In my world, Sunday nights are for curling up on the sofa in my onesie (it was a birthday present… don’t judge me!), eating copious amounts of chocolate and watching The Voice of Ireland. But last night being the final of the show, I decided to don a dress, some ridiculously high heels and head in to catch up on the live action.
I watched the show backstage with last year’s winner, Pat Byrne, which made it all the more interesting. I’m sure he was sick of me asking him: “How did you feel at this point last year?” But Pat is a lovely guy and was a very worthy winner. He’s hugely talented and I know we’ll see plenty of him over the coming years.
But back to tonight and another very worthy winner – the small guy with the big heart, Keith Hanley. Keith, from Team Jamelia, wowed us with two brilliant performances. His first was a duet with Ryan Sheridan, singing Jigsaw and his second was a fantastic version of Beggin by Madcon.
I caught up with Keith and his coach, Jamelia, after the show and I think it’s safe to say, I can see why the public have fallen in love with him.
“I can’t believe it,” he says, in his sing-song Cork accent. “I really can’t believe it! I can’t stress how grateful I am to everyone who’s supported me. But there’s still a journey ahead of me – I’m going to have a good time tonight and then work starts first thing in the morning.”
When asked what he thought clinched it for him in the end, Keith answered: “I don’t know what it was. All I did was just be myself, getting on the stage and doing my thing.” Jamelia was quick to butt in, saying: “You gave amazing performances, that’s what did it. You proved yourself week after week.”
In those final moments before the winner was announced, Keith stood on stage with fellow contestant, Kelly Mongan. Kelly, who’s more than nine months pregnant with her first child, has had the nation captivated week after week, with her angelic voice and her ever-growing bump. “Kelly is an amazing vocalist,” said Keith. “She’s such an inspiration and if she’d won, I really would have been so happy for her. She’s been the favourite all along and really has something special.”
Jamelia was clearly over the moon at Keith’s win but conceded that he would have done well no matter which of the coaches he’d been with. “I’ve loved every second of coaching Keith. It’s been so much fun. And he’s not just the most talented contestant; he’s also the nicest guy in the world. It was so important to me to get to know Keith as a person too. I’ve really grown to love him – he’ll be a lifelong friend.”
Keith has secured a recording deal with Universal Ireland and I wanted to know if Jamelia would be involved in the making of his album. “I’m definitely going to be involved,” she said. “I’m so excited about going on this journey with him, writing songs with him and watching him grow musically.”
Keith is a care assistant for children with special needs and he brought Jamelia down to meet them during the week. She was clearly bowled over by the experience. “That whole day will stay with me forever,” she said. “I expected to be sad when I met them but they’re so full of life, so happy and so inspiring. It made me think I want to be around them more – I really learned so much from it. I’ll be bringing my girls down to meet them as soon as I can. They adore Keith and it’s clear he loves what he does.”
“And music makes such a difference to them,” said Keith. “It’s a therapy and they can come out of themselves so much more when they listen to it. I’m dedicating this win to them – and to my mammy, of course. I’m a real mammy’s boy!”
Jamelia replaced Brian Kennedy as a coach this year and has been popular with both the public and the contestants. “I’ve really loved my time here,” she said. “It’s been exhausting but a brilliant experience.” I think I can speak for most of us when I say I hope she’ll return next year.
I briefly caught up with Kelly after the show, before she went to put her feet up. “I’m not really disappointed, to be honest,” she said. “I’m delighted to have come second out of thousands. It’s a huge show and the whole experience has been unreal. I felt nervous tonight with the baby due any minute but I really enjoyed it at the same time.”
Kelly’s coach, Kian Egan, couldn’t speak highly enough of her. “Kelly is a great girl. She’s really talented and has been an inspiration throughout the show. Of course I’m disappointed for her but Keith is a great guy and a very deserving winner.” Bressie, whose act, Shannon Murphy came fourth, agreed that Keith is a true artist and deserved to win.
Sharon Corr, who was the only coach with no acts in the final, also endorsed Keith’s win. “He’s an amazing guy and was outstandingly good tonight. His performance with Ryan Sheridan was just brilliant.”
Last year, the format of the show meant that each coach had one act in the final. Changes this year saw Sharon lose the last of her acts, John Gaughan, last week. “It was hard to see John leave,” she said, “but we all agreed to the new format. I think John is pretty amazing though – he’s a very talented artist. He’s going to be supporting me on tour and I’m going to do everything I can to help him along the way.”
Sharon is releasing her new album later in the year and planning a world tour, so her fate as a coach in the third series hangs in the balance. I, for one, would love to see her back next year but I suppose we’ll have to wait and see.
I have to give a special mention to the other two finalists – Shane Mc Laughlin from Team Kian and Shannon Murphy from Team Bressie. Both gave wonderful performances tonight and I feel any of the final four would have been very deserving winners.
With The Voice of Ireland finished again for another year, I’m going to have to find something else to do on my Sunday nights! It’s been a fantastic series. I think one of the reasons it’s so successful is the fact that the coaches, although they champion their own acts, just want the very best artists to win. Unlike some other talent shows, they nurture the contestants and are all about building up their confidence. Keith got the seal of approval from all the coaches tonight – I definitely think he’s a star in the making.