NOW THAT I’VE FOUND HAP­PI­NESS I’M SCARED I’LL DIE YOUNG

He’s still only 40 and has just had a baby with his sec­ond wife, but Ro­nan Keat­ing tells Re­becca Hardy why he fears he might not be around long enough to en­joy it

Daily Mail Weekend Magazine - - NEWS -

Ro­nan Keat­ing has a tat­too of a jig­saw puz­zle on his arm. Each piece bears the name of those he loves most. There’s ‘Mam’, who died from breast can­cer 19 years ago, ‘Storm’, his sec­ond wife, who saved him from the wreck­age of a failed first mar­riage, and ‘Jack’, ‘Missy’ and ‘Ali’, his chil­dren from that 17-year mar­riage to child­hood sweet­heart Yvonne.

These five lives are in­ex­tri­ca­bly linked to Ro­nan’s. So much so that af­ter he pro­posed to Storm, now 35, on a beach in Thai­land two years ago, he gath­ered his chil­dren to­gether when they re­turned to Ire­land to ask her, ‘Storm, will you marry us?’ When they wed in Scot­land four months later, Jack, now 18, was best man, Missy, 16, the maid of hon­our and 12-year-old Ali the flower girl. ‘From the time we got to­gether I knew this girl was the one for life for me,’ says Ro­nan, 40. ‘We were meant to meet and I think Mam put her there. Mar­riage was in the back of my mind from very early on but get­ting the kids in­volved was very im­por­tant. She wasn’t just mar­ry­ing me, she was mar­ry­ing my chil­dren. It was al­ways the four of us.’

Or at least it used to be. Now Ro­nan must roll up his sleeve to add another piece to the jig­saw: the name of his five-month-old son Cooper – or, as he calls him, ‘ Coop’. ‘ Lit t le Coop’s a leg­end,’ says Ro­nan, light­ing up. ‘ I could burst with love for him. Storm’s given me a beau­ti­ful lit­tle man. I’m feel­ing re­ally blessed. All my chil­dren are bless­ings. I love them to bits. They’re my world. That’s why I’m so happy to be do­ing this.’

‘ This’ is Magic Ra­dio’s flag­ship break­fast show, which Ro­nan – who shot to fame with boy band Boy­zone in 1993 – is now co-host­ing with award­win­ning broad­caster Har­riet Scott from 6-10am every week­day. ‘I love the mu­sic we play,’ he says. ‘It’s clas­sic songs that mean so much to peo­ple, all the best mu­sic from the 80s and 90s from Queen to Take That and ABBA – you may even hear the odd Boy­zone song too if I can sneak it past the pro­ducer.

‘Then at 10am I get to go home to our farm­house in Hert­ford­shire and spend the day with Coop and Storm. That’s beau­ti­ful. I want to slow down a bit with the travel. Af­ter nearly 25 years of be­ing on planes, in ho­tels and mov­ing I want to be here and have a base. I’m look­ing for­ward to watch­ing them grow up which they’re do­ing so fast. Ali was 12 the other week. It’s un­be­liev­able. As you get older the clichés of life ring true. It’s the sim­ple things that mat­ter most: your fam­ily, the peo­ple you love, your health and san­ity. When you’re younger you don’t re­alise it but...’

He pauses and, for a mo­ment, those mes­meric blue eyes of his stop danc­ing. ‘Mam died at 51. Steo died at 33,’ he says, re­fer­ring to Boy­zone’s Stephen Gately. ‘When young peo­ple die it’s heart­break­ing. It still gets to me. It’s still so hard to be­lieve. He was such a bright, shin­ing star.’

Ge­orge Michael’s death last De­cem­ber hit Ro­nan badly too. ‘To­day, still, if one of his songs comes on the ra­dio it hurts,’ he says. ‘He was one of the great­est artists of all time. He was my hero mu­si­cally and he be­came my friend – a dear friend. I could al­ways reach out to him. He was such a warm, gen­er­ous spirit. I sobbed like a baby when I heard. He was such a bril­liant per­son. He loved his mam and we’d had very sim­i­lar re­la­tion­ships with our moth­ers. I think it was one of the rea­sons we got on.’ He shakes his head. ‘So very, very sad.’

To look at Ro­nan’s face you know he was truly af­fected. When I first in­ter­viewed him too many years ago to count – be­fore Stephen’s death, be­fore Ro­nan’s af­fair with a back­ing dancer that sounded the death knell for his first mar­riage – he was a but­toned-up young man in a natty suit, and let’s just say there was a cer­tain cock­i­ness about him. To­day, in­stead of the slicked-back hair and too-cool-for-school get-up, he looks as if he’s just walked off the beach wear­ing a faded T-shirt and lots of bracelets.

‘ The one that means some­thing is this love bracelet,’ he says, show­ing me a sil­ver band around his right wrist. ‘Storm has one and I have one. They’re a night­mare in the air­port be­cause they don’t come off so they al­ways make the scan­ner bleep when you go through se­cu­rity.’ He laughs.

