Ger Reidy

First Published May 2022

A HELL OF A MAN

Part 1

If you’re a regular reader of this column, then you’ll know that OTRT is a huge fan of RTE’s SPECIAL FORCES – ULTIMATE HELL WEEK show. And we’ve been lucky enough to sit down for a chat with the show’s Chief DS Ray Goggins, as well as two of the stand-out performers on this year’s celebrity version of the show; eventual winner Ryan Andrews of Fair City fame, and world champion dancer Laura Nolan from another of RTE’s most successful creations of recent years, Dancing With The Stars.

Both Ryan and Laura had captivating and enthralling stories to tell from their time on the show earlier this year, made all the more compelling, of course, because we – the viewers, sitting in the comfort of our own homes with a mug of tea in hand – got to ‘share’ that journey with them. Talking to Ray, though, that was a different experience. And why wouldn’t it be. Whereas Ryan and Laura are famous faces to us, and well used to the spotlight, Ray and his colleagues in the Army Ranger Wing have purposely spent their careers staying out of sight, keeping their heads down, and for the most part going unnoticed by the rest of the world. Until, that is, Ultimate Hell Week came along and changed all that. 

This week, we have the pleasure of adding the name of DS GER REIDY to the list of Hell Week stars we’ve had the privilege of sitting down with. And sitting down with someone like Ger isn’t just a chance for a great chat. As with Ray, it’s a chance to learn. 

Now, whether Ger likes the term or not, there’s no doubt that he, along with his fellow DS’s (Ray Goggins, Robert Stafford, and Alan O’ Brien) – are the ‘stars’ of the show. But more than simply being one of the show’s main figures, Ger is one of the core group responsible for the show even existing at all. Before we got on to that, though, I wondered if the show’s success and the way it has really captured the public’s imagination over the last few years had taken him by surprise at all? 

“Yeah, it actually has. Because what we do in the Unit (the Army Ranger Wing), and the Unit’s existence, was kept fairly secret for years. So we were quite surprised when it started to take off, because we didn’t know how people would take it, ya know. But I suppose our main concern at the time was how the guys in the Unit would look at it and look at us, because obviously we tried to give some indication to people of what it’s like to go through selection, and show the public what it’s really like to go through that type of thing. So when it took off, yeah, it really did surprise us. We didn’t think there’d be that many people who’d be into this type of thing.” 

So is it a thing that Ger finds himself being recognised more when he’s out and about now, thanks to his involvement in the show? 

“Ah it is, yeah, and it was very weird there for me – and for the lads – for a long time. I spent twenty-one years in the Unit, and in twenty-one years I never wore my uniform home. No-one ever really knew what I did. Even in the town, and I live in a small town where I was highly involved with playing a high level of soccer, and Gaelic, my main sport was Gaelic football so I played that a lot even when I was in the Unit. When the show kicked off and came out, it was fierce funny because I was getting a lot of different looks from people in the town who never knew what I did. And guys would be sort of half afraid of me to come near me on the pitch [laughs]. So it was kinda weird.” 

When Ger, Ray, Robert, and Alan, were first approached by Motive Television about the idea for Hell Week, it was far from a matter of everyone responding along the lines of, “Yes, brilliant, television, let’s do it!” In fact, it was actually something which all four put considerable thought into, not only as to whether or not such a show should happen, but if it did, what shape it would take…

“Yeah, that was kinda weird as well. I was on tour for a while and I came home and got an email talking about this. That email came through another ex-Unit guy who was approached as well. I thought it was a wind-up. And obviously the four of us are mates, so I sent the email on to them saying, ‘Here, did ye get this?’, cos’ we’re all paranoid, like, ya know [laughs]. And they did. Then we met Jamie [D’Alton] from Motive TV, and again, before we met him we all had a good chat, because again, we’re all paranoid [laughs]. We didn’t know where this was after coming from, or if it was a joke, or someone just pulling something out of their underpants, as we would say [laughs]. We met him, and it was funny, because we met so he could kind of interview us, but it really turned the other way around and we started interviewing him! But eventually he told us how it had went up the chain [of command in the Army] and then back down and it was all ok that way, and we were the guys they wanted to do it. And even at that, when he spoke to us we didn’t say yes straight away, it took us a while. We had a lot of coffees, the four of us together, and had a good talk about it. We kind of knew how the perception would be when it went out, and we told them. And it was hard for them as well, because we told them, look, when ye see us switching into this mode, it’s gonna be really weird to you. Because I was talking to them like I’m talking to you now. But when we switch into a training mode, it’s a different type of environment.”

“And the production crew”, Ger pointed out, “would never have experienced that. We were trying to explain to him that when this goes out on air, people that don’t get it will probably think we’re bullies and that, but people that do get it will understand. And we were trying to explain that what we do is nothing new. This is done in every SF (Special Forces) unit in the world. We didn’t pull this out of our underpants, and neither did they [any other SF unit). Everybody talks to each other because this is such a small community. We see how we all train things and how we bring in guys, and we change things. So the selection course changes quite considerably every year to try and make it better and get more people in. We understood that we’d get that label for a while until people kind of got it and understood. Then, of course, when we got out there and were doing a couple of interviews like this, we were trying to explain that there’s a process to it. Everybody is treated fairly. Everybody is on the same level once they come into the Unit. But our main concern at the time when the four of us spoke about it was actually the guys in the Unit, because we were trying to portray a representation of what everybody goes through in there. We really wanted their OK more than anybody else’s. We didn’t really care about anybody else’s! So once the guys in there were happy that it was a fair representation of what they go through, then we were happy enough. We were gonna get labelled with whatever we got labelled, but we were willing to take that on the chin and put ourselves out there. And that was a big thing. We knew we were gonna be in the limelight, and that was very hard for us. Because as I said, we’ve spent the last twenty-odd years hiding from all that kind of stuff! [Laughs].” 

Before talking more about the show, I wanted to talk a little about Ger himself. Some people might watch him on Hell Week and think, ‘Yeah, he likes to shout, and yeah, he could probably take on five or six lads in one go…but is there anything else to him?’ Well, the answer to that is a simple and definite yes! Try a Master’s Degree – with First Class honours – in Forensic Computing and Cybercrime from UCD. I asked Ger about his decision to go in that particular direction…

“Well I was always into tech, but I kept that to myself. Because the guys in work would be lashing me out of it, ya know, they’d be calling me nerd and everything [laughs]. But when their phone would break, I’d fix it, ya know! So I was always dossing about taking phones apart and taking computers apart and fixing them or trying to put my own little bits of code onto them, that kind of thing. But that was just a hobby. Once the Afghanistan and Iraq war kicked off, things changed in the intelligence end of things. We used to work in the olden days as a triangle. That would be from the top down, with intel coming in, then down to the guys on the ground and they’d go do their thing. Nowadays – it comes from all directions – but a lot of it comes from the ground in, all the way up the triangle, sorted at the top, then it comes back down. And the reason that happens is because of all the technical stuff now. It’s what we call TEO, Technical Exploitation Operations. It’s like a forensic investigation, but it’s done in quick-time. We do the same thing as the police would do if they go into a crime-scene, except they get themselves suited up to take the fingerprints. We do all that, but in quick-time. We have five-minute, ten-minute, and fifteen minutes windows because obviously there’s bullets flying our way and that. So we come in, lift fingerprints, look for the stuff that you can use to actually make bombs, all that kind of thing. Then with the phones, we have machines to take all the information off them, and laptops, all of that. I did a lot of courses in that kinda stuff in SF schools around the world, because we’d all get taught the same thing. So I could go into any other team, or the guys could go into any other team around the world, and do the same drill because it’s the same thing that’s taught to everybody.” 

Ger continued, “That’s where I got into it. I just decided then that we might be able to put this to good use within the unit and get a technical side of things set up. So I found that course in UCD and I could do the restricted one because I was in the military. That has an extra couple of courses on it that the civilian one doesn’t. I went hell-for-leather at that. And it was hard-going for the two years. Well, it was about two-and-a-half for me when I put my head to it. I think you needed ninety credits or something to pass, that would equate to nine courses, and you could break that down over the two years. But of course I wanted to do everything, so I think I did about twelve courses, and then a dissertation as well which was another thirty credits. I didn’t need to do a dissertation, but I wanted to because I was interested in things and how it all could benefit the Defence Forces, and relate it to the Defence Forces. So that’s why I decided to do that.” 

