Interview With A Man: Louis Walsh - The Gloss Magazine

Interview With A Man: Louis Walsh

Louis Walsh is a music manager who, over a long career, has masterminded the success of Johnny Logan, Boyzone, Westlife and Girls Aloud, among others, as well as featuring as a judge on talent shows including The X Factor. From Kiltimagh, Co Mayo, he lives in Dublin. Interview by Sarah Caden …

MY PARENTS WERE … Brilliant. Frank and Maureen. My father died at 69 – he worked all his life in the local bakery and was a taxi man, and my mother did all the farming. My mother is now 93 and in a home in Mayo. She seems happy. My two sisters, Evelyn and Sarah, go and see her every day. I hate going to the home. I don’t know if she knows me anymore but she reacts to music and she kind of sings along. That’s how I do the visits to her. I’m the second eldest of nine kids. I wouldn’t be her favourite son. Her favourite son is definitely Joseph, who flies home every two weeks from New Jersey to see her. He’s the best son ever.

DID YOU FEEL LOVED? They were very strict but in a good way. There was no cursing, no smoking, no drinking. My father was very anti-drink and that’s still inside me. I’m anti-drugs, anti-drink. I’m a bit of a bore. I can’t help it. My parents never told us they loved us, but we knew by the way they looked after us. We didn’t have any money but we had a great time.

DID SCHOOL HAVE A BIG IMPACT ON YOUR LIFE? No. I was just too giddy. I could never learn. I thought I was useless and had let my parents down. My parents didn’t have much money, but they sent me to boarding school, St Nathy’s in Co Roscommon. I hated it. It was like a prison to me. I did three years there and then I went to a day college in Swinford and just about got my Leaving Cert. I wasn’t good at school; I wasn’t into GAA. I was a bit of an outsider. My attitude was just get through it and get out.

WHAT DID YOU THINK YOU’D GROW UP TO BE? I didn’t know. I absolutely hated the farm. My father wanted me to get a proper job and my mother wanted me to be a priest. I didn’t care about money. I just thought, I’ll get to Dublin and I’ll do something. My sister Evelyn had a flat in Rathmines so I’d stay with her. We’d go to Grafton Street and Captain America’s and the Television Club and see The Freshmen and the showbands. Heaven. I loved music, but never thought there was a job for me in it. How did a person even do that? Especially if they’re from a small village in the west of Ireland.

HOW DID YOU GET YOUR START IN THE MUSIC BUSINESS? There was a showband called The Royal Blues from Mayo and one of its members, Doc Carroll, spoke to (manager) Tommy Hayden about giving me a job in his office in Hawkins Street in Dublin. I was making tea, opening fan mail for Red Hurley, bringing his white suit to the dry cleaners. I thought I was in showbiz and beyond that, I didn’t care. It was a fun and kind of innocent time. I loved it and learned a lot. The showbands were talented and the music was all live. I miss all that.

“You’ve got to be nice, you’ve got to be real. It’s a fake business but the nice people last.”

WHAT WAS YOUR BREAKTHROUGH MOMENT? I was on a bus going to Joseph and his Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat and I met this guy called Johnny Logan. We talked about music and he said, ‘I’d love you to look after me,’ and that’s how I started. Johnny had the poster-boy look, he had the voice, he had it all. Eurovision happened in The Hague in 1980 and What’s Another Year? won. It was unreal. We were on Top of the Pops, off to Germany, Turkey, everywhere. Johnny was great fun and always nice to everybody.

WHAT’S THE SECRET TO LONGEVITY IN YOUR BUSINESS? Being nice is very important. You’ve got to be nice, you’ve got to be real. It’s a fake business but the nice people last. The biggest people are nice. I was walking down the corridor at X Factor one evening and Paul McCartney was the guest and he goes, ‘Hi Louis.’ I was thinking, ‘He knows me! A living Beatle!’

WHAT’S YOUR BIGGEST STRENGTH IN YOUR WORK? I like what I do. I like music, I like songs. I’m a hustler but I’m not as confident as I pretend. You can be dropped at any time by the artist. They get famous and start thinking they don’t need the manager. That’s the cycle. Westlife have stuck with me. There is loyalty with Irish bands. I wouldn’t trust a UK act.

DO YOU EVER THINK ABOUT RETIREMENT? No. I like what I do. And I’ll do it as long as I can. I don’t have to work. I’m lucky and I know it. That’s the secret, you have to know it. I don’t believe any of the hype.

I DEAL WITH A SETBACK BY… Talking to people I trust. You have to have people around you who are good.

MY FIRST EXPERIENCE OF GRIEF WAS … When my grandmother died. Sarah Walsh – we called her Muddy – lived with us. I adored her and she adored me. She knew I hated school and she protected me. She was so good to me and when she died in my late teens, I never got over it, and I never forgot her.

WHAT ARE THE IMPORTANT FEMALE RELATIONSHIPS IN YOUR LIFE? My mother. My sisters. Caroline Downey, Sharon Osbourne, Kathryn Rodgers, who I adore.

MY FRIENDSHIPS ARE FOR THE MOST PART… Real. I like them to last. I like people to understand I’m not perfect and I’m a bit of a loose cannon. Sharon Osbourne says I have no filter. And that’s fine. I like people like that. I’m attracted to people who are a bit eccentric. I don’t like normal.

MY MOST PHYSICALLY ATTRACTIVE FEATURE, IN MY OPINION … My smile. I don’t think I’m attractive, but I think people like me.

MY STYLE SIGNIFIER IS … Jeans. I always buy with Jeff (Thompson) in Brown Thomas.

MY FAVOURITE SHOES ARE … Prada. I love shoes and Prada are always nice.

DO YOU LIKE TO HAVE A TAN? I love the heat and the light in Miami. I go there every winter but I sit in the shade.

MY EXERCISE ROUTINE INCLUDES … Walking, but I don’t exercise. I know I’m lazy and I’m fine with it. I was never in a gym in my life. I looked in once and that was enough.

I RECENTLY READ … Scattershot: Life, Music, Elton and Me by Bernie Taupin (English-American lyricist, best-known for his songwriting partnership with Elton John.) I like biographies of music people but I don’t want the glossed-over stories, I want war stories.

I RECENTLY LISTENED TO … The Megyn Kelly Show. (The American journalist and media personality hosts a daily live talk show and podcast.) I like her. She’s smart.

A HOLIDAY I’D LIKE TO REPEAT IS … Barcelona. And I want to go to Mallorca. I don’t like long flights.

MY SIGNATURE DISH TO COOK IS … Nothing. I can’t cook. I like a strong cup of tea and I can make that.

THE PERFECT WEEKEND INCLUDES … Being in Dublin, going to restaurants, a bit of shopping. I love doing nothing and I love Dublin. I feel safe here.


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