‘We just hope there are enough years in our life to en­joy each other. That’s the fear me and Storm have when we speak to each other. We can’t be­lieve we’ve found this love and the tragedy would be not to have the next 40 or 50 years to en­joy it. I can’t be­lieve some­one can make me feel like this and vice versa. I just want to feel it for­ever. The fear is you don’t get to have all the years you think you have ahead of you. We work so hard with can­cer char­i­ties. You hear the sto­ries all the time and you just hope you have a long life to­gether.’

Ro­nan has al­ways been some­thing of a wor­rier. He says he gets it from his mother – fol­low­ing her death he es­tab­lished the Marie Keat­ing Foun­da­tion in her name – but I sus­pect it has more to do with grow­ing up in the blind­ing spot­light of fame. Take when he was 16 years old and a re­porter asked him if he was a vir­gin. He should have told him to

‘I want to slow down af­ter 25 years of ho­tels and planes’

mind his own busi­ness, in­stead he said yes. He ac­tu­ally lost his vir­gin­ity on the road as an 18-year-old. He didn’t dare tell a soul so re­mained Ro­nan Keat­ing, the nice, po­lite Catholic vir­gin from Dublin un­til he mar­ried his girl­friend Yvonne in 1998. Ev­ery­thing was man­u­fac­tured.

‘Be­ing in a boy band you’re not al­lowed to be good at any­thing,’ he says. ‘You’re not al­lowed to be tal­ented. You’re not re­ally al­lowed to be a song- writer. You’re not al­lowed to be that good a singer. You’re just one of the guys who fills a suit and that’s what’s drilled into you by the record com­pany and the man­age­ment – “You’re lucky to have it. Now shut your mouth.” ‘I get where that comes from but it takes time to shake it off. It’s only in the last cou­ple of years I can walk on stage and think, “I’m a good singer. I de­serve to be on this stage.” I have that con­fi­dence now, but I didn’t back then. None of us did. So it’s not just me, it’s all of us. That’s what we were made to be­lieve.’ He frowns, then smiles. ‘It’s Storm that’s given me that con­fi­dence.’

Ask Ro­nan what you will these days and, it seems, ev­ery­thing leads back to Storm. She was work­ing as a pro­ducer on the Aus­tralian X Fac­tor where he was a judge when they met in 2010. Ro­nan was still reel­ing from the death of his dear friend Steo the year be­fore and his mar­riage was in trou­ble af­ter Yvonne dis­cov­ered his seven-month af­fair with a back­ing dancer from Boy­zone’s 2009 UK tour. ‘Storm un­der­stood,’ he says. ‘We were friends and that friend­ship led to other things a good 18 months later. She left The X Fac­tor to work on MasterChef Aus­tralia but we stayed in touch. I re­ally en­joyed her com­pany and our con­ver­sa­tions. She knew me and I knew her. It was that bond, that friend­ship.’

To­day Ro­nan re­grets the un­hap­pi­ness he caused when his first mar­riage ended, but he doesn’t re­gret that it did. He and Yvonne fi­nally di­vorced af­ter four years apart in March 2015 and he pro­posed to Storm on that beach in Thai­land the fol­low­ing month. He says he’s had ‘a bit of a re­birth, a ca­reer re­nais­sance’. ‘I’ve never known love like this,’ he says. ‘She’s my best friend. When I got my first movie role in God­dess in 2013 I didn’t think I was able to do it but Storm said, “You can.” Her be­lief in me gave me con­fi­dence and that opened so many doors.’

Next year marks Boy­zone’s 25th an­niver­sary. There’s a new al­bum, which they hope to fin­ish in the next two months. ‘We were kids the first time around. Our testos­terone was pump­ing and we had our mo­ments of fight­ing with each other,’ says Ro­nan. ‘I was 16, a baby. I had a lot of grow­ing up to do and I did it in pub­lic. They were tough years but bril­liant too.’

Af­ter six years and 16 Top Ten hits, they dis­banded in 1999. ‘When we broke up we were guilty of say­ing this and that about each other, but we were kids. There was a lit­tle bit­ter­ness but I think we needed to be apart. When we de­cided to get back to­gether in 2007 we met in a ho­tel in Dublin and had it out. It’s like fam­ily. When we’re to­gether now it’s like we’ve never been apart. There’s just some­thing very spe­cial about be­ing in a band. I grew up with these guys. It’s like brother­hood.

‘We re­alise what’s im­por­tant in life now – not sweat­ing the small stuff. We’ve all got things that are more im­por­tant in our lives than the band so it’s not the be-all and end-all any more.’ He touches the tat­too. Smiles. ‘I am who I am,’ he says. Which, fi­nally, makes him happy.

The Magic Ra­dio Break­fast Show with Ro­nan Keat­ing and Har­riet Scott is on every week­day from 6am-10am. Visit magic.co.uk.

‘You’re not al­lowed to be tal­ented in a boy band’

Ro­nan and (in­set) with sec­ond wife Storm

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