I think it’s fair to say that everybody in the Army Ranger Wing needs to be a leader. And Ger’s career has examples of leadership that few people could match. Just some examples include being a Team Leader, a Team 2i/c (2nd-in-command), Platoon Sergeant, an NCO in Lebanon, Close Protection Team 2i/c for a trip to Beirut by the President, being Close Protection Team Leader for a visit to Ireland by the US Army’s Joint Chief-of-Staff, and countless more that the general public will probably never know anything about. But in leaders who Ger has looked up to, what have been two or three of their main attributes that he’s admired? 

“I suppose one of the big things – that I find anyway in leadership – is the integrity of a leader. Integrity in a nutshell is you own up to your own faults. Accept the mistakes you make. I’ve been under some guys in those positions and they’d never accept their own mistakes. But we’re only human, everybody learns from their mistakes. And especially in the SF community, that’s how we get good at what we do. And that’s why guys are so good at what they do, they always learn from their mistakes. They have an ability to really critique each other a lot, accept those mistakes, and move on from them then, and do things better the next time that situation comes around. Some leaders are just naturally born [that way], but some have to work really hard at it. But there can be small traits there that enable them to bring out the leadership qualities in a person. And you have to be a good follower as well. That’s what makes good leaders as well, being a natural follower is part of the process. Another big thing is actually listening to people. I’ve often seen it, even in the corporate world, where a young guy or girl comes in and they want to talk to the CEO or whoever it is of the company. He might walk by and ask the question, ‘How’s your day?’, but without really listening, do you know what I mean? But I’ve seen others who are very good working in that environment, where they’ve actually asked their peers, or their peers have asked them, ya know, ‘How’s your day?’, and they’ve stood there and listened to them. Because of that, they get the responses they want to hear, like ‘I love working there.’ Why do you love working there? ‘Because people listen, people care, they look after you.’ All that kind of thing.” 

And Ger’s own strongest quality as a leader? 

“Well I like to think that it’s there or thereabouts [the quality of leadership], because I’ve been involved in a lot, even in the civilian end of things, not just with the military, where people end up looking up to you. And you don’t really realise it. I never really realise it when I move from the military [environment] because it’s such a natural thing, especially in the Unit. The majority of the lads at any stage can step up into that role. They’re sort of finely-tuned when they come in. And even if you’re not a leader [by nature], just by being around the senior guys all the time it’s sort of brought out in you more and more. I remember when I went in as a young guy, it took a while for that to come out in me as well. But when senior guys are over you and they’re mentoring you, you see your mistakes and you learn from them. And even some of the younger guys are very good as well and some of the other [older] guys will learn from them.” 

I’m also a big fan of the Channel 4 show SAS: Who Dares Wins, but one difference I’ve noticed between the DS’s on that show and Hell Week is that Ger and his colleagues stay ‘in-character’, as it were, right up until the moment someone hands over their armband, at which point their humanity instantly returns. On SAS: Who Dares Wins, however, the DS can often have little moments where they actively reassure or encourage someone. So I asked Ger to tell me why his team believes it’s so important to keep that barrier between DS’s and recruits…

“If you break that barrier then sometimes it can give a false sense of security to the recruit or the candidate. And sometimes that can end up breaking the mold that we’re trying to get them into. We have to get them into that mindset [that we want them in] fairly quickly, because it’s only a short period that they’re there for. We have to get them into that quickly, and then keep them in it. For them, it’s really a battle between their own heads if they want to succeed or not. The battles go on in their head, ya know. We’re there to keep them in that environment as much as we possibly can. They have to understand that although it’s a show, we’re not gonna take any sh*t. If it goes wrong, or it’s not going how we want it to go, then in a heartbeat we’ll just switch it and pull them out. But at the same time, once they hand over the armband and once they go, then we obviously do show that [more human] side, because they’ve come down and put that effort in.”

“They’ve put their life on hold”, acknowledges Ger. “And some of them have good jobs, some have businesses, and they’ve put all that on hold and put the sacrifice in for the couple of months or weeks prior to the show to try and prep themselves for it. And they’re not getting anything from it. They volunteered. They’re not gonna win anything. Some might have put in all this preparation, and within an hour they’re gone. Or even stepping off the bus they’re gone because they just have four hairy guys coming at them! [Laughs]. So we understand the process of what they’re going through, or what they’re going to go through, the sacrifice that they’ve made. But this is not a career choice [for them]. For us, this is a career choice. When I make a sacrifice, that’s when I’m going to work at it. They’re not gonna work at this. They’re gonna go back to their jobs. And not only that, they’re after being on television. They didn’t do what they thought they were gonna do, maybe. They have to face all that when they go back to their normal lives. But we’re not gonna be assholes – as some people call us [laughs] – for the whole lot of it. We are human! You let them know that they’ve put in a fierce effort, and you congratulate them.” 

SPECIAL FORCES – ULTIMATE HELL WEEK, airs again TOMORROW night (Thursday, May 19th) at 9.30pm on RTE 2. 

ENDS

Keith Barry

First Published May 2022

“I LIVE A LIFE OF POSITIVITY”

Part 2

A few weeks back we had the pleasure of spending some time in the company of the world famous TV hypnotist, mentalist, and brain hacker KEITH BARRY to chat about his book, BRAIN HACKS, and his RECONNECTED Tour which comes to Tullamore on June 3rd. With that date in the Tullamore Court Hotel now only a few weeks away, it’s time to bring you Part 2 of our chat with Keith. 

I feel like it’s also worth reminding you that during our chat – which was via Zoom, by the way – Keith read my mind, not once…but TWICE. Believe you me, I’ve thought about it long and hard ever since, and I still have no idea how he did it. It still feels like it should have been impossible…and yet…he did it. It happened. Even if I can’t explain it. If you missed Part 1 of this chat where I went into detail on exactly what happened, you can check it out on the official OTRT website. 

But my point is, if he can do THAT via Zoom, I can’t wait to see what he can do to, or with, a venue full of people in the Tullamore Court Hotel on June 3rd. 

In advance of our interview, I was listening to a podcast on which Keith had recently been a guest. On that podcast, he spoke about his ‘chaos-box’, an idea I love. Essentially, it’s where Keith stores ideas for inspiration. I asked him if he’d share a little about the whole concept of the box and how it came to be…

And, sure enough, with that request Keith disappears off-screen, informing me as he goes that, “Hold on, I’m going over to get my chaos-box!” 

“I’ll put it this way”, he says, upon his return into view on my screen, “this is my current chaos-box. I don’t know if I can lift it up [it is, in fairness, quite a big and full box], look, there it is there. So that’s my chaos-box. Let’s see what we have goin’ on in here. I’ve got all kinds of mad s**t in here! I’ve got Pringles. I’ve got this…I don’t even know what this is [he lifts up something that I can’t identify either]. I literally don’t know what this is, but I know it will give me inspiration. I have an everyday magic-kit. I’ve got some really old coins. I collect coins as well, so I’ve got all these really old ones. So let’s just take a coin, for example. Today, I might go, ‘I can’t make a decision about something’, so I’ll take a coin, flip it, and go heads or tails. Heads. Done. That’s the decision made. Whatever that comes up with, I’ll do that. The concept of the chaos-box just came to me randomly one time when I was stuck – just completely stuck – in a creative rut. I’d read years ago about people making a mood-board, right, where you take clippings out of magazines. That’s what I’d read. But for me, I’d tried that years and years ago, taking clippings out of magazines, but it never really resonated with me, that one thing. I could never really make it work for me. Different folks, different strokes.”

“But then”, he continued, “I realised objects are really important to me. So what I do is, I literally take – as you can see – a whole bunch of different things, and I chuck it into a box. There’s tons and tons of different things in there. And as I look at that chaos-box, there’s probably a hundred different things in there. When I get stuck in a creative rut, I stop, and I just play. I don’t even think about whatever it was I’d been thinking about, I just play with the objects in the chaos-box. So what this does is it opens up your creativity, gives your mind a break from whatever it is that you’re working on at that moment in time. But more importantly, again, in the background while you’re doing this, your subconscious mind is working in overdrive to solve the problem that you have to hand. So, anytime I get stuck, I just take that and I dump it out on the floor – cos’ I have loads of space here – and I literally just sit there and I play with all that kind of stuff. Then I’ll go back to the problem at hand, and nine times out of ten, my creativity will have been inspired by the chaos-box.”

The most important thing about the chaos-box, according to Keith, is that “you kind of rework it once a month.”

