Nicky Byrne: 'The best make-up artist we had was Shane Filan, even at contouring. He had us all looking like Brad Pitt!'
Life lessons from the former Westlife star and Irish Eurovision representative
Singer-songwriter Nicky Byrne is representing Ireland at this year's Eurovision Song Contest in Sweden with his song Sunlight. Nicky (37) is married to Georgina and has twin sons, Rocco and Jay (9), and a daughter, Gia (2). He was a member of the popular band Westlife for 14 years, and now presents The Nicky Byrne Show with Jenny Greene on 2fm at 10am weekdays. His debut solo album Sunlight will be released on May 13.
Things have evolved for Georgina and I through the years, and I've learned that you have to keep changing with the times. Getting married and buying a house was exciting, and then bills, children and career changes came along. You have to love and trust each other through it all, and our marriage is as strong as ever and everything is rosy.
A young man always hopes that he'll be lucky enough to become a dad. It was life-changing for me and I love it. I was always responsible, but we suddenly had to put the kids before ourselves and everything became about them.
I understand why people say daughters have their parents wrapped around their little finger. After the chaos of twin boys, our little girl Gia was softer and a lot less boisterous. With the twins, both of us had a kid at all times, but it was a bit more relaxing with one baby as we could take turns looking after her.
I can't even imagine what I'm going to be like when Gia starts wanting to go to nightclubs. I'm going to be the dad telling her she is "not going out wearing that," texting and ringing all the time asking where she is, and sitting in the car outside the teenage disco waiting for her to come out.
Playing football for Ireland as a teenager was amazing and it taught me an awful lot. You have to learn to lose as well as win. Everyone threw a big going-away party for me when I signed for Leeds United as a teenager, but I was back home within three years and I felt like a failure. That was probably one of the biggest challenges I've had in life.
Being in Westlife taught me how to put on make-up, which is an incredible thing to admit. The best make-up artist we had was Shane [Filan], even at contouring. He had us all looking like Brad Pitt! It was great travelling as a gang, especially in the early days.
Once the big cheques started coming in, the team broke away a little. We bought apartments so weren't living in hotels together any more. Then girlfriends and wives came into the picture and things changed again. When we knew we were splitting up, we really just enjoyed touring again.
There were plenty of opportunities to punch the heads off each other, but thankfully we never did. I'm delighted we've all remained friends - it would have been very easy to fall out. As well as performing, you are also running a business and making decisions. We screamed and went head to head at times, but that's part and parcel for any man being involved in that environment.
Westlife becoming so big enabled Georgina and I to have this big castle wedding that we never would have been able to afford or imagine. We were able to do the wedding deal with OK! Magazine, which meant we could give 400 of our friends and family a fairytale day in France.
I've learned that life isn't forever so you have to enjoy it. My dad died of a heart attack when he was only 60. I was just about to fly off on a promotional tour when my mam phoned me at Dublin airport because she couldn't get in touch with him. I rang his work and they went to his office and found him lying on the ground. I was still on the phone during all that time so you can imagine what that was like?
My dad taught me always to concentrate on the things you love. He told me to be honest with him and he would always have my back, and never to bring the Gardaí to the door. He also taught me that everything is mind over matter. My mam, Yvonne, taught me to be a human being and a gentleman. My sister Gillian, brother Adam and I were brought up in a very loving environment, and hopefully we have all served our parents well.
When I got this opportunity to record an album and then do Eurovision, I thought: "What have I got to lose?" I love Ireland and it doesn't matter if you don't like me or the song, if you're Irish you'll fly the flag and want us to do well. There's no point in entering as a country any more if we don't give ourselves the best shot. I'm not saying I'm that, but I'm doing something different and there is always a chance I could win or do well. Plus Westlife had a huge fanbase, and we could use that to try to boost our national pride through Eurovision.
I would have loved to go to Sweden having had a huge hit here, but that is probably not going to be the case, unfortunately. Universal Records were met with problems around getting my single on other radio playlists because I was a DJ on 2fm. I was disappointed because I have always had great relationships with all these stations and DJs throughout Westlife. The song was co-written by two of the most famous songwriters in the world, so we ticked every box we could, but we were met with opposition.
I wasn't chosen to do Eurovision because I was on 2fm, I was chosen because it's a good song and package. This is another angle to try, so if we qualify, great, and if I do well, it might open up this opportunity to other artists next year.
The Eurovision begins on Tuesday on RTÉ2 at 8pm, and Nicky performs in the second semi-final on Thursday, May 12, at 8pm. The final airs on RTÉ One on Saturday, May 14, at 8pm