‘I don’t know what went wrong’

With the as­ton­ish­ing can­dour of a man still in raw shock, tenor Paul By­rom opens his heart about his re­cent mar­riage split... and the pain of los­ing not just his wife but also his fa­ther-in-law Phil Coul­ter

Irish Daily Mail - - News - By Eoin Mur­phy

‘The thought of start­ing again breaks my heart’

PAUL By­rom is in great shape. His ath­letic physique is the re­sult of CrossFit, a daily ex­er­cise regime that, he says, dou­bles as a cop­ing mech­a­nism. For although the charis­matic tenor — who has carved out a transat­lantic ca­reer as one of the na­tion’s top clas­si­cal singers — may look like he doesn’t have a care in the world, the re­al­ity is very dif­fer­ent.

Up un­til this year Paul was one half of mu­sic’s golden cou­ple. He was mar­ried to his sweet­heart Do­minique, daugh­ter of mu­si­cian Phil Coul­ter. The cou­ple first met when Paul per­formed on Coul­ter’s Tran­quil­lity cruise when Do­minique was 22.

But af­ter five years of mar­riage, Paul says their re­la­tion­ship is over. How­ever he ad­mits he still doesn’t un­der­stand how, or why, things fell apart.

‘I will say for as long as I live, for how­ever long that may be, I will never un­der­stand what hap­pened,’ he says. ‘In all hon­esty, I don’t know how I’m not mar­ried any more and I don’t think I will ever un­der­stand that. That’s some­thing I have to come to terms with and move on.

‘I think the tran­si­tion from New York back to Dublin and start­ing a life that we thought we would have here was more dif­fi­cult than ei­ther of us ex­pected. It put a strain on the mar­riage, for sure.

‘I’m sit­ting now won­der­ing what’s next for me. I’m al­most 40 and the thought of start­ing again breaks my heart.’

Paul speaks openly and frankly about his emo­tional sit­u­a­tion. He’s still try­ing to process the mas­sive per­sonal up­heaval he now has to deal with on a day-to-day ba­sis. Mov­ing on is not a process he takes lightly as he had to put on hold his dreams of start­ing a fam­ily.

‘Deep down I thought I had met the one. I was madly in love with her,’ he says of Do­minique. ‘I was very proud to call her my wife. I thought we would have kids and live hap­pily ever af­ter. The thought of try­ing to find the courage to date again or the thought of even get­ting mar­ried again is just odd.

‘I don’t think I will ever get mar­ried again, if I’m hon­est. But I can’t see my­self liv­ing alone ei­ther. I don’t want to be that guy who lives with his dog and talks to him on In­sta­gram ev­ery day.’

Paul is cur­rently liv­ing in a rented apart­ment and is keep­ing as busy as pos­si­ble. His friends have been ‘in­valu­able’, bring­ing him to the pub for foot­ball matches. He is also get­ting se­ri­ous sup­port from his CrossFit crew. He no longer wears his wed­ding band, although a small tan line is vis­i­ble on his ring fin­ger.

He’s not yet ready to face the world of dat­ing — let alone down­load the Tin­der app.

‘The thought of Tin­der is scary,’ he says. ‘I re­mem­ber Dom and I used to watch First Dates a lot. I’m not shy and I love con­ver­sa­tion and com­pany and meet­ing peo­ple. But I used to watch it and won­der how th­ese peo­ple were say­ing the things they did on cam­era. But here I am now in the same space.

‘It’s 11 years since I was dat­ing and a lot has changed. I have changed. I’m grey in the beard and not as cool as I used to be — if I ever was.

‘It’s dif­fi­cult and scary and painful but I’m im­mers­ing my­self in work. I’ve been re­ally lucky that it hap­pened when I was at home in Ire­land. The sup­port I got from my fam­ily and friends is im­mense and I am say­ing yes to ev­ery­thing. If some­one asked me if I wanted to watch a chess match I would agree be­cause the thought of go­ing home alone ev­ery evening is the worst.

‘Sit­ting at home alone is the hard­est. I think that any­one who is go­ing through a mar­riage break-up would say the same. All of a sud­den, be­ing alone is the hard­est part.’

While the loss of his soul­mate is tough enough to deal with, Paul also lost the pro­fes­sional con­nec­tion to his fa­ther-in-law Phil. He con­cedes that los­ing his men­tor hurts a great deal.

‘Los­ing the re­la­tion­ship with Phil was one of the hard­est things to process as well,’ he says of the mu­sic leg­end who was his fa­ther-in-law.

‘I’ve lost a fam­ily. We would have been 20 years work­ing to­gether and he was very good to me. I was very loyal to him and we got on very well. That hurts a lot. His loy­alty is with Do­minique and I don’t hold that against him.

‘But I will say that there was no in­ci­dent. No is­sues, no­body cheated on the other. I find my­self think­ing of them ev­ery day, the fam­ily, and I think of Dom ev­ery day still. I of­ten dream about her.

‘It’s very real still when I wake up and re­alise she’s not there. I will fig­ure it out and it will all play out in the end for the bet­ter. I love Do­minique very much, I still do and I don’t wish her any ill.’

It would have been easy for Paul to stay in bed and not face his de­mons. But that’s not the per­son he is. He be­lieves in talk­ing and openly ad­mits to seek­ing pro­fes­sional help when he felt over­whelmed at his per­sonal sit­u­a­tion.

