‘Moving to Canada in the dead of winter was the biggest challenge I’ve ever faced’
Life Lessons: Nealo, rap artist
Rap artist Nealo: Every time I look at my son I get this feeling that we’re going to have such a deadly life together
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve ever faced?
Moving to Canada when I was 23. It was the dead of winter and I didn’t have a breeze what real work looked like. After doing a 17-hour snow-shovelling shift in -10 degree temperatures you tend to find out fairly fast.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
To stop listening to what other people think of you and follow your own path in life. I used to really care about how my choices would affect the way that others viewed me. It was only when I stopped listening to those voices and started listening to my own voice that I started progressing as both an artist and a human. Also that being nice and being kind are two different things. You can be nice, but not be kind. So try to do things out of kindness, rather than a sense of duty to be nice.
And the worst?
To not get an anaesthetic during an endoscopy. It’s horrendous if you’re awake for it.
What moment changed your life?
The birth of my son Jacob. When he came out and was handed to me everything seemed to go into slow motion. He’s four months old now and so smiley and beautiful. Every time I look at him I get this feeling that we’re going to have such a deadly life together.
Who do you most admire?
My mam and my wife, because they both give out love to everyone and expect nothing back. Also, neither of them have vices. I go on the session, and smoke cigarettes and eat dodgy food, so when I see people that don’t have vices I really respect them for it.
What’s the most pain you’ve ever experienced?
I run a dog walking business as my day job, and once I was walking this big fella and he somehow managed to swallow a tennis ball and die. I got 57 stitches and two fractures in my right hand from trying to get the ball out. The physical pain was completely overshadowed by the emotional pain of losing a friend on my watch. Also I was so close to saving him on so many occasions, so the whole thing just felt really unfair. That was around two years ago and was the lowest I’ve ever been mentally.
What’s the biggest influence on your career?
It differs from time to time. Right now I’m really inspired by some of the people I’m working with who didn’t grow up in Ireland, but we all find ourselves together as Irish hip-hop artists. My DJ Siv and my onstage brother Jehnova. They both moved over from Africa at a young age and had to navigate Ireland as black teenagers, which I’d imagine was extremely difficult. The same with my friends God Knows and Denise Chaila. The four of them inspire me all for completely different reasons. Not only are they the best in their respective fields, but they’re all kind and open people. People that have gone through difficult situations tend to have character in spades.
What practical thing helps your personal development?
Writing songs is meditation for me. It forces me to live completely in the moment. I’m an Irish male and historically we haven’t been great at dealing with our feelings. I bottle stuff up, but I get to release it all into the songs. A lot of people don’t have an outlet like that, I’m very lucky.
What location do you return to for a sense of calm and time out?
The recording studio.
What’s your worst habit?
Probably drinking. I keep it to one or two days a week, but when you’re involved in music there’s always an opportunity for a session. Alcohol is so normalised in Irish society, but it’ll slap the head off you if you’re not careful.
What’s an unfulfilled goal you don’t tell anyone about?
Before I die I’m going to fight once inside the cage and release a country album.
What’s your motto for life?
Do what you want to do. Obviously money and security are both important, especially in this society that we live in. But when it’s all said and done you need to be able to look back at your life and say that you gave it a good go. That you made connections with people and followed your heart and not your pocket.
Nealo is a rapper from Dublin.