Interview - voice judge Bressie on that soccer song, quitting Leinster and his new solo album

When I told friends I would be interviewing Bressie, among multiple requests from girls for his phone number, one person asked: “Who’s Bressie?” In fairness to her, she had been out of the country for the past year.

When I told friends I would be interviewing Bressie, among multiple requests from girls for his phone number, one person asked: “Who’s Bressie?” In fairness to her, she had been out of the country for the past year.

A year ago, Niall Breslin was still a relative unknown in Ireland. Having given up on his fledgling rugby career in 2004, followed by the breakup of his band The Blizzards in 2009, he had just released his first solo single, ‘Can’t Stay Young Forever’.

Now ‘Bressie’ is among the most talked-about names in Ireland, following last September’s release of his debut album ‘Colourblind Stereo’ and his coaching role on RTE’s ‘The Voice of Ireland’.

He is currently mid-way through a tour around Ireland, which sees him performing in Kildare twice in June, the first of which was on Friday at the Leixlip Festival.

“I haven’t gigged in a few weeks so it’s nice to get back to Ireland,” he said, talking to the Leinster Leader beforehand.

The 31-year-old will also play the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby Festival at the Curragh on Friday 29 June. However, there is another festival in Kildare that he says he is disappointed won’t be on this year.

As frontman of The Blizzards, he performed at Oxegen every year from 2005 to 2009. But with the cancellation of the Punchestown based festival for 2012, he will have to wait until 2013 for an opportunity to perform there again.

“The recession’s really kickin’ the shit out of music. I’ve always looked forward to the build up to it so I’m a bit disappointed this year that it’s not on.”

The big stage certainly has its appeal to the man with the 6’6” frame. “My first ever big stage experience was Oxegen and it took a long time to get used to it. I prefer the smaller, more intimate gigs in general but every now and again you do a big gig and it’s just rocking. It’s the big stage and I’m a big guy and I get to move.”

Breslin can currently claim to have the number one single in the Irish charts, having contributed to ‘The Rocky Road to Poland’, the official song for the Irish soccer team’s Euro 2012 campaign in Poland and Ukraine. He performed alongside Damien Dempsey, The Dubliners, Danny O’Reilly from The Coronas and members of the Irish soccer team and the Mullingar man says “it was a privilege” to be involved.

“Some of those soccer songs can be an absolute disaster. And it’s not. It’s a top-quality song. Everyone that’s heard it has loved it. It’s very traditional, it’s very to the roots of Ireland. It’s also quite inspiring so I’m really happy with it.”

Of course, had things gone differently, the 31-year-old could have been celebrating a third Heineken Cup rugby title in four years with Leinster, having played for the club between 2002 and 2004. But he has “no regrets” about giving up the rugby.

“They have an amazing backrow so if I’d wanted first-team play I would have had to move club. I wasn’t enjoying playing any more and that’s it. It’s not like I’ve regained the passion to play. I had too many injuries.”

He has never looked back. “The thing I’m most proud of is that when I did retire from rugby, I didn’t accept that I wasn’t going to succeed. It was very hard to tell my parents that I was walking away from a very good career with good money and a relatively stable job [and instead] saying: ‘I’m gonna end up playing covers in a pub on Tuesday and Wednesday nights to make money’. Whenever I’ve been put in that position in my life, I’ve always done everything I can do. When we got the first platinum album with The Blizzards and I was able to turn around to my parents and say it was worthwhile. I made the decision. It could have really backfired. I think they had an element of respect for me for doing it.”

When The Blizzards broke up at the end of 2009 – due to the instability in their lives at a time when some of the band members were just starting families – again, it did not take Bressie long to get back on the horse. And he seems to be enjoying the solo career.

“I love that there’s other parts to what I do. There’s the television thing (The Voice), the production thing, the artist thing... So I never get bored. It’s lonely at times. You can often set foot in the studio and you’re in there on your own, completely isolated. So that can be difficult. But I know what I’m doing. I don’t need to be babysat.”

Fans of Bressie will be delighted to hear that he is currently starting work on a new album. He will also release a new single, ‘Android Heart’, from the album Colourblind Stereo in mid-June. “I’m a big fan of ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’, which has got Marvin the Paranoid Android. It’s the idea that sometimes humans are better off not having emotions because they can often get in the way.”

But it doesn’t look like anything will get in the way of Bressie’s rising popularity.

- Liam Godinho