“I’ll actually take all those items [currently in the box] and I’ll either dump them or I’ll put them somewhere else, and put new objects in there so it’s not that you have the same things there the whole time. And, of course, it also keeps your office really tidy! [Laughs]. That’s what’s great about it, right? [Laughs]. I don’t have any of this stuff lying everywhere, my office is lovely and neat and tidy. I can’t turn my camera around now because my technician is not here. When we do gigs, if I touch any of this equipment, he kills me [laughs]. But if I did, you’d see a really tidy office. So if you’ve got a chaos-box going on, it just helps a lot, it helps with organisation, with structure, and then with creativity.” 

What, I asked Keith, is it about people – some people – that stops them from creating a better life for themselves when the methods to do so are there, and are being shared by people like him in easy to access ways, ways that are just waiting to be used? 

“Dare I say it – this will be unpopular, but I have to say it – it’s laziness! People are lazy. We’ve become so comfy in our comfy houses. I’m in a heated cabin now, and I’ve got a heated house, and I’ve got a heated steering-wheel, and heated seat in my car. I’m really comfy with all that. And then people are always looking for an easy solution. And this is an issue. I talked to somebody recently about this, on a project I was working on. But we were talking to a lot of different people, literally hundreds of people. And it turned out that over 50% of those people were medicated for either anxiety or depression. These are just normal, everyday people, right. But I asked them all – and this is the interesting thing – I asked them all, each one of them individually, when did they have the EKG machine hooked up? When did you have your brain scanned? And they were like, ‘What?’ And I said, ‘Well, the only way that you should be on that medication is if they scanned your brain and determined that the neurology of your brain is out of kilter, and you have a chemical imbalance in the brain. Because that’s what chemicals are designed to do, they’re designed to help the chemical balance. So where did you have your brain-scan, or where did you have your blood tests to prove that you have a chemical imbalance?’ And not one of them had been scanned. Not one of them had a blood test. In other words, it was just a doctor going, ‘Oh, you appear to have signs of anxiety, the signs of depression, here’s your medication.’ So the issue is, people are looking for a quick-fix.”

“The information is all there [to change your life]”, asserts Keith. “It’s like the gym. I’m currently about six kilos overweight, and I don’t look it, but I am. So I’m currently intermittent-fasting, which is not easy. It’s not supposed to be easy. Like life isn’t easy, right? I’m currently intermittent-fasting, sixteen hours a day, no food. And then an eight-hour window in which I can eat. And in that window, it’s just black coffee with no milk because I don’t want to spike my glucose levels. And scrambled eggs. Now, I’m not saying that everybody should do that. But I know I’m going to lose the weight by doing that, and if I go to the gym. But the easier thing would be to go, ‘Oh that’s too hard’, and just not bother. It’s easier to have a glass of wine on a Wednesday night. It’s easier to sit in on a Friday night. It’s easier not to go for a walk when it’s raining. But I think right now, we’re unfortunately in a world where people are looking for the easy fix. A lot of it is down to digitisation of the world. Everything has become so instant at our fingertips. We want the instant solutions to our bodies. We want the instant solutions to our minds. And that’s how people end up struggling. And people say they struggle, and they do struggle, and they recognise that so I’m not belittling that. That’s important for me to get across. I have empathy for people.”

“But…! People need to start taking some responsibility for their own self-discipline. Like, literally, get a journal and write down the sh*t that you want to do in life. And then get up and get on it. You’ve got to maintain that discipline. Before I did anything this morning, I did four rounds of Wim Hoff breathing, I did twenty-two press-ups, exactly twenty-two press-ups for a reason. Then I got into a freezing cold shower, I’m talking about a brain-crushingly cold shower, for five minutes. Then I came out and I did twenty-five press-ups because currently I’m doing a press-up challenge with my friends – there’s four of us – we’re adding on two press-ups a day, so I think one-hundred-and-twenty-two press-ups is what I’ve got to get in today. That’s why I did twenty-two, twenty-five, I’ll do another twenty-five, and then I’ll have fifty left to do. It’s easier not to do that! But, life will give you what you put into it. You’re right, the information is all there, and it’s mostly free. If not, it’s in a book like my book. I’m not saying this in any way to be egotistical, but everything that you need to fix your mind is in my book. But whether you want to use that or not, and apply that or not, is down to the reader. I’ve got some amazing stories of people who have said that the book has actually changed their lives, which is fantastic to hear.”

However, what Keith thinks people really need to understand is that they can fix themselves… 

“I think they need to understand that the solution is within themselves. I think they need to stop being lazy. I think they need to activate themselves every day and stop playing the blame-game as well. Like, it’s easy for us to go, ‘Oh, the oil prices are going up because of the Russians’, or ‘Oh the banks have screwed me!’, or ‘I wish this year was better.’ Don’t wish anything was better. Wish YOU were better. Isn’t that an interesting concept? Don’t wish that the pandemic didn’t happen. Wish that YOU were better during the pandemic, ya know. I have that mindset. We all have to deal with illness. We all have to deal with bad times. We all have to deal with good times. What are we in now? We’re in spring now, summer is coming. Then after the summer, autumn is coming. Then after the autumn, winter is coming. Are we going to get another strain of this sh*t? Probably. Are we all going to get downbeat and downtrodden? Maybe a lot of people will. I won’t. Because I’m already preempting it. That’s a big thing that I do, I preempt obstacles. Start to take a step back and go, ‘Actually…I can control what’s inside my brain.’ You can’t control the world. I can’t control Putin. I can’t control [what’s happening in ] Ukraine. I can’t control Joe Biden. But I can control my responses. My response is to limit the absorption of that information. And to show my support lovingly to Ukraine, which I think we should all be doing. And then, after that, there’s not very much I can do.”

For Keith, it’s about putting habits in place every single day to ensure that he lives a life of positivity. 

“I live a life of positivity. That’s what I do. If you look at my Instagram, I was on Ventry pier the last three days, jumping into the sea, going for a freezing cold swim. There wasn’t a soul in sight, there weren’t even people walking on Ventry beach when I was down there. So, am I right? I don’t know! But all I can tell you is that’s what works for me. But I don’t just do ONE thing that works for me, I do LOADS of things. I do sea-swimming. I do my breathing. I do my own meditation. I do my own visualisation. And it takes time. It takes self-discipline. And, I fall off the wagon. I’m not perfect. I fu*k up like everybody else. But when I fu*k up, I recognise it, and then I take control of it. So right now, my fu*k-up, if you like, is that I’m 89 kilos and I’m starting to film in two and a half weeks for RTE. I should be 85 kilos at least, if not 83, so I’ve got to get that weight off quick! Which I will do. But, it’s not easy! So yeah, I think people need to start to take that responsibility again.” 

~ KEITH BARRY’s RECONNECTED Tour comes to the TULLAMORE COURT HOTEL on JUNE 3rd. For ticket information, check out www.ticketmaster.ie. Keith’s new book, BRAIN HACKS, is also OUT NOW, available in all good bookshops nationwide. Parts 1 and 2 of this interview with Keith are available to enjoy in full at the official OTRT website, www.ontherighttrax.com 

ENDS

Brendan Graham

First Published May 2022

“IT’S ALL ABOUT THE SONG”

Part 2

Photo by THOMAS CONNEALLY

We’re now just a week away from the moment when all of Ireland’s EUROVISION dreams will either fade quietly into obscurity for another twelve months, or possibly bloom gloriously in a way that writes the name BROOKE SCULLION into our history books forevermore. The hopes of a nation rest on the Derry girl’s shoulders as we await Ireland’s turn to step into the international spotlight during the second semi-final next Thursday, May 12th. A few weeks back when Brooke won the National Song Contest, OTRT confidently proclaimed that – at last – after years of depending on luck and the whim of the hand of fate, we finally had a song in THAT’S RICH and a performer in Brooke who had a real chance of leading us to our eighth Eurovision title. 


But…the one thing that worries me now is how the song’s presentation has been ‘revamped’ by those who apparently ‘know’ what Eurovision needs. When Brooke performed the song on The Late Late Show last week, she could hardly have been more clear in stating that it wasn’t her idea to lose her backing dancers. This decision, in my opinion, serves neither the song nor Brooke, and is a big mistake. A huge part of the song’s appeal when it won it won the right to represent Ireland at Eurovision was the energy between Brooke and her dancers, and what that in turn added to the song. Without going all the way back to the era of the Spice Girls about it, the presence of her backing dancers and how they and Brooke worked together brought a certain ‘girl-power’ vibe to the performance. That wasn’t there on The Late Late Show last week, and if it’s not going to be there in the semi-final either, then someone somewhere has made a decision that will actually lessen Brooke’s chances of making it to the Grand Final on Saturday, May 14th. 
Thankfully for Ireland, Brooke has talent to burn, as the saying goes, and a personality that will illuminate one of the biggest stages and occasions in the world of entertainment. No matter what happens, she’ll do us proud during her time in Turin. 


