The singer and author on his love of music, his PhD, and taking his podcast on the road
Niall “Bressie” Breslin (42) hails from Mullingar and is the lead singer with The Blizzards, a best-selling author, and has started a PhD. He has a popular podcast – Where is My Mind? His book The Sleep Scan, published by Gill Books, is out now in paperback.
What were you like growing up?
I was a quiet, shy kid and a worrier. I was very attached to my mum. My dad was overseas a lot because he was in the army. There was a piano in my house and I played it all day, every day. My mum is a music teacher. She used to give violin and piano lessons in the house. When my grandmother died, she gave me her piano. It fed my love story with music.
Define yourself in three words.
Calm, anxious and empathetic.
How do you start the day?
I look at the light. I take 15 minutes to get into my body and I start the day slowly.
How do you cope in a crisis?
People assume that those who have had anxiety all their life are terrible in a crisis. But that’s when I’m really good. My brain focuses and I immediately focus on a solution. I have always had that. I worry about my family a lot. I suppose it’s a side effect of love.
Best advice given?
Every emotion is valid.
Best advice you give?
In mindfulness, there are two arrows of suffering. The first one is the painful stuff, like losing someone we love, and the second one is the arrow that we fire at ourselves. My advice is: don’t fire the second arrow, the first one hurts enough.
Can anxiety ever be good?
It’s good to be anxious because it drives you and gets you out of bed and keeps you focused. But when it becomes dysfunctional it really impedes your relationships.
It destroyed my life in terms of the things I love and the people I love because I didn’t know how to talk about it. I thought maybe it was born out of post-traumatic stress. I moved to Israel when I was 13 and had a bad experience. There was a nine day war when I was there.
But really, when I dug deeper, I realised that it came out of a very physically abusive primary school. We were beaten. The most basic need of a child is to feel safe and you take that from a child and it will affect them. I’ve had this panic disorder most of my life.
Why did you leave Twitter?
It was making me unwell. It’s a personal choice. I realised that I shouldn’t be consuming it, especially first thing in the morning.
How did sport become another stick to beat yourself with?
I became obsessed with it, thinking I have to train and if I don’t train, I’m worthless. I love challenges and I did the big ones like Iron Man but they didn’t make me happy.
Why are you doing a PhD in psychosocial interventions?
I want to bring something to the table. I’m enjoying the challenge of using my brain like this.
Is music still in your life?
I’m still in the band. I produce and I have a recording studio. You don’t pay a mortgage with music but it’s my outlet – a safe space for me.
What drives you?
I want to be the strongest role model for my 10-year-old nephew Billy. I want him to grow up in a world where he can express how he is feeling.
What can we expect from your live podcast show?
With music, spoken word and interviews, I want it to be a big hug for the mind.
What do you do for fun?
My therapist calls it vitamin P – playfulness. It’s those moments where you are silly. Years ago, they used to just revolve around alcohol. Then I had to really change my relationship with alcohol and look at other ways of finding those moments where I don’t care what anyone thinks.
What makes you laugh?
A few people in my life make me fall apart with laughter. The other day I spent two hours watching people trying to sing ‘Bad Romance’ by Lady Gaga on TikTok. I spent two hours laughing.
Niall Breslin’s ‘Where is my Mind?’ live podcast is at 3Olympia on April 28. ticketmaster.ie