Fired up with age

AUSTRALIA - Armed with more than two decades of experience in the glitzy pop business, Ronan Keating is in a position where nothing really fazes him any more.

Not the fact that he's 35 years of age, no more a boy in a boy band. Or that countless other boy bands have since taken over the mantle since Boyzone broke many a hearts in the 90s.

Asked about the astronomical rise to superstardom of today's boy groups like One Direction and The Wanted, Keating simply said: "I don't try to compete with (One Direction or The Wanted), I'm a grown-up already.

"When it comes to making music, I stay true to myself and do my own thing."

The Irish singer is currently promoting his latest solo album, Fires.

Best known for his hit numbers When You Say Nothing At All, Life Is A Rollercoaster and Lovin' Each Day, Keating spoke to The New Paper yesterday morning from Sydney, where he currently sits on the judging panel of reality TV singing contest The X Factor Australia.

Indeed, the divorced father of three kids - Jack, 13, Marie, 11, and Ali, 7 - seems to have embraced ageing with boundless enthusiasm.

Even though the critically acclaimed Fires - BBC Music calls it "Keating's best since his eponymous debut" - is his first studio effort of original material in six years, he released two cover albums Duets and When Ronan Met Burt (a collaboration with renowned composer Burt Bacharach) in 2010 and 2011 respectively.

Crossing over

On both projects, he crossed adroitly over to the adult contemporary genre, crooning timeless classics like The Look Of Love and Your Song.

He is also relishing his judging stint on The X Factor Australia - his fellow judges include Spice Girls' Mel B and Australian Idol 2003 winner Guy Sebastian.

Make no mistake, being a judge does not make Keating feel old, over the hill, or unhip.

"To be a judge, you need to be knowledgable," he said.

"That's where Mel B and myself come in... I've been in the music industry for two decades.

"You can't have a celebrity or pop star who just shot to fame sitting on the (judging) panel."

He sees flashes of his younger self in The Collective, the group of Aussie male contestants he is now mentoring.

"There are similarities... They remind me of Boyzone's beginnings."

Fans of Boyzone would be happy to know that the quartet - they started off as a quintet, but continued as a foursome after one of the members, Stephen Gately, died in 2009 - would be reuniting next year for a new album and a series of tours.

"Next year marks our 20th anniversary, so we would certainly like to celebrate it with a bang," said Keating.

On the romance front, he told TNP that he is in a "happy place".

UK tabloid The Daily Mail recently ran pictures of him enjoying the Australian sunshine with his TV producer girlfriend, Storm Uechtritz, whom he has been dating for a few months.

Does he ever get irritated by the constant attention to his personal life?

"I don't really mind it," he said.

"Sometimes, (the photographers) can get a little intrusive, but I'm prepared for it."


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