Should Brooke take home the crown, she’ll be following in the footsteps of a man who has walked that path himself, and not once, but twice. Back in 1994, BRENDAN GRAHAMs beautiful ROCK ‘N’ ROLL KIDS, performed by Charlie McGettigan and Paul Harrington, gave Ireland her sixth Eurovision #1. It followed Dana with All Kinds of Everything (Derry Lindsay, Jackie Smith) in 1970, Johnny Logan with What’s Another Year (Shay Healy) in 1980, and Johnny again with Hold Me Now (Sean Sherrard aka Johnny Logan) in 1987, Linda Martin with Why Me? (Johnny Logan) in 1992, and Niamh Kavanagh with In Your Eyes(Jimmy Walsh)a year later. Then, in 1996, Brendan repeated his victory when Eimear Quinn conquered Europe with THE VOICE.


Just over a year ago, OTRT had the pleasure of sitting down for a chat with Brendan on the occasion of the release of his song Lullaby for the World by The Mahers. But given Brendan’s remarkable place in Irish and international music – he has also, let us not forget, penned the lyrics to Westlife’s huge hit, YOU RAISE ME UP, a song that has been covered more than 1,400 times, and by artists including Josh Groban, Aled Jones, and Celtic Woman – there was so much more to talk about as well. Including, of course, his memories of those very special nights in 1994 and 1996. This week, with Eurovision 2022 almost upon us, we’re delighted to share some more from that chat with Brendan…

“I actually don’t do many interviews”, revealed Brendan, “and that’s on purpose because I like to let the songs speak for themselves. The people who need to find me and who look for songs, will get me anyway. So, I don’t have an online presence. I remember Louis Walsh going on The Late Late once – and we didn’t have a telly at the time – so, I think it was Fr. Brian D’Arcy who rang me to say, ‘Did you see Louis Walsh on The Late Late?’, and I said ‘no’, and Brian said, ‘He’s trying to find out where you are to let you know that your song is going to be #1 in Britain next week!’ It also makes it simple for me to get on with things. I can go out and about and live life and sure nobody knows who I am. As long as they know the songs…and if they say, well that’s a Westlife song, or a Josh Groban song, or a Seán Keane song, I’m happy enough with that because that’s the way things work. I like the focus to be on the artist rather than on me.”

Before we got on to the subject of Eurovision, I wanted to ask Brendan about his songwriting and its process. 

Brendan’s song Crucán na bPáiste was written about a burial ground for unbaptised children near his Mayo home. And I couldn’t help but wonder if, in writing a song like that – because of the subject matter – there was an added emotional weight in what he was trying to create, one that might have presented some different challenges than those usually encountered when writing a song? 

“Songs are different. Some songs you sit down to write. And then there are songs, if you like, that you’re called to write. ‘Crucán na bPáiste’ was one of those latter ones that I felt summoned to write. I think that the special songs find us, we don’t find them. I had set a lot of my first book for Harper-Collins, ‘The Whitest Flower’, around the area where I live in Mayo, which includes the area of Crucán na bPáiste and Maumtrasna. I’d go up to that area to sit on the rocks and just think, and soak up the stories and history buried in the valleys and the streams. [With] Crucán na bPáiste, I began to think about how it’s in this extraordinarily beautiful place up high, and there’s only boulders that mark the graves. And I just wondered what would it be like for the parents burying those children, who would not see the beauty that I was seeing. That started me thinking. The place became a kind of a claw on my gut. I knew the song had to be written in Irish to be true to the time and its geography – it’s in a Gaeltacht area. And around that time, I think it was just before that, I’d gone back to do a ten-week course in Irish at Gael Linn, myself and Bill Whelan went. And we were all put to shame by the best person in the class who was a young Japanese student who was working with one of the government departments. So, all of the timings came right together. Crucán became kind of a pilgrimage to me, I had to go there. Bit by bit, the song kind of spoke itself, and then I was set free of it, and it had found its voice. I learned an important lesson, which is to keep out of the way and let the song write itself. The way I looked on that one, I just happened to be in the right place at the right time, and something that often I don’t fully understand is given voice and is heard. It’s a special song. I placed the melody around a traditional melody and then took the liberty of adding some of my own music to it. It has seemed to connect with people, even people who don’t understand Irish, they get the feeling from it. That’s down to the fantastic artists who have recorded it, like Karen Matheson, Cathy Jordan, Eimear Quinn and others who understand the song and bring the emotion out of it. It’s a very special song to me, and one of only two that I’ve written as Gaelige. And it’s special because the place is special.” 

Most writers tend to rack up a long list of former jobs as they go through life before eventually – hopefully! – getting some kind of lucky break that makes all of those years pay-off. In all the time before his unquestionable success, and the recognition that has come his way for his talent as a writer, was that writer within him always alive? Always active? Or were there perhaps times when Brendan didn’t write for long spells, or wrote much less? 

“I suppose I was always interested in it, but y’know, you have a full-time job so you’re tipping away at songs at night and at the weekend. And the family is growing, and they’re going to music lessons, and athletics, and basketball and netball, all of that stuff! And I was playing sport up into my forties, competitive basketball. Now, not at the very top level, but it was still competitive. So songs were squeezed in here and there. I suppose really, I became a songwriter by default in 1993 when I was made redundant. I’d had conversations with friends, other writers and artists, and they might say to me ‘well, you should go full-time’. But I didn’t know anybody who was just a full-time songwriter. I knew people who wrote songs but who were artists who performed and I didn’t want to be that. I just thought it would have been too much of a risk to give up a job where I got a cheque every week to go into something that was unknown. So, in 1993, I was out of work and I had to do all sorts of bits and pieces to keep going, and I thought I have to make a go of this songwriting now. I have to put up or shut up. Fortunately then in 1994 ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Kids’ came up so I began to earn some money, then in 1996 ‘The Voice’ also came up. I always had a hankering to be a full-time writer, but was always afraid to take the leap into that unknown. But I think I would have kept writing anyway, whatever happened, because I just loved it. I loved the process.” 

And of course, I couldn’t talk to Brendan without asking him about those most special nights in 1994 and 1996. What do those moments actually feel like? To be right there, at the centre of the storm, when history is being made in front of your eyes and out of your very own life in so many ways? 

“I was thinking about this, because ‘The Voice’ was twenty-five years ago this year (in 2021 when we spoke), and with time you kind of forget the trepidation of the votes coming in, and the exhilaration when they do come in! So, casting my mind back, it was absolutely magnificent. I had been trying for three years to get ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Kids’ into the National Song Contest, and I was dogged about it until it got in. I actually decided on the night of the Eurovision at the Point not to go into the Green Room. I wanted to sit out front with the family and see the two lads come out and perform my song, and get the feeling that the audience was getting. And I also wanted to see Bill’s ‘Riverdance’, he had invited me to go into rehearsals and I said no, I’d wait for that night. He was about seven rows in front of me and when the boys did the song he turned around and gave me the thumbs-up. Then, when ‘Riverdance’ came out and blew us all away, I was holding all my thumbs up [for him]! It was wonderful. And then to see the crowd reacting, and our President, and our Taoiseach, and all of the people…it was a huge moment of just sheer joy. There was also, a sense of having represented your country, and that you’d done well for it. The other factor was that with ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Kids’, the song was presented exactly as I had envisaged it. I didn’t want an orchestra, I didn’t want anything interfering with the interaction between Paul and Charlie and the storytelling. I wanted it small. God and his mother were telling me ‘oh no, you need to use the orchestra, you need a string-quartet, you need this n’ that’… But I was probably old enough and dogged enough at the time to say ‘no, trust me, it’s gonna work’. And that was tough on the boys. They had nothing around them. But that created the vulnerability and it allowed them to interact. They were magnificent. ” 

PAUL HARRINGTON and CHARLIE McGETTIGAN being ROCK ‘N’ ROLL KIDS in 1994

Brendan continued, “And ‘The Voice’ then, I had actually started writing this around the time of ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Kids’, I had started to wander into songs that had an elemental side to them. In ’94, I had a song called ‘Winter, Fire and Snow’ that Anúna and Katie McMahon recorded, and subsequently Eimear Quinn recorded. That was set to a poem by MacDara Woods. I was starting to get interested in the world around me, the elements, the sounds, voices that you hear in the trees. So I had started work on ‘The Voice’ in ’94, ’95, I was tipping away at it, it took a long time. Anyway, we went off to Oslo with the wonderful Eimear, and she was fantastic. It was tough, she was still at college, and while she was singing in a choir, she hadn’t really sung that much as a soloist. And I wanted to put a traditional band around her, so it was going to be a different type of song to ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Kids.’ And as well as being magnificent, she was also a fantastic ambassador for the country. At all the press receptions and interviews she was really well beyond her years in terms of how she carried herself and dealt with stuff. Interestingly, on her album that has just come out in the last year (‘Ériu’), she has done a new version of ‘The Voice’ with a full orchestra, calling it ‘The Voice 2020.’ Everybody had said to me, ‘Oh don’t enter it again, your chances of winning it the second time are gazillions-to-one!’ [Laughs]. But that didn’t deter me, and I was excited that it was a different kind of song. And again, it was wonderful to feel that you did the country proud and that people related to what you had written, and still do.” 

