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'Anxiety consumes you – it swallows you up' - Bressie

NIALL Breslin has got his arm around me. We're upstairs in 37 Dawson Street and our photographer would like a lovely shot of the pair of us, side by side, arms around each other's shoulders.

Now I'm a tall guy, but the Mullingar giant has at least three or four inches on me.

Decked out in a waistcoat and tie, the chap also looks like he's on his way to a wedding. "Can't wait to see this picture," I tell him. I'd be happier if I didn't.

Certainly, the man otherwise known as Bressie is in good form. And why wouldn't he be? Solo album number two, Rage And Romance, is released today and it's a steady improvement on its lukewarm, pop-heavy predecessor.

The TV career has also taken off. More than halfway through its second season, Bressie's current position as a coach on The Voice Of Ireland has, to put it mildly, turned this strapping young music-maker into a widely admired TV personality. But, like anything else, his newfound fame came with a price.

As lead singer and songwriter with his former band, The Blizzards, the amiable and surprisingly shy performer released two multi-platinum albums in Ireland. But the guy could still walk down the street with little or no hassle.

That all changed when The Voice premiered on RTE1 in January 2012. All of a sudden, Bressie lost his anonymity. It took its toll.

"I think it was coming anyway, but I started suffering badly from anxiety," he says.

"I'm quite open about it, and I definitely don't blame the show on it. By chance, it happened at the same time as the show kicked off."

Indeed, there was a moment during the show's first season when Bressie felt he was about to have a panic attack on live television. "I'd never had that in my life," he recalls. "I didn't know what they were."

Eventually, he decided to do something about it. He talked to friends and family. He even wrote about it for his new album. His mother, Mandy, suggested he take up sports again. "I think the biggest thing of all was just talking about it," he explains, "and the thing I need to get across about it is, in the same way a cold isn't the flu, stress is not anxiety. Anxiety consumes you – it swallows you up. It's not, 'ah, a bit of stress – I'll have a beer and I'll get over it'. It doesn't work like that".

"If you're in the public eye," he continues, "and you suffer from anything like depression or anxiety, you really have a responsibility to make people aware of it. Because I'm 31, and I found it hard to deal with. Could you imagine being 13 and trying to figure out what the f***'s going on?"

Last year, Bressie began training for a series of forthcoming triathlons in order to raise awareness and money for the Lakelands Area Retreat & Cancer Centre (LARCC), a foundation run by his mother. "It's really good for the head," he says of his training. "Anything like anxiety or depression is a chemical imbalance in your head and anything that actually offsets that, like physical fitness, helps. I chose not to go down the medication route."

These days, Bressie is beginning to enjoy his fame. He's passionate about his craft and genuinely loves working on The Voice. Temporarily based in Dublin while the show continues its live run, he's been living in London these past couple of years, working as a songwriter and producer for Simon Fuller's 19 Entertainment.

 

Horrible

It's not the easiest city to live in, he admits. "It's an every-man-for-himself mantra there," he says. When Bressie initially left Ireland, he had also grown to dislike a few things about his own country.

"There was a horrible cynicism that was a side-effect of the Celtic Tiger," he explains. "I started coming back here last year and started falling back in love with Dublin again, and being close to Mullingar and close to family. When I was in college, everyone had to do commerce or a degree in business because that's where the money was and that's where the future was, and that kind of turned on its a***.

"So now, it's great to see younger people being driven towards creative arts. If you wanna be in a band, be in a band – it's not a dead future."

It certainly wasn't the response that greeted Bressie upon making a decision to call time on his rugby career (he had a Leinster contract) which ended in 2004 after a series of unfortunate injuries.

For one thing, his dad, Enda, was a little upset. "I think it was more because he was like, 'how do you propose you're gonna be successful?' and I was like, 'you said that to me when I was playing rugby, too – there's a lot of players trying to get professional contracts and I got it because I worked at it, and I'm gonna do the same with the music'."

And so he did. His parents couldn't be prouder.

"I have amazing parents," he smiles, "I didn't come from a privileged background – my dad was a civil servant army man, my mum was a music teacher. But I never wanted for anything. They knew if I wanted a guitar that I was gonna learn to play it – I wasn't gonna throw it in the garage a couple of weeks later ... "

Let's talk women. Or, at least, the female attention that Bressie now receives on a daily basis. Indeed, Bressie is now seen as something of a, erm, sex symbol. Must be strange, that one. "Yeah, it is," he grins, "people who know me definitely rip the s*** out of me for it."

Currently a single man, the last time we spoke, Bressie discussed how a bloke his age should probably be thinking about marriage and kids but that, hey, there's still plenty of time for all that.

And he's in no mood to start something serious for the sake of being in a relationship.

"Once you force it, you probably end up with someone that's not right for you," he offers. "I'd rather that than end up with someone I don't love."

 

Families

Surely these things cross his mind, though, whenever he sees friends of his starting their own families?

"Ah yeah, of course," he nods, "when you start going to Christenings and stuff. Just because you're on TV or you're in a band doesn't mean you're not the exact same as everybody else. We all have those thoughts. We all think, 'Jesus Christ, I need to find someone to procreate with!'," he says, laughing.

"But I can't be living like that. I have my mum wrecking my head enough about it ... "

Rage And Romance is released today


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