Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Music: Interview with Boyzone's Keith Duffy

When Boyzone burst onto the pop scene 20 years ago, few would have predicted the level of success they achieved and that two decades later they’d still be releasing records and selling out arenas.

Comprising Keith Duffy, Stephen Gately, Mikey Graham, Ronan Keating and Shane Lynch, Boyzone scored 18 top 10 hits including six UK number one singles: Words, A Different Beat, All That I Need, No Matter What, When the Going Gets Tough and You Needed Me.

In 2000, the group went their separate ways pursuing careers in such varied fields as music, acting and motorsport.

Seven years later, the BBC reunited Boyzone for a one-off performance on its annual Children in Need show.

“The BBC got us back together to do a medley of three of our big hits,” says Keith. “After that performance, we decided that we’d had a really good time and we realised how much we’d missed each other.”

With new found vigour, Boyzone embarked on a sell-out tour of the UK and Ireland.

After releasing a greatest hits album to coincide with the reunion, the group decided to head back to the studio to record an album of brand new material.But in October 2009, the tragic death of band member Stephen Gately left the band reeling.

“When we lost Stephen it threw us all over the place for quite a long time,” says Keith.

“We couldn’t deal with our lives on our own and we felt that there was a bit of peace when we were together.

“The void that Stephen left wasn’t as big when we were together,” he said. “Stephen was kind of in the room once the four of us were together.”

After long discussions between the surviving members, the band decided to finish recording the album, giving it the name Brother as tribute to Stephen.

On releasing the album, Boyzone toured as a four-piece, dedicating it to their bandmate.

“It was really difficult,” says Keith. “It had quite an adverse effect on us.

“The grieving process hadn’t finished and we were all very much emotionally drained by the end of the tour.

“I ended up in a dark place where I didn’t really know what to do next,” he says.

“I was suffering with nightmares and I ended up having to take a few months off to re-gather my thoughts, to figure out what had happened and to work out how to move forward.

“We moved forward. We dealt with our demons,” added Keith.

The group took time out from touring and recording after the Brother tour finished. They used 2012 to regroup and figure out what to do next.

“2012 was a very quiet year for us and we decided this year that a new studio album with a new dynamic would be a good idea,” says Keith.

“Now that we had come to a good place, to peace with everything, it might be an idea to see how we sound as a four-piece.”

Boyzone recorded the album BZ20 which was released November 25, 2013. The record celebrates 20 years since the group were originally formed.

Returning to the studio without Stephen was difficult for the group, but the experience helped the band to move forward with fond memories of the past and a renewed sense of purpose.

“There’s great camaraderie between us. We reminisce about old stories, stories about Stephen and just laugh because he was such a colourful person, such a character,” says Keith. “He made us laugh so many times.”

Far from being the teenage heartthrobs who made crowds of teenage girls scream on the Smash Hits tour, Boyzone have matured with all band members having children of their own.

“We’ve got nine children between the four of us,” says Keith. “My son is 17 and my daughter is 13.

“We all try to balance our family life with the band and we manage to do that well.

“All of our kids get on really well,” he adds.

“Backstage at the gigs they all hang out together. They really enjoy it.”

For Keith, one of the highlights of his career came when Boyzone featured on U2’s The Sweetest Thing.

“U2 were a big influence on me growing up. Larry Mullin from U2 was a huge inspiration to me and a hero of mine,” says Keith.

“I’ve followed U2 all my life and in my music career I’ve become friendly with the lads.

“They were very good to us when Stephen passed away. They lent their strength to us,” he said.

Over the past decade, Keith has built a career for himself outside of Boyzone, taking to the stage in various theatre productions and starring as bar-tending lothario Ciaran McCarthy in Coronation Street and in the highly-rated Irish TV crime drama Love/Hate.

“My ambition is definitely in the acting world,” says Keith. “I’ve spent a lot of time as an actor on stage and on screen so I’m very ambitious about where the acting career might take me when Boyzone are having down-time.”

Keith’s favourite Boyzone songs:

Isn’t it a Wonder: “It was one of the first hits we had that was written by the lads in the band.”

Picture of You: “It was used in the Mr Bean movie. It was great fun filming the video with Rowan Atkinson.”

No Matter What: “This was a huge hit for us. We once performed the song with Pavarotti – an amazing experience.”

Too Late for Hallelujah: “It’s the most powerful anthem Boyzone have recorded. I love singing it live.”

Who We Are: “An anthem that speaks of union and camaraderie. Going through highs and lows together.”

This article was published by the Yorkshire Evening Post on December 5, 2013, and the Yorkshire Post on December 6, 2013.

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