One of the interesting things about ‘The Voice'”, remarked Brendan, “which I think probably isn’t widely known, because it speaks about the famine and our bloody history and so on, but it ended up on the GCSE syllabus in Britain! Which was probably unusual for a Eurovision song! But I also thought there was a lovely sense of irony about it. That’s just one of those little strange things that happen with songs sometimes. They find their own way.” 

EIMEAR QUINN winning Eurovision 1996 with THE VOICE

As Brendan mentioned that he had played competitive sports into his forties, I wondered if winning Eurovision twice – given his competitive nature in a sports sense – brought with it any extra or added sense of joy? 

“You get the song right. You start from the bottom. It’s all about the song. Then you get the right artist. Sometimes, we’re sending songs with…not the right artist for that song, if you know what I mean? But at the time, RTE were actually very good and open about how I wanted the songs to be presented, even down to what people wore on stage. It was very much a team-effort. So I wasn’t ‘just the songwriter’ and out to the side. That was interesting for me to see. I also think that we’ve moved away from that notion of getting the right song, and it’s all about other stuff now. Which is a pity. But I wasn’t thinking about winning it twice or anything like that. I was thinking make it as good as it possibly can be. Give Eimear all the support that I can, and then I have to sit on the sidelines and she and the band had to carry it. But I think I got into a little bit of trouble with The Late Late at the time, because myself and my wife had decided that win, lose, or draw, we were going to go way up to the most isolated part of Norway that we could find! And of course, we won! Then we got home – the Irish delegation – and people were saying well where’s the songwriter? I was in a fisherman’s cabin that was on long-stilts, that sat in the water, looking at the twenty-four hour sun dip and come back up again [laughs]. I wasn’t being dismissive or anything, we had just decided that was what we were going to do.” 

In doing my research for my chat with Brendan, I came across a remarkable story relating to a Mr. W.G. Whelan. There was a message left on Facebook – on an article about Brendan – by a chap from the theatre in Nenagh letting Brendan know that a lady had found a diary belonging to a gentleman whom they believed to have been a relative of his. The aforementioned W.G. Whelan had fought in WW1. I wondered if indeed, he had turned out to be a relative of Brendan’s? 

“The answer is I don’t know. I probably dropped the ball there. But I am interested in genealogy and the family history. My maternal grandfather from Nenagh used to write for the Nenagh Guardian, and he wrote this headline once that totally mortified my mother and my aunts, saying ‘The Whelan Millions’, and he had a line drawn back to connect our Whelan’s to the Tsar of Russia [laughs]. Somehow! James Whelan was his name. But there is an interesting story on the other side. My father’s father was a judge at the Olympic Games finals in London in 1908, and he judged the sprints and the high-jumps and so on, and I didn’t know that until a few years ago when my aunt, who passed away, left me – out of the blue – this Olympic judges medal. I couldn’t believe it. And I found the official record of those Olympics, and there he was with his name for 100M and 200M finals, and hurdles and all that sort of thing. And [here’s] an even more extraordinary thing”, Brendan continued…

“My wife’s maiden name is O’ Brien, she’s from Mayo. RTE had this Big Music Week event in 2013, and they asked me would I write the song, a kind of anthem for it. So, I was wondering what would I write, because they had choirs, pop singers, country singers, rap singers, traditional, every kind of singer. I thought well I can’t really write a song that pulls in everyone for half a line. At the time, Ireland was going through a rough time, so I thought I’d write a love song to Ireland, and I called it ‘The Fair, Fair Land.’ I had an idea for it, and I had a melody which was good, and I probably could have worked it up. Then the Chieftains had recorded a song of mine, ‘Lullaby for the Dead’, and they were premiering it with the Symphony Orchestra in the National Concert Hall and Paddy (Moloney) invited me along, and I was delighted to hear it get its first performance in that manner. Before all that, the Chieftains on their own played this tune. It was beautiful and as soon as I heard it, I thought, it would be so right for what I was working on. I went backstage and checked with them if it was a traditional air. It was and  they were calling ‘Dóchas.’ I thought I’d make sure it was out of copyright, so I went to the Traditional Music Archive and they said the tune’s proper name was ‘Amhrán an Dóchais.'”

And quite amazingly, Brendan discovered that it had been a runner to be the national anthem back in the 1900s. It had Irish words put to it by an Irish scholar. But that was far from where the story ended, as Brendan went on to reveal…

“But then I looked it up further, and found out that the melody was older and came from the mid-1800s and was played by a Scottish piper down in Coolfree in the Cloyne area. And it was called Mór Chluana, ‘Mor of Cloyne’, about a queen who had this wonderful singing voice, so much so that she was kidnapped by the fairies. And the name attributed to it was Lewis O’ Brien. I asked my wife did she have any musicians in the family and she said ‘no’. But about a year later, an O’Brien cousin of my wife was over from Scotland, and ‘Did you know’, she says, ‘I found out that our family came from Scotland, and one of them was a piper who settled in Coolfree in the mid-1800’s?’ So the air that I had stumbled upon, that the Chieftains were playing, was collected in 1862 from Lewis O’ Brien, who was the great-great-great grandfather of my wife! He had moved up to the Mayo-Galway area at some stage, we don’t know why. I thought that was some sort of a sign. Eventually we did the song, and that had its debut on The Late Late. I wanted four female Irish voices to represent the different ‘voices’ of Ireland.  Marianne Knight, a fabulous traditional singer from Mayo, opened with the first verse. Then, Eimear Quinn was the other-worldly voice of the spéir-bhean. Nono Madolo, newly in Ireland  from Africa, sang a verse in Irish to demonstrate the potential of the richness of transition between different cultures. Then, the incredibly talented Celine Byrne brought it all to a stunning finale, giving  it that stately anthemic feel along with the RTE Concert Orchestra and guests. And all to raise funds for Barnardos Childrens’ Charity. I have been truly blessed by the songs that have been gifted to me over the last 50 years or so and by the very many wonderful singers, musicians and arrangers, who have given of their own talent in breathing them into a life…more than they could have been on their own. To them all – buíochas mór óm’ chroí.”

Now lest anyone think for a moment that the highlights of Brendan’s creative output might shine only in the past, we can assure you that this is far from the case. Look out for a brand new single from the great Red Hurley in the coming weeks, co-written by Brendan with Tommy and Jimmy Swarbrigg, plus exciting projects with Róisín O’ Reilly, Cathy Jordan, Feargal Murray, and Eimear Quinn between now and the year’s end. 

And not only that, Brendan has also penned the lyrics to a moving song called FOR ME, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Norway. The song was officially launched last month by Anette Trettebergstuen, Norway’s Minister of Culture and Equality. 

Speaking to Hot Press magazine about For Me recently, Brendan said, “I wrote the lyric to be an expression of individual empowerment and left it open to be an anthem for diversity and recognition, whatever the cause – gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation… whatever it be as a general, or individual expression of self-realisation and identity.” 

BROOKE SCULLION will perform THAT’S RICH, Ireland’s EUROVISION 2022 entry, in the second semi-final which takes place on THURSDAY, MAY 12th. Show your support for Brooke by following her on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter! 

ENDS

Caitríona O’ Sullivan/ Chayce Beckham

First Published March 2022

MUST-HEAR NEW SINGLES FROM TWO EPIC VOICES

We all know Kerry’s CAITRÍONA O’ SULLIVAN from her long-running role as a judge on TG4’s hit show Glór Tíre. But what some people may not be as aware of, however, is that the wealth of wisdom and advice which Caitríona shares with contestants on the show each year isn’t just that of a passive observer. Far from it, in fact, because Caitríona herself is quite the accomplished recording artist and performer too. And to prove it yet again, the singer/songwriter and TV personality has just released DON’T SAY GOODBYE, an original pop-country style record that big name American country acts such as Lady A would be proud to call their own. 

