He’s spent decades surrounded by famous faces and screaming fans.
et Keith Duffy sums up his three decades on the road with a sigh: “I’ve lived a very lonely life.”
He says he was on tour without his wife and two children and left a hole in him.
He left another huge void in his life 35 weeks ago when his father and musical mentor Séan Duffy died at the age of 76 of his fifth attack of cancer.
The passionate Christian Keith told Sunday World in his most candid interview yet about his father’s death that he tried to cling to “positivity” in his grief.
The father-of-two, 47, said in a chat from his €1.3million (£1.12) mansion in Swords, Dublin, is finding hope in his belief he’s now a constant companion on tour buses, planes and stages in Dublin will have form of the spirit of his father.
Keith said that not only does he believe Sean is always by his side, he also wears a religious medal that the 76-year-old musician gave him before he died of his fifth bout of cancer.
As he prepares to leave his family for a 100-day tour with Boyzlife alongside former Westlife singer Brian McFadden, he said: “I believe in heaven and hell and I believe in life after death , so I feel my father with me all the time, not just when I’m on stage.
“I wear a religious medal that my father used to wear. and i wear it now and i feel that he is a part of me wherever i go.
“I’ve lived a very lonely life — I’ve been in the music business for 30 years and I’ve been traveling the world without my family all that time, so you get used to being alone and now I don’t have to be — mine.” Dad comes everywhere with me now, so it’s a positive way of looking at it and a nice way of looking at it.”
Surprisingly, there’s one way the Boyzone veteran admits he can’t pay tribute to his old man — with an original song.
Guitarist and vocalist Séan – who according to Keith “sang better than Sinatra” – guided his son through the making of his latest album, Old School.
It’s a collection of 1980s-inspired rock tunes starring Brian McFadden (42), with whom Keith founded Boyzlife in 2016.
Though the record is dedicated to Sean and the CD version includes a picture of Keith’s father, he says he doubts he’ll ever try to put his devastation into a song as he wants to stay true to his “pop band” roots and doesn’t think he’s on par with Bob Dylan to do justice to his dad.
Keith added, “We don’t write about real life things — we’re a pop band, we sing songs about love and loss, but writing a song about my father isn’t something I’m interested in — I’m not.” Bob Dylan, you know? I’m in the remains of a boy band.”
He continued about his daily struggle with grief: “My dad passed away on January 8th and you just have to learn to live with it. I don’t think you ever get over losing a parent.
“It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to face. That being said I’m not a kid anymore and it’s a reality of life that most of us will eventually lose a parent or parents in our lives and you don’t really know what that’s like until you’ve experienced it, and I have experienced it now and it’s not very pretty.
“It’s not a nice feeling, it’s not a nice time – it takes time to heal and it’s been eight months now and I still miss him every day.
“He was a great part of my life – he was a great part of my career. He was a great music coach because he was a musician and singer himself, so I found great support from him in everything I do – especially at Boyzlife.
“He really helped with the A&R of our album and gave us his take on how he thought the mixes were going as we recorded songs, so I’m pleased in a way that he heard the finished results before he died .
“It was a beautiful thing for me that he heard the finished songs before he died and in fact we dedicated the album to him.
“There’s a hard copy CD of the album that’s actually dedicated to my dad and there’s a nice picture of him on the album playing the guitar. He would have loved the idea of having his face on the album, you know?
Keith doesn’t need his father’s spirit to protect him from temptation on the street.
Despite being a multi-millionaire thanks to his time with Ronan Keating and co in Boyzone and now his new band Boyzlife, he insists he’s never fallen into the sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll cliché.
“I’ve never been a big fan of alcohol or drugs,” he says. “I grew up like everyone else, but Boyzone wasn’t a heavy metal rock band. We were very aware that we had impressionable fans and a young audience that followed us and respected us and we had to make sure we set a good example for them and lead by example, so it was something we never got into got into it.”
He adds that he’s being raised by Séan and his mother Pat: “It might be the upbringing – Boyzone are all very mama’s boys. And an Irish mammy will have a lot of control over her sons, and the relationship between an Irish mammy and her son is very close.
“I would even say that we had five great mothers and were raised very well and were raised to respect our elders.”
He has shared how his faith got him through the death of fellow Boyzone singer Stephen Gately, who died in 2009 aged 33 from fluid trapped in his lungs
as a result of an undiagnosed congenital heart defect.
Keith said he had trouble sleeping at night with “really bad nightmares” and “probably drank too much” when he struggled with grief – but found that repeating the Hail Mary over and over until it became like a mantra, helped “keep my mind from wandering around or thinking about things I didn’t want to think about.”
He told the Sunday World of his approach to worship: “I go to church when I have to. I wouldn’t be a churchgoer every Sunday and my life wouldn’t allow me to go to church every Sunday – I’m on the road a lot.
“My faith comes from my family and my upbringing – my “My faith comes from my family and my upbringing – my mother and father
drilled their beliefs into me and I took what they taught me and I took what I believed to be true and I kind of found the faith
I believe. It helps me when I lose people. It helps me when I have dark times.”
But Keith’s faith-induced positivity has limits.
He admitted last week that he doesn’t go out and socialize in his hometown of Dublin as he believes he and bandmate Brian are being hammered by negative publicity.
Keith said: “They come here and whether it’s radio DJs or certain journalists, they write derogatory words about us. They are just negative.”
Ex-Boyzone and Westlife manager Louis Walsh, 70, has also taken a stand against the ex-boybands, saying he hates the idea of them “murdering” both groups’ “classics” with their new act.
Family man Keith, who shares son Jay, 26, and daughter Mia, 22, with his wife Lisa Smith, 24, is brushing everything off fans who have been loyal to him for decades – and says he wants the new Boyzlife songs evoke a “nostalgia” that takes them back to a time when they didn’t have to worry about the responsibilities and mundaneities of life, including “bills and mortgages.”
Keith and Brian embark on their UK tour for their ‘Old School’ album in Liverpool on September 26th and perform at the city’s Reminisce Festival on September 10th.
- Tickets for both are available now.
https://www.independent.ie/news/keith-duffy-says-he-cant-write-ballad-for-dad-im-no-bob-dylan-41961212.html Keith Duffy says he ‘can’t write a ballad for dad… I’m not Bob Dylan’