Niall ‘Bressie’ Breslin believes we are currently seeing a “golden generation of amazing artists and singers” emerging within Ireland.
The Saturdays Una Foden (33) and more recently Clonmel’s Dayl Cronin (20), one sixth of Louis Walsh’s new boyband Hometown, are some of a class of musically gifted individuals from the Premier County that have surfaced over the past decade.
However, the former Blizzards frontman says it is initially difficult to identify potential superstars on reality singing shows such as The Voice of Ireland.
He explains: “It’s very hard to put your finger on someone’s talent having only seen them perform once or twice. There are a lot of interesting voices this year that I really like but whether or not they’ll win the show is hard to call. I might love their voice but are the public going to love it?”
Bressie suggests that female contestants are at a disadvantage because “girls don’t vote for girls”. He says: “The female talent is there but let’s call a spade a spade; you hear people saying ‘she’s really good’, and then the same people don’t vote and give out when their favourite act doesn’t progress in the competition. Viewers must vote. You will see some very strong female vocalists involved in The Voice of Ireland over the coming weeks”.
The two-time winning mentor concedes that he has nobody from Tipperary on his team this season, but laughs that Thurles native and mum-of-two Una Foden is enough to handle. “Una was always going to fit in very quickly as a coach on The Voice of Ireland. She’s a great country lass, very easy to talk to and very approachable, but I wouldn’t cross her. She puts us in our place when needs be”.
Bressie has been very open about his reluctance to deal with his own mental health for years, something he admits destroyed both his career as a professional rugby player and as a musician. The former Westmeath Gaelic footballer recalls a time before a match when he “physically wanted to rip the skin off his face” and started “hitting his head off the wall” so he’d have an excuse not to go out onto the field.
Bressie had become embedded in a vicious circle of depression, to the extent that he suffered a life-changing panic attack moments before going live on stage for an episode of The Voice of Ireland. He was diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder, but to this day still feels “frustrated” because he doesn’t know what triggered his depression and anxiety.
“I have an incredible family and background, and was always given the support I needed. Yet, I used to go to bed every night choking, not being able to breath and wondering what was going on. My head was full of madness. When I was sixteen I strapped my left arm to a chair beside my bed and I took my right arm and smashed it against the side of the bed until I felt every bone break in my forearm. I thought if I went into the doctor he would tell me what was wrong with me. I even slept in a park for two nights in London [during the height of my breakdown]”.
Bressie recently launched his own blog My1000hours.com which offers practical ways of dealing, managing and improving mental fitness. He says that a combination of a number of things including exercise and medication have helped him to deal with his issues. However, he suggests that Irish society needs to stop “shadowing” what has become “a normal thing”.
He explains: “It’s a massive topic but people don’t want to talk about it. Constantly having to hide and make excuses for how I was feeling made it worse. This is not something you can do alone.
“The stigma surrounding depression and anxiety in this country is awful. As a society we need to change our attitude. The media has the power to make people realise that not only is it normal but it’s all over the country; every family knows about it and has experienced it.
“Now that we are talking about it more openly, we need to shout it from the rooftops. The media and education can help filter it through society and offer people advice on how to deal with their problems.
“I find that running has an immediate and positive influence on my mental health. But it’s not one size fits all. I spent over 12 years banging my head off a wall. Everyone’s circumstances are different”.
The former Leinster Rugby player is currently dating Clonmel-born model Roz Purcell (24), who he says has been a pillar of support from day one.
“I was very up front with Roz from the start. If you’re going to be in a relationship with someone honesty is important because what makes it ten times worse is the guilt. When your loved ones don’t know what’s wrong and you take it out on them, when you get aggressive and angry with them and their wondering what they did wrong; that can eat away at you. When they understand what’s up, it makes things a lot easier”.
The down to earth celebrity couple share their Dublin home with Roz’s sister Rachel (27), and spend their spare time cooking healthy treats and training. However, Bressie says he wasn’t enticed by Roz’s Miss Universe Ireland title. “I’ve never really thought of her like that to be honest. What struck me straight away was the fact that she’s a country girl and we had a connection. Everyone has a past; it’s no business of mine and we are just concentrating on the future … one thing I do find seductive though is her cooking. [Roz runs her own food blog called Natural Born Feeder]. She’s obsessed with it. I love cooking but I’ve kind of lost all my confidence now; she’s gotten so good at it”.
Despite their two-year-long romance, Bressie says that both of them are “not in stable enough careers” to even consider getting married or having kids. He adds: “If I’m going to get married and have kids I want to make sure I have something concrete, so it’s not on the cards at the moment”.