And the good news for country fans in the midlands is that we’ll soon be able to enjoy Caitríona ‘live’ because she’s among the artists who will be lending their support to the VOICES FOR PEACE concert at the TUAR ARD Arts Centre in Moate on April 14th. Caitriona will join event organiser, the singer/songwriter Larissa Tormey, along with P.J. Murrihy, Charlie McGettigan, Alex Roe, this year’s Glór Tíre winner Aishling Rafferty, Dave Lawlor, Ger O’ Brien and the night’s MC Eddie Rowley of the Sunday World, for the fundraiser which will donate proceeds to the Irish Red Cross in aid of Ukraine. 


With intimate yet powerful vocals and catchy hooks, Don’t Say Goodbye is a heart-felt, radio-friendly, modern pop-country love song co-written by Caitríona, Stephen Andreucetti and John Walsh / Symphonic. It was produced by Ray McLoughlin and features some of Nashville and Ireland’s top instrumentalists. The track was mixed and mastered in Ireland and the UK, and was released on all digital platforms on March 25th, giving Caitríona a #1 in the process. The accompanying video was shot in the beautiful Barrow House, Tralee by Cinetex films and is scheduled for release on April 1st.

Caitríona also scored a #1 hit on iTunes in the Irish country music charts with her original duet This Country Girl in 2021a co-write and duet with renowned Irish country-rocker Johnny Brady. That single earned the duo airplay across both national and regional radio stations. 

In recent times Caitríona has also enjoyed performing and releasing numerous songs on social media with Mark Cahill on The Ivory Sessions, and numerous other online and live gigs such as her Sounds of Cinema series performed with Kerry’s Scotia Ensemble, a project that met with great enthusiasm from music fans.

Hailing from The Munster Bar in Tralee, Caitríona grew up listening to and performing a wide variety of music there in her parents’ bar. Classically trained in voice and piano, she studied at the Kerry School of Music and went on to study opera with renowned voice coach Dr. Veronica Dunne in the Royal Irish Academy of Music. She has a first class honours B.A. in music and Irish, B.Mus. and was awarded a scholarship to pursue a Masters in music from UCD.

A prolific songwriter, Caitríona wrote the Irish language lyrics to the chart topping tune Fionnghuala in 2016 in collaboration with John Walsh / Symphonic which featured on the Eir ad and on The Late Late show in 2016, and was sampled by renowned DJ Vini Vicci.

Caitríona’s musical story also includes a very successful album of original songs entitled Fallen Angel froma few years back. That project included the single I’ll Be There, which topped the airplay and Irish music charts, being playlisted on radio stations nationwide. Some of the tracks from that album were featured on RTE’s award winning drama-documentary Proof


As her long stint as a staple on Glór Tíre suggests, Caitríona is also passionate about the Irish language and is author of no less than EIGHT Irish language secondary school textbooks for Gill Education, including Aois na Glóire 1, 2 and 3, and she is co-author of Mol an Óige 1, 2, 3 , Samhlaíocht and Spreagadh.

One man we’d love to hear Caitríona duet with someday is CHAYCE BECKHAM.

Now it sounds like a cliche, admittedly, but when it’s true, it’s true, and the fact is that Chayce is one of the most buzzed about newcomers in American country music today, having won over millions of hearts while competing on Season 19 of ABC’s American Idol. The reigning Idol winner and 2022 Artist to Watch – from the likes of Country NowSounds Like NashvilleCountry SwagMusic Mayhem Magazine – has released the smooth, southern comfort track TELL ME TWICE. With what Wide Open Country has described as Chayce’s “raspy, blues-rock voice” front and center, the catchy, easy-listening track boasts a vibe reminiscent of that golden-era of 90s country.

Beckham, who Katy Perry said sounds “like the heart of America”, was also scheduled to perform on ABC’s American Idol on Monday of this very week March 28th at 8/7c (1am BST), as he mentors the remaining hopefuls through Hollywood Week.

“This title was my mom’s idea for me to write because it was something we had said to each other,” reveals Beckham in talking about his new record.

“It made me think about all the things in life that you should just do and not have to think twice about it. Growing up I really did learn the value of a dollar because I watched my family work hard for everything we had. This song is a reminder to not take the good things in life for granted and remember to appreciate them.”

After winning American Idol and the hearts of fans across the nation just last year, Beckham released his self-penned track 23 that skyrocketed to the top of numerous viral charts, racking up more than 75 million on-demand streams, a figure that’s still very much on the rise even now. 

Also climbing the country radio charts with his sensual yet supercharges duet Can’t Do Without Me with label-mate Lindsay Ell (the recently announced host of Canada’s Got Talent and an artist we’ve been privileged to chat to for OTRT), the “rugged, country crooner” as Beckham has been pronounced by USA Today, really shows the depths of his artistry with the life-lessons taught in his new track Tell Me Twice. 

Written by Beckham with Isley Juber and ace producer Ross Copperman, the song highlights how it’s the simple things in life that are most important, with Beckham singing lines like; To take a day off when you need the rest / Loosen up the drag on a two-pound test / Drink a cold beer when the weather’s right / But you don’t got to tell me twice.” 

Beckham actually auditioned for American Idol after undergoing a particularly difficult year, but went on to become the first-ever show winner to claim the title with an original song, an achievement which kickstarted his journey to fulfilling his lifelong dream of becoming a singer, songwriter, and entertainer. With his family, his hometown of Apple Valley and now America behind him, the mellow 25-year-old released his debut single, the aforementioned 23. 

The song, a semi-autobiographical account of his struggles with alcohol and of the lows it can take on a person, quickly shot to the top of both the iTunes Country and All Genre charts, and numerous viral charts, racking up on-demand streams in the millions upon millions. Now signed to 19 Recordings in partnership with BBR Music Group/Wheelhouse Records and finding his home in Nashville, Chayce is getting ready to share his signature sound with his legions of fans with more new music slated to drop this spring, with Tell Me Twice giving fans their first taste of what they can expect. 

Currently on tour with Jimmie Allen, Beckham is also headlining shows across the country and will join Luke Combs on the road this autumn. For more information and a full list of tour dates, visit www.chaycebeckham.com.


DON’T SAY GOODBYE by CAITRÍONA O’ SULLIVAN is OUT NOW, available on all platforms and to request from radio. 

Caitríona is also one of the featured artists performing at the VOICES FOR PEACE concert at the TUAR ARD in Moate on APRIL 14th, with proceeds going to the Irish Red Cross in aid of Ukraine. Also performing on the night are LARISSA TORMEY, P.J. MURRIHY, Eurovision legend CHARLIE McGETTIGAN, ALEX ROE, Glór Tíre winner 2022 AISHLING RAFFERTY, DAVE LAWLOR, and GER O’ BRIEN, with EDDIE ROWLEY from the Sunday World as MC. Tickets are just €20, available from the Tuar Ard box-office at 090-6482042. 

TELL ME TWICE, the brand new single from AMERICAN IDOL winner CHAYCE BECKHAM, is also OUT NOW and available on all platforms. 

ENDS

Keith Barry

First Published March 2022

PREPARE TO BE AMAZED

Part 1

When the opportunity came up to interview the world famous TV hypnotist, mentalist, and brain hacker, KEITH BARRY, I couldn’t say no. Especially as Keith‘s new book, BRAIN HACKS, ranks high on my list of must-reads from 2021. The chance to have Keith actually ‘read’ my mind during our chat, however, well, that was completely unexpected. But it happened. Oh man, did it happen. And what’s more… he did it…TWICE! How he did it, I still have no idea. And I mean literally… no idea. 

When I tell people about it, the response is often the same: “Well, you MUST have said something that he picked up on.” But trust me, that wasn’t the case. And, even in the highly unlikely event that Keith found himself with some time on his hands before we spoke and decided to do a little bit of research on me, there’s just no way he could have come up with this info. The only place he could have found it is where he actually found it in that moment…in my brain. Which he hacked! And yes, as well as being amazing, that is also a little bit scary in some ways! 

