From rugby jock to rock star... how Bressie became the hottest man on TV
Niall Breslin tells Melanie Finn about his journey from rugby jock to rock stardom and TV fame
FOR a man of just 31, Niall Breslin has an impressive resume.
A former Leinster player, making music since his teens, he has scored a string of number one hits, supported AC/DC at Slane and worked as a producer with American Idol creator Simon Fuller
Prior to his stint on The Voice of Ireland, the 6'6" star was best known in Ireland as the hulking frontman of The Blizzards. Now he's appearing on our small screens every Sunday night in his role as a passionate mentor in RTE's runaway success.
And that's without even mentioning the lust-inducing effect that Bressie is having on the 'Mna na hEireann'. When the single singer announced on Twitter that he was taking his sister Andrea as his date to the Iftas, he was swamped with offers from ladies.
Irish women this week voted him top of their list of potential Valentine's Day dates. And when I spotted him at the Ifta aftershow party, it was no surprise to see him getting more female attention than Hollywood hunk Michael Fassbender.
But he appears more irritated by the sex-symbol tag than anything else, as it detracts from his talent: "There's no way of reacting to that without coming across as a complete tool. I usually keep my mouth shut. It's flattering but I don't take it for granted," he said.
Born in Dublin, he moved to Mullingar at the age of two after his military father, Enda, was reassigned to the Army barracks. At the age of 13, his father was deployed to Israel and his mum, Mandy, decided they should all go over for six months. It was an experience he describes as "life changing" and recalls nights spent in bomb shelters: "You could feel the ground shaking from the missiles and you could hear the planes going overhead. It makes you appreciate living in somewhere like Ireland."
But it was here he first discovered his passion for sport and began playing football and rugby. He also nurtured his love of music, instilled in him by his musician mum, who taught piano and fiddle. He formed a band as a teenager with some local pals.
He played Gaelic football and rugby and it didn't take long for his talent to be spotted, going to UCD on a rugby scholarship to study economics. When he graduated, he was picked up by Leinster. He toured Australia in the World Cup with the Ireland U-21's but was plagued by injuries and decided to give it up. He said it broke his dad's heart -- but it was the best move for him.
"With every game you go out to play, you have this pressure -- what if I get injured tonight? So how can you play properly with that? And then when I was injured I became like a second-class citizen. I thought: 'F**k this, I've got something more in life that I'm good at.'"
And so he turned his attentions to The Blizzards in 2004 with pals Declan Murphy, Justin Ryan, Anthony Doran and Aidan Lynch. With the charismatic lead singer and songwriter Bressie at the helm, they worked steadily to build a loyal fan-base in Ireland.
They had multiple platinum record sales, won awards and played at the major festivals. But in December 2009, they played what was to be their last headline show in the Olympia theatre after saying they were taking a break.
Niall promptlymoved to London to work on material for other artists. He landed a job as a co-producer and writer with 19 Entertainment, owned by media giant Simon Fuller. He recorded his first solo album Colourblind Stereo, which he released last September to positive reviews.
He started spending more time in Dublin after scoring a hit with his new solo single Can't Stay Forever Young. But it was him landing his job as a mentor on the RTE show The Voice of Ireland that made him a household name -- and pushed his solo album into a number one spot in the iTunes charts.
His new role is one he clearly relishes - showing his technical know-how while locking horns with rivals Kian Egan, Sharon Corr and Brian Kennedy.
"With a show like this, you just don't know how people are going to perceive you," he said. "I've been myself and, lucky enough, people have been receptive. The thing about it is, I am trying to push the musical side.
"I told the producers that if this is just a TV show, you're asking the wrong person. I really want to get talent out there. I'm hoping that I'm proving to people that I do know what I'm talking about and that I'm not there to fill the chair," he said. "I'm doing The Voice because I've been watching these types of shows for years and asking myself, why don't they care about the music?'
It seems that Bressie has found his own voice -- and Ireland is definitely listening.