How are you liking Sydney life?
It’s beautiful. I love it. Best life in the world.
How long have you been here
I’ve been here since the end of January and I’ll be hear to the end of July. A long spell. I’m living here and then I’ll go back to Europe
What was it like being in a boyband?
I started when I was seventeen so it was very exciting to make records and travel the world and basically do what I had dreamt of doing since I was a kid. Being in a boy band wouldn’t have been my number one direction but it was my foot in the door and I look back with so many fond memories. It was brilliant and I loved every minute of it.
Do you get sick of sharing a limelight, or having to compromise?
The limelight never bothered me but having to compromise, especially when you’re a songwriter and you make your own music it’s quite difficult to have people tell you what to sing. You feel like you’re writing great songs and then politics get in the way and deals have been cut with people to write songs, that becomes annoying. That was one of the reasons I ended up leaving. I wanted a bit more creative inspiration.
How long after writing songs and shoving lyrics in people’s faces did they begin to take notice that you could write.
It took a long time. All the songs on the first album, you know Simon Cowell and BMG didn’t want to know. All they wanted was for us to sing songs and put it to the market. The second album they gave in and let me have one on the record, the third I started to improve and between us we have seven songs on the record. The next was a greatest hits so that was difficult to get songs on. The last album they gave us two weeks to record the album and no time to write so I didn’t get any songs. And that’s where I lost interest in being in the band because writing songs was a big thing for me. When we sang the songs we wrote ourselves it was a lot more enjoyable than singing someone else’s songs. You might do covers but nothing beats striking that first chord of your own song. It comes from a different place.
And when you turn it over to your mates and they don’t say it’s a piece of shit.
Exactly. I remember the first song I wrote and played it to Simon Cowell he was quite surprised. He was like ‘I really like this’. And actually it didn’t have a chorus, just verses. Simon got me a studio and I recorded a demo. Bryan Adams was working in the same studio and while he was working on his own stuff the engineer was next door working on my stuff. He phoned Simon Cowell asked could he meet with me because he liked the song and had a chorus idea. I went to Bryan Adams’ home and finished the song there. So the first song I did was a co-write with Bryan Adams. At the time I absolutely idolised Bryan Adams. I thought he was amazing. I thought Simon Cowell was bullshitting me.
Were you scared shitless?
Absolutely. I was going to Bryan Adams house and thought fuck I can’t believe this. I’ve only ever written this one song and he’s expecting this world class songwriter to walk into the room. But it was great because from the start I was co-writing with one of the best. I didn’t care who I wrote with after that, I had a feeling I was a songwriter because of that bit of success.
Westlife had Seven number ones in a row – you must have been pretty pissed when the 8th didn’t come good.
Especially for the fact that our 8th single, the one that went to number 2 was our biggest selling first-week single ever, selling 245,000 in the first week. Because Bob the Builder was selling like 3-400,000 a week at Christmas for the kids. If that single had been released any other time we would have had our 8th number one. And the sad thing is our 9th, 10th and 11th actually went to number 1 so we could have had a record of eleven number ones, only for Bob the Builder. He’s a good builder though. He’s actually going into architecture, designing some amazing buildings in Dublin actually. He’s packed the whole music bullshit in and he’s making some real money.
Was Bob the Builder one of Simon Cowell’s projects along with the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers album.
No, Simon had Zig and Zag, Power Rangers… Bob the Builder came into the office and Simon Cowell passed on it, he said ‘take yer hardhat and get the fuck outta here.’ Well he did turn down the Spice Girls, so he’s not the first novelty act he’s turned down.
Wooh, catty. I don’t know our first album Irish Son very well, but you seem to have stepped on the distortion pedal a couple of times than I expected on Set in Stone.
It’s actually a little less. My first album is completely live band on the recording. This time we decided to add a few more synths. We just tried something different from the last record. I spent two and a half years making this so it’s definitely got a lot more of me in it.
You recorded it back at your studio in Ireland?
We did all the tracking in Ireland then did the vocals in Australia. I’ve got my own label and I don’t have a boss telling me I need a record out in a couple of weeks so I made the record like I was on holiday – it made it a lot more relaxed.