But I’ll tell you what, after seeing him do that to me – someone he had never met before, and doing it over Zoom – there’s NO WAY I’m missing Keith’s show in the Tullamore Court Hotel when he brings his RECONNECTED Tour to town on June 3rd. More on that show, and how Keith read my mind, very soon. But first…

Back when we were first scheduled to chat, and I had been working on what I wanted to ask Keith about, the world was emerging from a very strange place. Covid had been the dominant factor in everything that did or did not happen for the preceding two years. Many of us probably thought, and with good reason, that this – given its scale – would be the once-in-a-lifetime event of our lifetime. The last few weeks, however, with Putin’s Russian Army being sent into Ukraine on what is firstly an unjustifiable war, and secondly, an unwinnable one, have proved us wrong. 

In terms of once-in-a-lifetime scale events, sadly, we’re already seeing scenes in Europe that we thought we’d never see again. And even worse is the fact that we might not have seen anything yet. 

Because of what Keith does, and how his shows and his skills have so much to do with how people think, and how they can be made to think, I was intrigued to hear his read on some of the main players involved in the current situation, from the incredible and inspirational President Zelensky, the made-for-this-moment President Biden, the strong and steady Ursula Von Der Lyen, and of course, the reprehensible Russian dictator himself, Putin. It was a tough question to start our conversation with, but in fairness to Keith, it wasn’t one he shied away from in any way. 

So, when he looks at what’s happening right now, what does he make of it all? 

“That’s kind of a loaded question really, isn’t it. I mean, for me, I just have an opinion. So, it’s two different things, right. So first of all, when I look at politicians – and more home-grown politicians than anything else – when I’m watching Primetime or watching The Tonight Show or any of those, I’m actually just looking for ‘tells’ that will tell me whether someone is lying or not. And the second a politician opens their mouth, pretty much they’re lying! What I’m looking for are asymmetrical shoulder-shrugs, asymmetrical lip movements, the carotid artery in the neck moving, eye direction. I’m looking for pacifying gestures, filler-words. All of these things combined are known as ‘clusters’, and they can tell me if somebody is lying or not. And I find it fascinating that when I do look – and more home-grown than abroad, as I said – at Primetime and these shows, they’re actually not very good at hiding their tells…at all! There’s a reason for that, and it’s predominantly because most of our tells are subconscious. For example, even though I’m aware of them, I can’t stop myself doing a one-sided shoulder-shrug, or asymmetrical lip-movement when I might perhaps be deceiving somebody. So going back to your question about the political stuff. There’s so much going on right now, and there’s so much misinformation going on, I’ll be honest…I tend to shield myself from a lot of it. So I need to know what I need to know. And we all need to know what’s going on in the world. There’s a real war. There’s a real dictator. There’s some terrible, terrible things happening, obviously, to the Ukrainian people. We’ve all got to have empathy. We’ve all got to try and understand it as best we can. But I think there is no real understanding of a dictator like that [Putin]. There is no real understanding of what his real motive is. Because he knew the sanctions were gonna come. He knew the Ukrainians were going to put up a fight. So therefore, what’s the end agenda? And I don’t think anybody really knows just yet what that end agenda is. And I think that’s a problem.”

“I’ll be straight with ya”, states Keith, “I haven’t looked too much at what Biden’s been saying, not for any other reason other than I shield myself from a lot of this press because it digs deep into your subconscious mind. For example, I accidently saw the tank the other day that ran over the car. And you can’t unsee those moments in your mind. That’s what people need to understand. For anybody who saw it, that’s ingrained in your subconscious mind. From that news that I saw, apparently the person survived that tank going over them. But then, you have people immediately going on the attack saying that it was a Russian tank that purposely and maliciously ran over a civilian. But then you have other people who say well it’s clearly a Ukrainian tank that just went out of control because it hit ice, ya know. The truth remains to be seen. I don’t know the answer to that. But what I do know is that by accidentally seeing that, I can’t unsee it. So my imagination plays tricks on me thinking that perhaps somebody did die in it. Or maybe they didn’t die. I think we need to be very careful. More importantly, from where I come from, which is the standpoint of positivity, creativity, and really looking after your subconscious brain. Because most people out there, most people reading this won’t understand their subconscious brain at all. And when you see horrific things, it deeply ingrains itself into the neurology of your brain and can have a very detrimental effect on you down the line. And you won’t even know why, down the line, you have certain problems. It’s because of the information that you’re feeding into your brain. So I’m very careful of what information I’m absorbing right now. To go back to your question, I don’t really have a very strong opinion. Except my heart is absolutely with the Ukrainians, because we know that what’s going on is just inhuman. All I can do is wish them the very best. I mean, what else can we do? We can donate money, and we can do the things the governments are doing. But look, all governments have their own agendas. Biden’s got his own agenda as much as any other politician. We have to just see where it all rolls out to. But for me, it’s more to do with guarding your mind wisely at all times, and trying to absorb the information that’s necessary, that we all need to know. Because we all need to know what’s going on in the world. But then after that, I really, really try to reduce down my absorption of that kind of news, ya know.” 

I thanked Keith for such a comprehensive answer to a quite difficult question right at the top of our chat, and we moved on to his new book, Brain Hacks, which is out now. Divided into nine sections, Keith states in the introduction that while people can dip in and out of it, he feels that it’s probably best read from start to finish. Now, in the same way that I’m always interested to know why a musical artist might go for a particular track-listing on their album, I was also curious as to why Keith had gone for the sequence he had too, beginning with Confidence, moving on to Risk, then Creativity, and so on. Some of it is no doubt self-explanatory in that one helps the other, but I also had a feeling that it went deeper than just that too. So I asked Keith if he’d share a little bit about the importance of the order for him when he was putting the book together.

“Well I think for me, the number one thing I’ve identified right now is that people suffer a huge amount with their confidence. I work a lot with business people as a mind-coach, and behind the scenes – nearly everybody, even these high-end business people – they suffer with lack of confidence. So I thought that was the right one to tackle right off the bat, how to instill confidence in people. They need to understand that everybody suffers from that imposter syndrome. And more importantly, even people in high positions, even athletes, they suffer with their confidence issues. And it’s ok to recognise that. But then, more importantly, it’s ok to understand that you can actually genuinely help yourself with your confidence. And confidence is something that can be gained over time. You’re not just born with confidence. You are to a certain extent, but it gets knocked over time, chipped away at. Like I explain in the book, it’s bricks and mortar, people are just constantly trying to knock that down. So what I’ve got to do is reinforce the bricks, reinforce the mortar in order to stop people chipping away consistently at your confidence. And then understand that there’s certain rules and techniques that you can use on a daily basis in order to promote your confidence. I put a section in there called, ‘Curl Your Toes To Confidence’, which I use to this very day! When I go back on stage, starting April 29th, when I walk on stage in Galway, I will have my toes curled in my shoes as I walk on the stage. These are things that I use myself every single day.”

Keith went on, “Even if you look at my Facebook page when I ask people what’s an issue that you’re dealing with right now, confidence comes up time and time again. And then also risk. I think a lot of people have become risk-averse these days. We’re so petrified of saying the wrong thing, doing the wrong thing, I don’t think people are taking enough risks anymore. So for me it’s about calculating risks. So how are you going to calculate a risk? Well you’ve got to measure a risk, you’ve got to gain all the information. Mine for the information is the way I put it in the book. You’ve got to mine like crazy to get as much information as possible. And [do that] before you make the decision. But don’t just go on a whim, or not go on a whim. Get all the information, investigate the information, and then, I say that once a risk is not detrimental to your health or detrimental to your mental health, always take the risk. That’s what I say. For me, once I have the correct information to hand, and once I realise that if I lose then it’s gotta be worth losing, right? So in other words, that risk element, you’ve got to understand that it’s called a risk for a reason. If you lose, you’ve got to be willing to lose. But for me, I always take calculated risks, day- in and day-out. That’s why, as I stand here before you, I’ve got a book written. That’s why I’m in pre-production of season-two of The Keith Barry Experience. That’s why I’m going on tour. It’s because I take these calculated risks. But it’s not about me. It’s about people understanding that with great risks comes great rewards. I think people need to stop being so frightened, cos’ everybody’s petrified right now. There’s a lot of scared people out there. Again, if you look at my Facebook page, it comes up a lot. It’s about just settling down the autonomic nervous system, dumping dopamine and serotonin into the system to counteract our cortisol levels. A healthy level of cortisol is actually a good thing for us, but we’ve got to understand that if we’re overwhelmed by cortisol we won’t take those risks. So we’ve got to learn to control that. That’s sort of the idea behind the structure of the book.” 

