Ahead of Boyzone's concert in Derby, Mikey Graham looks back over almost 25 years of life in the band
PUBLISHED: 22:00 24 August 2017 | UPDATED: 22:00 24 August 2017
As Boyzone prepares for their visit to the 3aaa County Ground, Derby, on 16th September, Mikey Graham took time out from rehearsals to look forward to the show, next year's anniversary for the band, and reflect on their 25 years together, writes Geoff Ford
‘We can’t wait to get there,’ he said. ‘It was one of the last gigs that we played together. I think that was 2-2½ years ago at the cricket ground. We got a lovely day the last time we played there, so it was really nice. It’s a nice place, Derby.’
It seems incredible that Boyzone are about to celebrate their 25th anniversary next year, a career that includes twenty five million record sales, seven hit studio albums and six UK #1 singles. ‘Absolutely. Nobody feels it more than us, and probably me – I’ve just turned 45!’ says Mikey. ‘When I started out with the band at 20-21 years of age, I never could envisage that we’d still be here 25 years later. It’s amazing.’
To celebrate, the boys - Ronan Keating, Keith Duffy, Shane Lynch and Mikey - are back in the studio working on their new studio album and planning a major tour for 2018.
‘We are in the Artists and Repertoire process at the moment, finding the right music to put with the band, choosing different songs and in the studio recording. We’re very excited about that, to be honest, and very happy that our fans have stuck by us for all this time. We’re looking forward to putting together a really great album for them. It’s a really exciting time.
‘Ed Sheeran and Sam Smith have contributed some songs, some very good stuff. We were very excited and blown away that, once the word went out that we were doing a new album, artists were delighted to send us some tracks for consideration. We’re really happy with that, very humbled, to tell the truth. We’re probably 20 years older than these guys and it was nice for them to offer that.
‘We also have good management, a very good record company and A&R. We’re looking forward to hearing our new music on the radio and getting out to some big arenas.’
Since their first separation in 2000, the Boyzone members have come together again for a number of reunions with albums and tours. I suggested that this would not be possible without a strong bond between the boys and a good rapport when they get back together.
‘Oh, there is,’ Mikey agreed. ‘Everybody goes off doing their own thing when we’re not together, so when we do get back together we reminisce about the past, have our own in-jokes, things that have developed between us over the years. We laugh a lot!’
The only regret is that Stephen Gately is not still with the band after his untimely death in 2009. ‘Yes,’ said Mikey, with an inevitable hint of sadness in his voice. ‘We were rehearsing yesterday and I haven’t worked with them for, probably, two years or so. We were doing a song called Gave It All Away, which Stephen did a vocal on, and when his vocal was playing on a backing-track that we have, it just hit me again, how horrible the situation is, and was. I can’t believe we lost Stephen, he should have been here with us.’
Going back to the early days, what was it like to be part of a phenomenon like Boyzone?
‘It was great fun. There was lots and lots of hard work which I don’t think we imagined, because most people think that if you’re a pop star you’re just living the high life and doing nothing else. Really, its 24-7. We travelled all over the world, non-stop, and we were lucky to get one, maybe two, days a year off, at that time.
‘It was incredibly hard work but we didn’t experience it as people on the outside would because we were contained within this bubble, just the band, the manager and the tour manager, a close-knit little circle that were protected within. This bubble used to float from city to city every day doing another TV show, another radio show, travelling on trains, planes and automobiles, we didn’t witness it from the same perspective as other people around.
‘I don’t think that until we broke up in 2000, and had some time out of the band, and away from it, that we began to absorb just how successful the band had become. Even now, I’m still blown away that we did all of that and travelled all of the world. I travelled the world but I didn’t see anything at that time, just from hotel to hotel and airport to airport. Looking back, it’s something that we hold very dear in our hearts, the experience, the mania of it all at the time was just crazy.
‘I had to go travelling again on my own, after 2000, to actually see these places that I went to, to absorb the culture of each place and what they had to offer. I was very much open to that. From ’93 up until 2000, we didn’t have the time. I’m glad I got to do that, and here we are again – out and about! It’s good fun, though.’
The youngest of seven children, Mikey was influenced by the music being played by his older siblings. “The music I grew up with was people like the Police, Eric Clapton, The Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, Carole King, Janis Joplin, all of these. I loved grass-roots music, all the folk and rock, and that was what made me want to be a singer and musician in the first place. I began to play a guitar at 15 and progressed from there into a couple of rock bands.
‘It was quite unusual, an unlikely move for me to be in a pop boyband. I was a fully qualified motor mechanic, at the time, and I had my green card to go to America in the summer of ’94. Then I got a call from Louis to join the band and we had a hit single in Ireland with the old Detroit Spinners track Working My Way Back To You. Once that happened everything took off for us. The record company in the UK offered us a global 5-album deal.
‘It wasn’t my intended path, to be in a pop band, but that was the opportunity that presented itself to me. I’ve had huge fun over the last 25 years, it’s been magnificent. As Bob Dylan says, ‘a simple twist of fate’.
‘To be in the US Marines, that was my actual goal. All of those plans were if I didn’t make it in music, but thankfully I did. I always had that self-belief that this was where my life was headed, into the entertainment industry, into music.’
Mikey still has all the tools from his mechanic days and relaxes by getting his hands dirty again. ‘I really enjoy it,’ he laughs. ‘I enjoy just immersing myself in the mechanics. I still tinker around with my own car, just pull it into my garage and do all the services, timing belt and brakes, whatever needs doing. I enjoy that, it’s quite therapeutic!’