‘I have to look af­ter my­self. I do — I talk a lot,’ he says. ‘I am not one of those men who won’t talk which is a huge thing for me. My own fa­ther com­mit­ted sui­cide and that has stayed with me. He had his de­mons to deal with and I saw first-hand what keep­ing stuff to your­self can do. I strug­gled with lev­els of it my­self

in re­cent years, when you come back and the work isn’t here, it starts play­ing on you. A man needs to work, whether that is PC or not, I don’t care. A man feels bet­ter when he’s work­ing and I wasn’t. ‘That re­ally got un­der my skin and got me down, to the point that I went and got help be­cause of the fear of that de­vel­op­ing into some­thing that took me down a path I didn’t want to go down. I’m a big ad­vo­cate of talk­ing and get­ting help and not be­ing ashamed of that. ‘Even with the break-up, I’ve chat­ted to peo­ple about it — I think it’s the best way to be. You have to look af­ter your­self and I am no good to any­one six feet un­der. There is some­thing ex­cit­ing about that as well. It is about be­ing pos­i­tive. By be­ing pos­i­tive, good things will hap­pen and if I try to be a good per­son it will all play out in the end.’ In 2007 Paul be­came one of the orig­i­nal soloists in the hit show Celtic Thun­der. He toured North Amer­ica and Aus­tralia with the group and had six Num­ber 1 World Bill­board al­bums. Last year his lat­est al­bum Think­ing of Home reached the top of the iTunes, Ama­zon and World Bill­board Charts and he has just been named the Ir­ish Tenor of the Year by the IMA for the sec­ond time in three years. Paul’s ta­lent as a singer has taken him across the world, and some of his ca­reer high­lights in­clude per­form­ing for dig­ni­taries such as Em­peror Ak­i­hito of Ja­pan, for­mer Ir­ish pres­i­dents Mary McAleese and Mary Robinson and, most re­cently, for for­mer US pres­i­dent Barack Obama. He says he has found real com­mu­nity though work­ing in pan­tomime. As if the cos­mos is lis­ten­ing, Paul’s phone beeps and it is one his fel­low cast mem­bers in the Helix Panto. Paul has signed up for a three-month stint which will see him work­ing all the way through Christ­mas.

He plays the Sher­iff of Not­ting­ham in Robin Hood, mak­ing it his sec­ond year tak­ing on the an­nual panto.

Last year, he was a star turn on The Helix stage in Beauty and the Beast where he played Gas­ton, much to the amuse­ment of the young au­di­ences who flocked through the doors.

And this year will be no dif­fer­ent. Work­ing, he says, helps him fill his hours and he loves tread­ing the boards as a panto heel. He has al­ready signed up for tour dates in the US through­out Fe­bru­ary and March, and he might even ex­tend his time on tour in the States to give his heart more time to heal.

‘Pro­fes­sion­ally, Amer­ica suits me bet­ter,’ Paul ad­mits. ‘There is prob­a­bly more work for me over there and more in­ter­est in me. Ire­land is a small scene. If you’re not get­ting the pro­file, you’re not get­ting the work. In the States, if you get the work you’ll get the pro­file, which is bizarre.’

Paul is vis­i­bly an­gry when he speaks about the Ire­land that he re­turned to.

‘Watch­ing Peter Casey talk in the pres­i­den­tial de­bate about how he is go­ing to en­cour­age peo­ple to come back to Ire­land or Leo tweet­ing about what a great time it is to move back to Ire­land, it makes me sick in some re­spects.

‘Where are th­ese peo­ple go­ing to live when they come back? Yes, there are jobs go­ing but where are you go­ing to live?

‘Th­ese are se­ri­ous is­sues for pro­fes­sional peo­ple like my­self, who are work­ing and con­tribut­ing to so­ci­ety and you can’t find some­where de­cent to live.

‘ It is not as rosy as the politi­cians are mak­ing out. I think it has tainted my view of this coun­try, for the mo­ment any­how,’ he says.

While he has is­sues with the hous­ing sit­u­a­tion in the coun­try, he ad­mits in his heart he is happy to be home, on a per­sonal level at least.

‘I love Ire­land and I en­joy be­ing here — per­son­ally, Ire­land suits me. I en­joy be­ing here among my fam­ily and friends,’ Paul says.

‘I like a pint on a Tues­day night in O’Donoghue’s, or go­ing to Ranelagh and meet­ing friends at the last minute. My granny lives around the cor­ner, she’s 99, and that means a lot to me.

That be­ing said, I was in New York in Septem­ber where I lived for four years and I had a free day. I got on a city bike and just cy­cled around won­der­ing why I ever left.

I had a good life there and I was happy there. It was a great chap­ter in my life. So I might re­visit that at some point, I just don’t know. ‘But for now, I’m cop­ing and that’s good enough.’

Robin Hood will be­gin an eight week run from Novem­ber 23 to Jan­uary 20, 2019. Tick­ets priced from €19.50, are on sale from the­he­lix.ie and at The Helix Box Of­fice.

‘Los­ing the re­la­tion­ship with Phil was hard’

Bliss: Paul By­rom with Do­minique on their wed­ding day

Panto star: With his for­mer fa­ther-in-law Phil

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