Ronan Keating is not on time – he’s early. Eleven minutes early, to be precise. He bounds up the stairs that lead from his hotel suite to the rooftop terrace. There is a spring in his step as he shakes hands with each of us. When it’s my turn, he looks me right in the eyes and smiles. Considering I’m shaking hands with a rock star, it’s a surprisingly genuine moment.
He pauses to take in the panoramic view of the Zurich skyline. “Well, this is gorgeous,” he says.
We each take a seat and our conversation begins. Naturally, the first topic is watches.
“On one of my first trips to Zurich, I convinced the boys in Boyzone to buy their first watches. That was more than 20 years ago.”
I ask him what they bought. “They bought Rolexes, because that was all they knew. But I knew better. I’d been collecting IWC since I was 18.”
Ronan is a self-proclaimed watch fanatic. It began when he was a teenager. His four siblings – three brothers and sisters, all older – all moved to America, and when they came back to visit, they all had nice watches. “It just sparked something in me. So I would borrow theirs and wear them all the time.” It’s been his passion ever since.
RONAN ON COLLECTING WATCHES
His first IWC was a Big Pilot’s Watch in stainless steel that he found in a shop in London. “I saw it and fell in love with it the second I put in on my wrist. So I bought it, and it was a really big deal for me. I was so excited that I accidentally left the box behind. It’s still there.”
I ask him how many watches he’s got in his collection. “A lot,” he says coyly.
“Enough to, say, wear a different one each day for a week?”
“More like a year,” he laughs.
Clearly we could talk watches all night, but we’re really here to talk about Ronan’s journey from boy-band stardom to a successful solo career, and what he’s learned along the way.
He was 16 when Boyzone was formed. “Back in the day, I would have been far more reckless. I used to be able to go out partying after every show, and the next day I’d be fine. Maybe I’d wake up a little hung-over, but after a few hours, I’d be OK again. I certainly can’t do that anymore.” He’s 40 now.
To preserve his voice, Ronan regularly uses a steam inhaler, a handheld device with a mouthpiece at one end. Fill it with hot water, and you can breathe the steam out of it. It’s an odd little device, but he swears by it. It’s the first part of his pre-show ritual, about an hour before he goes on stage. Then he does a vocal warm-up.
WARMING UP WITH FRANK SINATRA
“I start with stretching the vocal chords. The best thing to do is humming; that really helps. Close your mouth, put your tongue to the roof of your mouth, and go like this …” He does it, and it sounds sort of like an old-fashioned air-raid siren or maybe like the siren on the Ghostbusters’ Ectomobile – a whiny, nasal up-and-down sound. I try it myself.
“Yeah, that’s it. See, when you do it, you’re stretching the vocal chords like a rubber band. After that, I start with the “ee-ah-oh” sounds. I start in the low range and go higher. Then I sing a Frank Sinatra song. Barry Gibb once told me Sinatra songs are the best warm-up because of the range.”
It’s an impressive regimen, and one devised by a man who clearly isn’t fooling around. Ronan may still have his boyish looks, a very pretty wife and all the benefits that rock stardom brings. After all these years in the business, however, he comes off strikingly professional.
Which is what I tell him. But he shakes off the notion without any hesitation. “I don’t consider myself a pro. I’ve got 25 years under my belt, but I look at people like Elton John or George Michael – Lord rest his soul – and to me they’re just the best of the best. I think about them, and I still feel like I’m 22. I still feel like a kid. It’s crazy to think that I’m 15 or 20 years older than Adele and Ed [Sheeran].”
He’s modest, too, which is refreshing. You won’t find much bragging on his Twitter feed. And several times during our conversation, he makes it a point to tell me how truly grateful he is for all that he has accomplished. “Longevity is the greatest achievement in the music industry, especially today. So if you’re still here years later, still able to headline a festival or whatever it may be, that’s what really counts.”
Longevity is the greatest achievement in the music industry, especially today.
We’re interrupted by the tolling bells of a nearby church. It’s loud – the rooftop terrace is apparently at steeple level. But anyway, it’s time to head off to the show. We start packing up. “You have everything you need?” asks Ronan. We do, thanks. “Alright, see you downstairs.” He ducks back into his room. Nice guy.
We settle in backstage.
Ronan steps out of his dressing room with the steam inhaler, and his manager fills it with water. Ronan starts inhaling. The steaming has begun.
We hear the muffled moans of vocal warm-ups. And then some quiet singing. Can’t quite tell if it’s Sinatra or not. That’s followed by more warm-up sounds.
Ronan steps out of his dressing room with a guitar draped over his shoulder. He strums a few chords and starts to sing “As Long As We’re In Love”, a single from his album “Time of My Life”. His band and backup singer sing along with him. It’s an impressive display, and it’s just the warm-up.
The band gathers together, nearly ready to go on stage. For a while, they just stand there chatting. The performance is less than half an hour away. They don’t seem nervous though – they seem energized.
Ronan hits the stage.
Ronan Keating – the last 36 hours:
Wake up in London
Feed two-month-old, change diapers
Finish packing bags
Choose watches: “This part is very important to me. Just before I leave for a trip, I’ll see which outfits I’ll be a wearing and I’ll pair them with watches. I’ve got a little watch roll, and I pack two or three.”
Drive to Heathrow airport
Kiss wife and baby goodbye
Catch flight to Berlin
Drive straight to the venue
Soundcheck with the band
Dinner with the band
Back to the dressing room
Say a few prayers
Do one song with the band
Head to the stage
Back to the hotel
Dinner with manager, glass of wine
Go to bed: “I didn’t sleep very well last night. I’m not great at sleeping in hotels which is unfortunate.”
Go to the gym
Back to hotel room, pack bags
Go to airport
Fly to Zurich
Straight to the hotel
Go for a walk around town
Back to the hotel to start this interview
Ronan walks off the stage, leaving what sounds like a very satisfied crowd behind. I follow him through the backstage area and down the stairs towards his dressing room. He is moving fast and absolutely crackling with electricity. “How was it up there?” I ask. “It sounded like you were having a good time.”
“Oh, it was incredible,” he replies. “Great audience. And the band played great. What a feeling!” He shuffles down the stairs, and it’s actually hard to keep up with him. My feet don’t seem to move that fast.
He disappears into his dressing room and then emerges a few moments later. The electrical field surrounding him has diminished, but only slightly. He’s coming back down to earth.
He’s just been a rock god for an hour or so, and I ask him how long it takes to become a regular person again. “A couple hours. I can’t go to sleep. I’ll have some food now and a glass of wine or two – and just try to chill.”
Any post-show rituals? “Red wine,” he says. “Not too much, though. I’m too old for that.”
Ronan Keating wore his Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar TOP GUN Boutique Edition (Ref. IW502903) during the interview and the concert in Zurich.
Make the world and your wrist a better place
Once again the Laureus World Sports Awards 2018 were held in the prestigious location of Monaco – the emotional birthplace of the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation.
A Legend Of Your Own Making
IWC Schaffhausen introduces the all-new IWC Configurator that allows clients to design their own custom Ingenieur Chronograph. Learn more about its development behind the scenes.
The Car Collector
Hans Ulrich Scholpp owns 20 cars including a stunning Citroën DS 19 Coupé Le Dandy Henry Chapron. Learn more about Scholpp's passion for design and collecting classic cars.