RONAN KEATING

New studio album turning out to be singer-songwriter/rock

[Gaya Island, Kota Kinabalu] Irish singer Ronan Keating said his new studio album is turning out to be a singer-songwriter album with a rock feel, from the original idea of a folk album.

“I’ve spent the last four or five years working on concept albums, and now I’m ready to write a new album. I’ve started writing for it, and it started with a folk feel, but has developed more into a singer-songwriter, with kind of a rock feel to it.

“It’s developed and I think that’s what happens with albums, they change; you start writing something but later it ends up being something else.”

Ronan Keating new album rock folk giant clams

L to R: Gillian Tan, owner of Bunga Raya Island Resort & Spa, Ronan Keating, MERC Project Director Alvin Wong, Tomas Kastberg, General Manager, Resorts at Gayana Eco Resort & Bunga Raya Island Resort & Spa

He was speaking at a press conference on April 21, before his two scheduled performances at Bunga Raya Island Resort & Spa, the highlight of “Marine Awareness Month” organised by the Marine Ecology Research Centre [MERC].

Ronan Keating’s band

  • Keith Duffy, bass player for ten years with The Corrs and four years with The Commitments band
  • Steve Barney, drummer for Jeff Beck and Annie Lennox
  • Band Musical Director Calum MacColl, guitarist, singer, songwriter, co-founder of Red Grape Records

In a separate interview, Calum said, “The band has had quite a few people in and out but there’s a core of the band, of which Keith is one and I am. There are four of us that have been there pretty much since the beginning.”

Keith said, “I’ve played with Ronan for nine years now, and Calum has been with him for, is it 12 years?”

“Given what everyone does [the band members do different things] in a sense there’s no such thing as full time bands anymore – in pop music,” said Calum. “This is probably the closest thing to it, in that the core of the band has essentially been together for ten years. So it is more of a ‘band’ than you usually find in pop music now. With a solo singer, it’s usually a singer and whoever you can find.”

“But Ronan’s very loyal to his musicians,” said Keith. “Like there’s a respect back and forth. Some people are not too bothered who they play with but Ronan likes to have the same people around.”

Here is the full interview with Calum MacColl, Keith Duffy and Steve Barney.

Keating’s last album was ‘When Ronan Met Burt’, an album of the most popular songs by Burt Bacharach, which was produced by Bacharach and Greg Wells.

“The Bacharach album was great, I loved working with Burt,” Keating said. He highlighted recording with a 40-piece orchestra and being in the same studio where Frank Sinatra recorded albums engineered by producer Al Schmitt.

“It was intimidating to be honest. I still feel like I’m a student, you know? Burt Bacharach! 83 years of age, he’s worked with the best, written some of the best songs ever which are still on the radio to this day. But I did it, and it was an honour.”

Asked about his involvement in the “Save The Giants” campaign, Keating said: “I’ve done numerous things for charity over the years…When you’re in a situation like mine you have a responsibility to do that.” He said, adding that he’s glad to be able to lend his name to raise awareness here about marine environmental issues. More importantly, he can go back to the UK and tell people what’s going on out here. He said he’s not an authority on this subject yet but it is “something I’m learning more and more about.”

Keating is no stranger to charity work. After his mother died of breast cancer he established the Marie Keating Foundation, and he and the Foundation have helped to raise over £1.7 million for Cancer Research UK. He ran the London Marathon and climbed Mount Kilimanjaro to raise money for charity, and has been a UN Goodwill Ambassador. In September last year, he swam the Irish sea Dublin to Holyhead as part of a team of 11 celebrities, raising £1 million for cancer research in the UK.

At the end of the press conference Keating said it’s nice to be able to do this, and he could possibly become an ambassador for the cause globally. “Sting’s got the rainforests, maybe I’ll have the Giant Clams,” he quipped, adding that he plays a marine biologist in the Australian movie musical “Goddess,” his debut acting role with UK stage actress Laura Michelle Kelly.

Highlights of Marine Awareness Month [MAM]

  • MERC transfered 500 3-year-old Giant Clams into selected ocean nursery sites, having successfully reared all seven species of Giant Clam indigenous to Sabah waters in-house, even reintroducing two species into our waters which had already become extinct here.
  • MERC also transferred one thousand 1-year-old coral fragments from their ocean nursery to be attached to selected reef sites.
  • MERC had an outreach drive to encourage local schools and other organisations to visit the centre, to raise awareness about marine biodiversity conservation, with a focus on the Giant Clams.
  • MAM ended with a fine dining and music event featuring Keating, followed by a Beach Party the next day, all at Bunga Raya Island Resort & Spa.

In a separate interview, MERC Project Director Alvin Wong said, “We consider this the completion of the first phase of the project, where we are now moving the clams back into the sea.

“All this while, this has been our responsibility: we control the environment, and control the condition of the water. It’s has been our responsibility to see that the clams grow and survive. But now we have put them back into the open sea, it is not just our responsibility, but everyone’s. We can’t control the content of the sea water. So everyone has a role to play. To understand what we are doing.

“That’s why we had this Marine Awareness Month. To raise awareness that it’s not just our project, but something that concerns everyone. It’s about giant clams, but we called it “Save The Giants” because the clams are slipping towards extinction, and if nothing is done then they will be gone for good. If they are extinct, there will be no way we can revive them. So we invite everyone to join together, and play their role in this campaign.

“Of the seven species, two had already become extinct locally, and in Malaysia it’s extremely difficult to find these two species. But we managed to make spats from them too, and of the 500 clams released into our local waters, some of them were from these two species.

“The immediate focus for us now, is to monitor whether these 500 clams were the right size to be moved into the sea, before we slowly move in more. We have another 2,000 which are this size. As we move them in, we will be producing more, in batches. So it will be an ongoing project.

“Of course, long term we want to see that these giant clams can repopulate by themselves. Giant clams are sessile – they don’t move. If they are isolated, like one clam in one area, it cannot find one of the same species to fertilize the eggs which it releases. Clams can practise internal fertilization [they are hermaphrodites] but the spat will not be as good quality as it would be if made from different clams. Once there are more of them in the sea, it will be easier for them to regenerate on their own.

“The reef is important for clams. It’s like the skeleton or the structure for the clams to sit in. Then the clams are part of a whole eco-system, because there will be a lot of live activity around it. It’s very difficult for a clam to survive alone, without any life around it. So we need to create an environment and eco-system for the clams.

“We found a lot of coral fragments broken and on the sea bed, so we try and give them a second chance. We replant them in a vertical position again. Once that is done we have to nurse them and make sure predators don’t eat them. That takes a year or more. So this month we have reattached 1000 pieces onto the reef, and they form a colony of their own.”

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