Shania Twain and Robbie Williams and Emeli Sandé. Just all of those different people across there ... Ed Sheeran performing on it ... it’s just incredible. I’m very lucky, very blessed.

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Keith Duffy, Stephen Gately, Mikey Graham, Ronan Keating and Shane Lynch of Irish boy band Boyzone perform during their “Thank You & Goodnight” Farewell Tour concert in Hong Kong in 2019. Image Credit: Reuters

Do you have any pre-concert rituals?

I spend some time on my own warming up. That’s very important, just to spend time focusing, getting your head in the game ready for the performance, warming up your vocals. Because what you don’t want to do is overshoot the runway and go out and blow your voice in the first few songs. So it’s very important that you’re warm. You know, you’ve got to be warm in your voice before you even step on stage. So getting performance-ready is very important.

Do you still get nervous performing?

I don’t get nervous. You get adrenalin flowing through your body, you don’t get nervous.

You released your latest album 'Songs from Home' last year, which was an album of cover songs. What has been your inspiration when it comes to making music or creating records?

I guess your family or your experiences in life. You pour all of that into your songs and your music. That’s all-consuming. You know, that’s what consumes me. It’s my family, my family life and I love it. I pour all that love and feeling into songs.

How do you stay creative after so many years of being in the industry?

I feel very inspired all the time. I think you can get tired and that switch goes off. As soon as you’re reenergised, as a writer, as a creator of songs and music, that always stays there bubbling all the time, I think.

What can fans expect from you in terms of music in the future?

I’m going to start writing a new album, but it’s gonna be a long time before it comes out. [I] pushed out two albums in two years and it’s time for a break again.

Do you ever think that your kids might get into music?

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I’ll be there to guide them and help them out. It’s a wonderful industry. I would protect them and keep them safe from the pitfalls but yeah, why not? Absolutely.

So we’ve been in this pandemic for such a long time now and things are finally getting better. But at the peak of it, it might have been tough? What were some of the lessons that you took away from that time?

To be honest, I really enjoyed having that time around my family. I’ve never been able to have that much time at home, because I’ve always worked and travelled. So it allowed me to be around our little Coco, who you can hear in the background. She was born in the middle of the first lockdown in 2020. So to have all of that quality time with my little girl was incredible. I was there for every nappy change and every bedtime story, and every bath time and feed and it was it was incredible.

And the time that I just had with my older children and my wife, we’ve all just had a proper bonding session. I have missed live performance greatly and it has effected me mentally. And I’m very eager to get back on stage again and this show on the 18th is very important to me. This is the start of the shows for the rest of the year.

Don’t miss it!

The Ronan Keating concert, organised by Navin Rishi’s Speed Entertainment Dubai, will take place at 7pm on March 18 at Coca-Cola Arena. Tickets start from Dh145 and are available online.