When you write in your time, do you find a better quality?
Well my first album was made in three weeks. Sometimes when you rush yes. Sometimes when you make an album over a long period quality will come out but if you make a record in a short burst can work as well, it’s a one listen record, where as this one takes a couple of listens.
And you’ll capture a specific time and energy.
My first album was right in the moment – with Keane, Coldplay, Snow Patrol phase. It fitted with the raw scene. But because it’s so instant it won’t stick around for long. But this record I’ve deliberately kept away from anything else and didn’t listen to what was popular. Two and a half years is a big thing in the music industry – it’d probably sound the same in the 80s as it does today.
How much production and desk action did you have?
I did a lot. Stuart Crichton produced it. But I don’t have the fucking patience. I hand it to stuart and he polishes it. I’ll be in the studio but I’d rather be hands-off, talking my way through it. I’ll let someone else do the hard work.
How much does Delta play on this record?
To be honest we only started writing for each others records about 8months ago. We were always doing our own thing. My album was pretty much written, so we mainly wrote for her album. She has one song on the album and does a few backing vocals.
A few doo-wops, that sort of thing? How is it writing with your partner.
The one great thing is that we know so much about each other so when we write we know each other’s strengths or when to let them do their own thing.
You’re such a big star overseas, how does it feel to play second fiddle to Delta?
That’s fine for me. I like the fact that, yeah back home right now I am famous but probably most for stuff outside of my music. I like coming here and not being famous and if I do one day get famous here it will be for my songs than anything to do with celebrity. That’s why I love this country and am excited about releasing my records here.
You’re basically our readership, An Irish or English fella that came to Australia, fell in love with a local girl and wants to stay. Like the Australian Citizenship test, TNT want to test you on how much of an Irishman in Oz you are:Have you ever drunk at Sydney’s Scruffy Murphy’s
Did you go out on St Paddy’s Day?
I did go out, I had a few drinks but I was working in Melbourne. I was with Hamish and Andy, we did some pranks. I pretended to be an old Irish lady who rang a strip club to hire some midget male strippers who could dress up as a leprechaun. I also went to a rugby game.
Ever been sunburnt on Bondi Beach?
No I haven’t. I’m not a beach person. I’ve been on a boat and got sunburnt however.
What are your thoughts on a duet between you and Damien Leith proving your Aussie-ness with a cover of McCartney/Jackson’s “The Sheila is Mine”
Well we’ve already written a song together. I went over to his house and we wrote a song together. And actually I’ll be getting together with the Potbelleez, so we might collaborate pretty soon.
Are you remaining Irish by playing in a Gaelic Football team?
Not yet. I’m in talks with trying to get onto a team. But I do play AFL here.
You’re earning Aussie points
If I want to get citizenship I’m going to have to do something.
How are you finding AFL, you played Gaelic Football growing up?
Yeah. I love AFL, it’s got a similar vibe, it’s very territorial. Here they stick to their local team, there’s a real passion.
And yet you’re living in Sydney but a Collingwood supporter.
Yeah, but I’m just staying here. I’m an Irishman that follows Collingwood.
So if you get citizenship who will you cheer for in the International Rules.
It will always be Ireland. Only because they’re amateurs and AFL players are professional. All amateurs, that’s why there’s all the shit over the International Rules. There’s these massive tackles and if one of these players, they don’t get payed to play Gaelic Football, they’ve all got day jobs as teachers and farmers, if they get injured they have no insurance, they’re out of work.
Has there been a move to start a professional league?
No. It will never happen. The GAA make too much money. They run the country in Ireland. It’s as old as the church, the GAA – they’re not going to start playing players… never. See here, Melbourne has ten teams or whatever, your St Kildas and Collingwood but over there there’s 32 counties in Ireland and 32 teams. If you’re from Dublin, you play for Dublin. That’s why it’s an honour to play for your team rather than anything to do with money.
And you’ll be the county hero.
That’s it, it’s a huge deal if you win the All-Ireland.