Keith mentioned going back on tour at the end of April, and he brings that RECONNECTED Tour to Tullamore on June 3rd. He’s said that part of what he wants to do with this show is prove to people that when psychics say they can actually contact the dead, they cannot. What that made me wonder, though, is if Keith believes self-described psychics just can’t do that, ior s it something that can’t be done at all. Or perhaps, is it just something that’s beyond our capabilities as human beings right now? 

“Well, I’m an open-minded sceptic, is the way I would put it, right. I’m always investigating psychics. But I’m also investigating crypto-zoology. I’ve got a lot of interests, so I look into a lot of different things. The issue I have is I’ve never seen a psychic, on tv or off tv – and I’ve personally gone to thousands of psychics around the world investigating them – I’ve never come across one that even comes remotely to what I would consider ‘the real thing.’ So I’m open-minded about it. But I know that there’s a huge amount of charlatans out there. This is the issue. And unless you’re well-versed and educated in the ways of the psychic, in other words; cold-reading, hot-reading, stop-reading, rainbow-reading, all of these different techniques combined can make it look as if somebody’s psychic.” 

And right here is where things took a really interesting – and unexpected turn…

“For example, and I wasn’t even going to do this, but look. I’ve got a chalk-board here (*Keith takes it from off-screen and holds it up to the camera so that I can see it), and this is what a psychic would do, they’d use chalk and a chalk-board and they’d ask you perhaps to…think of somebody from your past. Ok, let’s do this. So Anthony, think of somebody from your past, that you haven’t thought about in years. So imagine for a second that you’re… in school. Imagine you’re in school, and in your mind – close your eyes for a second – and in your mind, I want you to just look around the classroom and see all the different pupils in the classroom. And look up at the teacher as well. And I want you to imagine that the teacher has a piece of chalk, and imagine that they’re writing the name of one of your classmates on the board. Just the first-name, of course. Imagine that they’re writing the first-name of one of your classmates that you haven’t thought about in years.” 

So picture the scene here, folks…all of a sudden, I find myself sitting in front of the legendary Keith Barry over Zoom, and he’s trying to read my mind. And in my mind, as we’re doing this, and as I’m taking myself back to my school-days and thinking of a particular name, there’s a part of me that’s convinced that there’s just no way he can do this. I mean, how could he, right? How could he possibly figure out the name of someone I’m thinking of from about thirty years in my past? And, on the other hand, there’s another part of me that really wants this to work! Because that’s just amazing if it does. And I won’t need to understand it to be amazed by it, and to appreciate it. But either way, I can’t influence the outcome, because all I can do is what Keith asked me to do…think of a name of someone from my school-days who I wouldn’t have thought about in years…

“When you’ve got that done, open your eyes.” 

I opened my eyes to see Keith looking right at me. 

Ok, good. So I’m going to write something down here (*I can see and hear him writing on the chalk-board). Be honest: Is there any way I could know the name of this person?” 

No, I replied, absolutely not. I was convinced it was simply impossible, and wondering what the hell would I do when the name on the chalk-board wasn’t the one I’d been thinking of! 

“There’s no way I could know, right?”, Keith asks again, and again, I confirm that there isn’t. Because there wasn’t. There just wasn’t…

“That’s why I’d written down the word ‘No’, ” laughed Keithturning the chalk-board around to show me what he’s written, and adding, “See, that would have been good if I’d written down the name of the person!”

But I’ll tell ya what, here’s what I’ll do”, began Keith again, “I’ll actually focus now. So I want you to focus on the name of the person. Focus on the name of the person, and in your mind, just…

Keith then repeats the alphabet backwards at such speed that I wasn’t even sure of the sequence at the time, and even listening back to it to transcribe this, I had to listen four or five times to be sure. And to be honest…I’m still not sure! But I THINK that’s what he did…

“Ok, I’m gonna write down a name now (again, I can see and hear him writing on the chalk-board)…ok, I think that may be it. For the first time, name out loud, what is the name – the first name – of the person you thought of?” 

I answered Lynn, adding that I couldn’t be certain if she used to spell it with one n or two. 

“Ok, that’s so interesting that you went Lynn, because that’s exactly what I wrote down two second ago, Lynn. And that’s two n’s, not one!” 

Keith had just turned around the chalk-board to reveal the name Lynn written on it…and the best response I could manage in my very confused state was just, “Wow! That’s good!” But for the record, THIS was more than good. Way more than good! This was the kind of moment that leaves you doubting everything you know. And yet…being thrilled by it at the same time! 

Listening back to our chat, I realise now that I almost shouted the next bit at Keith in my excitement! 

“I had somebody else in mind first, and I changed as well, so I REALLY have no idea how you did that! I really have no idea!” 

I had actually thought of someone else first, but then I remembered that I had posted something about this particular person on my socials…maybe two years ago? And for some stupid reason, I actually thought to myself for a moment, “No, better not think of her, just in case Keith saw that post!! 

AS IF Keith has ever been scrolling around my Instagram! Anyway, if I thought I could out-think the brain-hacker himself, I was badly mistaken. And even more so than I thought, as I was about to find out…

“That’s why I was confused”, remarks Keith. “Look, if I wipe off Lynn right…just give me a moment (*I can see and hear Keith cleaning off the board)…I’ll wipe off Lynn. Ok, go for the name that you went with the first time, look at me… The name that you went with the first time, was that a man or a boy?” 

I replied that it wasn’t, and Keith remarked that was interesting because he had thought it was a boy, and then said…

“Ok, I’m going to go with this then (*I can see and hear him writing another name on the chalkboard…)..., ok, I’ll get rid of the chalk. Ok, who was the first person that you thought of?” 

I answered that the first name I thought of was a girl called Sharon. 

“Sharon”, repeats Keith, “and it’s interesting that you went with two girls, because there were boys in the class as well, obviously, right?” 

I confirmed with a simple, “Yeah”, that this had been the case. 

“Sharon was the first name that I was going with as well”, revealed Keith, turning the chalk-board around to show that very name looking right back at me! “But then I went with Lynn first.” 

I was literally stuck for words at this point, and listening back to it, all I did was laugh and say wow again. But in fairness to me, I did manage to hold myself together enough to thank Keith for taking the time to give me that experience. 

“But if you think about this for a moment, though, right”, he continued, “if I wanted to pretend that I was psychic, and if I wanted to go deeper into that, I could absolutely do that. But I choose not to do that. Now obviously I don’t mind doing that on a call like this, but in the show, I do reconnect people with the other side, with the dark side. But I say at the outset, ‘This is an illusion, I’m doing this to show you how psychics do what they do.’ It’s almost like a public service announcement, think of it like that. But I’m doing it because people are really interested in this kind of stuff. I’m not doing it to dupe them into thinking that I’m actually in contact with the other side. I’m doing it for entertainment purposes. And I say to people, only get involved if you’re comfortable with doing this. Then they understand the process. Very often people will say I thought he was saying psychics aren’t real? Yeah, I’m still saying they’re not real, I’m just going to do this anyway and then we’ll explore that whole area. That’s what the ‘Reconnected’ show is about. It’s about reconnecting people intellectually, emotionally, physically, spiritually.” 

“At the start of the ‘Reconnected’ show”, declares Keith, “I’m going to get half of the audience to hack into the other half of the audience’s brains. One half of the audience is actually going to be able to hack into the other half of the audience’s brains. I’m going to teach them how to do that. I’ve never done that before. That’s because I want that reconnection right at the start of the show, where the whole audience is just going to lose their mind. Everyone’s going to be freaking out. Even the people who are doing the brain-hacking, they’re going to freak out that they’re going to be successful at the brain-hacking. So it’s going to be this weird moment! And then at the end of the show, it’s the most emotional ending to a show that I’ve ever designed. Even the hardcore sceptics, they’re going to be balling crying in the audience. But, the reason they’re going to be balling crying is the feel-good factor will be so overwhelming. It won’t be like they’re crying for any other reason except it’s going to be an amazing moment of their lives. Even the sceptics! I’m really excited to get back on the road now, ya know.”

It was only as I was transcribing this that something pretty remarkable came back to me. When Keith asked if I had been thinking of a boy’s name first, I said no. BUT, that may not be 100% true, because the Sharon in question is the cousin of one of my best friends, a dude called Leroy! And we were all in the same year together! So Leroy was part of the thought process involved in me thinking of Sharon’s name in the very first instance! Amazing!

~ KEITH BARRY brings his RECONNECTED tour to the TULLAMORE COURT HOTEL on JUNE 3rd. Tickets are NOW ON-SALE from www.ticketmaster.ie 

ENDS