A former RTÉ producer and a former Newstalk current-affairs presenter, Keane will perform his music at Triskel Christchurch in Cork on Friday. He has also just written a novel, which looks into the soul of Ireland through the thriller genre. He also wrote the score for a TG4 series on the Famine and is writing the music for a film directed by Rita Marie Lawlor. He also does charity work with Suicide Aware.
Keane says that he is being true to himself. He was never “a news nerd” and fell into broadcasting by accident, thanks to an RTÉ producer, Aidan Stanley, who offered him work at the Cork studio. Now, Keane has gone back to his first love, music, and also has a career as a counsellor. He recalls a lesson his late playwright uncle, John B Keane, taught him.
“John B said that when people came into his bar in Listowel, what they really wanted was to tell their story. I think that psychotherapy and music are all about our stories and our struggle to be ourselves. For me, the two are intrinsically linked,” he says.
Keane, a classically trained pianist, has had a good year, selling out two gigs at the National Concert Hall where he performed songs from his first album, Hang the Moon. He toured with John Sheahan of The Dubliners, who has described Keane as “pure genius”. At his Cork gig, Keane will perform songs from his forthcoming second album, Call On Me Again. Keane wrote the uplifting title track for troubled adolescents. When he sang it on Seán O’Rourke’s radio programme, it got a great response. Keane, whose singing has been compared to that of Tom Waits — albeit less gravelly — likes an eclectic range of music, from Chopin to hip-hop and Radiohead.
Hang the Moon was inspired by Keane’s regret when his father, from whom he had been estranged “over something quite stupid”, died without a reconciliation. Keane had to learn to forgive himself. ‘Call On Me Again’ was inspired by a visit to South Africa.
“I was in the townships, just seeing kids so badly traumatised. I was wondering what I could say. Then, I thought, ‘Just make the contact and tell them to call on me again.’ I started working on a song about that, but didn’t finish it. But, then, through my work with Suicide Aware and through my own private counselling work, I thought of all the children and teenagers I worked with. I finished the song. It’s just about connecting with people. Not just teenagers, but people around the country who are being told the recession is over, even though they’re still struggling to get by. I often think there is some financial support for people, but, emotionally, what support do we offer? There’s a great divide. Telling people to keep their chin up and be positive doesn’t always address what someone is going through.”
However, Keane says his song-writing is not necessarily issue-driven. “It’s not like I sat down and said I’m going to save the world. What I do is heart-driven.”
Keane likes interaction with his audiences. At one of his performances at the NCH, everybody spontaneously joined in with him for a gospel-type version of ‘Amazing Grace’. “John Sheahan was with me that night. It wasn’t on my set-list. If I can get a feel for an audience, I can play anything. But, mostly, my concerts are 90% my own songs,” says Keane.