Mixed fortunes

Fri, Jul 27, 2012, 01:00

“I had to walk away from a band I loved and a career I loved because we couldn’t sustain that career.” Bressie tells JIM CARROLLabout making his way in an industry that’s “f**ked”

NIALL BRESLIN is discovering that you never stop learning. Post-Blizzards, Breslin’s career has seen him adopt many new guises. As a songwriter for hire, TV talent show mentor and the solo pop star we know as Bressie, the Mullingar native has not stopped working.

Breslin knew he had to change how he operated if he wanted to keep making a living from music. “When I was in a band, I saw the industry change in such a dramatic, immediate way,” he says. “The industry was fucked when I was in The Blizzards and it’s more fucked now. The questions for me are how do I keep going, how do I sustain a career and how do I make a living from what I’m good at?

“The reality is I had to walk away from a band I loved and a career I loved because we couldn’t sustain that career. I still wanted to stay in music because I love it, and so I found myself getting into things and having to learn shit like production and AR, which took a lot of time. It’s not the idealistic, romantic world people imagine where you can go off and spend two or three years on an album. I’m not 18 years of age anymore, I can’t do that. If I want to continue making and producing music, which I want to do, I have to find new ways of doing that.”

After The Blizzards went on hiatus, Breslin hightailed it to London where he started to work as a songwriter and producer for Simon Fuller’s 19 Entertainment. “At first, I was pitching to everyone who’d listen. I’d get a brief on a Monday morning saying that Olly Murs and JLS are looking for tracks. I was looking at myself and thinking ‘I don’t have a fucking chance of getting them to record my tracks; I’m not going to waste my time pitching to these people’.”

Instead of getting involved with the politics of pitching, Breslin decided to find and develop the acts himself. One of the first acts he worked with was Spark and his experiences with her opened his eyes even more to how labels worked (or, in this case, didn’t). “It is my opinion that the label didn’t nail the production on it. They were shit-scared that she’d turn out like Florence The Machine – when she’s fucking nothing like Florence The Machine. I think she’s gone back now to make the album the way she wanted to make it and she’s bloody lucky she got that chance.”

Breslin feels he’s finally beginning to understand the game. “What I’ve learned is that I know what avenues not to go down, which is a really good start. I find it really impossible to write songs for someone unless I’m sitting in the room with them, because you have to ask them what they want to sing about. It’s the most trivial, simple thing, but you’ve got to ask them what’s on their mind. Unfortunately, 90 per cent of pop artists don’t really care what they’re singing about and so you’re getting the DJ club thing constantly.”

He believes, though, that there’s a sea-change underway in pop tones and sounds. “The singer-songwriter thing like Ben Howard is becoming more common. I’ve sat in meetings week in and week out hearing people go ‘I want a hit, I want a hit’. But there’s not one hit in the conventional sense on that Ben Howard album and yet it’s a fucking brilliant album. Labels put everyone in the same place or same box, but Ben Howard isn’t a hit writer.

“You can’t make an artist a pop artist if that’s not what they want.”

Since releasing his debut solo album Colourblind Stereo last year, Breslin’s Irish profile has skyrocketed, thanks in part to a stint as a judge and mentor on TV talent show The Voice. “I was very surprised to be asked first and foremost. It took me a couple of weeks and sitting down with the producers to find out more before I said yes. I went in there without any angle. I’m not like some worldwide superstar who can go ‘that’s not good enough’. That’s not me, I can’t be a dickhead to someone.

“Being on TV every week here really helped me. I came out of The Blizzards and started as a solo artist and realised that it was like starting again. It was very difficult, more difficult than I thought it would have been. The TV could have gone either way. I might have hated it and the audience might have thought I was a prick and that was the end. Or people could warm to you. That’s the risk I took and it paid off.”

He’s currently trying to find time between producing The Voice winner Pat Byrne, working with other acts (such as Alex Buchanan, who plays Michael Jackson in the musical Thriller Live) and playing a ton of Irish festival shows to work on his second solo album. Rest assured it won’t be Colourblind Stereo, part 2.

“I don’t feel restricted in terms of what kind of album I’m going to make,” Breslin says. “I don’t feel it has to be another synth-pop album. I was a big Eighties fan and I wanted to do an album like that because I could never do it with The Blizzards. Now, I feel I want to go back and put the stuff I’ve learned in the last year or so into practice.

“Nine times out of 10, most pop artists don’t get to make another record, so I want to grab every opportunity I get to work with producers and in studio because there is a massive graveyard out there with pop acts who never got beyond their first album.”


Bressie plays the Indiependence Music Arts Festival in Deer Park, Mitchelstown, Co Cork, on August 3rd. The festival runs from August 3rd-5th

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