Drum roll please, The Voice of Ireland final is upon us! By next week, a winner will have been crowned and their new single is sure to be blazing up the charts. As the the competition gets tighter, Suzanne Byrne catches up with the coaches and hosts for all the backstage gossip!

Kathryn Thomas
The lady at the helm reveals how surprised she was by the talent that turned up.

High point: The fantastic audience reaction.

Low point: None!

How have you enjoyed the experience of The Voice? I have loved every single minute of it, and I can’t believe the 17 weeks are over! I never had any worries about the format, but I was worried about the talent. I was blown away. We really have proved we have really strong singers, singer-songwriters and musicians in this country.

What was it like working with Eoghan McDermott? I just think he is hilarious – he is such a cheeky chappy, who is liable to come with anything and leave me standing on the stage to pick up the pieces! I mean if you can’t laugh at yourself in this business, you won’t get anywhere.

... and the coaches? Brian is probably the guy I knew best – we are gym buddies! Sharon comes across on screen exactly as she is in real-life, just so lovely. Bressie is a big god of manliness and the reaction of the female population is testament to that, but he is not all looks, he is a wonderful musician as well. Kian shoots from the hip. Some people were giving out about him, but he was just being himself. His sister and his mam did tell him to think a little bit more about how he was saying things, and they are the only people he would take that advice from!

Do you have a favourite to win? I put three names in an envelope at the beginning of the live shows and as of the semi-finals, two of them were gone!

Any embarrassing moments? No – I’ve managed to stay on my heels, which I’m delighted about.

Do you know what you are wearing for the final? I am wearing an amazing Tim Ryan dress. It’s been great to be able to mix up the high street with Irish designers.

Any backstage secrets you can share with us? There are a couple of budding romances between the contestants, and possibly one between contestant and crew . . . but I can’t tell you who!

Sharon Corr
The nicest woman on telly reveals the trouble she had with microphones and dresses!

High point: Everything – especially getting to know the other judges and contestants.

Low point: Letting really good people go.

How have you found the coaching experience? I have loved every minute of it. I am quite careful about what I get involved in and the reason I did The Voice was because I think it is quite a positive show. My focus has been on building confidence and working on people’s nerves from day one. Now that we are at the final, nerves can make or break a performance, so I am glad this is what we have worked on all the way through the show.

Who do you think has made the biggest transformation during the show? I think Connor has made a staggering transformation from when we first met him. He is developing as an artist. I think he is very special. I also think Vanessa is very special from my team, I mean we don’t really have an identifiable opera voice from this country and I really think she could be it.

How would you describe the other coaches? Brian and I have become really close; we are best friends and are brilliant to be going through this experience with him. Bressie is a dote – the girls adore him, but there is more to him than looks. He is a really gorgeous guy, on the inside and the outside and a person of huge integrity and great fun. With Kian, we really spark off each other and we are constantly winding each other up and we have great craic as well as being great support to each other.

Why do you think The Voice has been so successful? I think one of the main reasons is because the premise is completely different to other singing competitions. If I thought we were going to be humiliating people, I wouldn’t have signed up. I feel really strongly that people shouldn’t be treated like that and I think it very much undermines the audience, in saying that they only get their enjoyment out of cheap tricks – that is not the truth. The audience is worth so much more and I think they get that with The Voice. There is so much positivity and nurturing and that is what I believe people want to see.

Any embarrassing moments at The Voice? I usually have some amazing dress on and they don’t really have room for microphones, so Niall who looks after sound has to pretty much fiddle around under my skirt to find a spot for it! I’ve had babies though, so I don’t go too red!

What’s next? I will probably have a little cry once the show is over, then I will get on with finishing my second solo album and then it’s off to the summer festivals.

Brian Kennedy
No stranger to the stage, Brian Kennedy has enjoyed sharing his musical knowledge with his team.

High point: Discovering new singers.

Low point: Having to let people go.

How have you found the coaching experience? Well it was an eye-opener and a learning curve – to be on the other side of singing. I loved it because of the blind auditions because from the very start, it was all about singing.

How did you find working with the other coaches? I might have had a few preconceived notions about people based on what you see written about them, so like, for Kian, even though he wasn’t the featured singer in his band, I wondered what kind of singer he was. It was fascinating to discover that he really has a great insight when it comes to music and performing. Sharon has extraordinary experience, both musically and also as a woman in the industry and Bressie, I guess, being the rocker of the bunch and very much a lead singer, it was interesting to see how into production he is.

Do you regret any of the decisions you made? No, not at all. Ultimately, when the dust settles I can stand by all my decisions. It’s is a matter of taste; I preferred one singer over another and that is what this competition is about.

Favourite performance? When Alan sang Purple Rain – that really upped everything for him.

Any embarrassing moments? Well because we had to be hidden away initially from seeing the contestants, Bressie, Kian and I spent a lot of time in the same dressing room. It’s a very small room and let’s just say there were a lot was a lot of fragrance issues of the body kind from all three of us!

Any backstage secrets? Lots of male-grooming going on – coaches and contestants!

What’s next? The single is out now, Best Days, and the album is out in the middle of May. The there will two shows in the Olympia on the 8th and 9th of June, where my full team will come and sing with me.

Bressie
Bressie reveals he and his last act have taken a big risk with their final song.

High point: Connor’s performance of Kids by MGMT.

Low point: Sending someone home.

How have you found the coaching experience? I think I have learned a lot from watching other people perform and seeing where they fell down.

What advice would you give to the winner? Whoever wins needs about 12 months of development before they are ready. Going on a TV show doesn’t prepare you for the reality of the music industry. It is a great platform, but it doesn’t prepare you properly and that is why a lot of these shows have a big graveyard of people who have failed, because they weren’t ready for the insanity.

Have you regretted any of your decisions? No, I think I have made the right choices. I do think I had harder choices to make – my singers have just been so strong. I mean the people I lost in the battle shows, some of them were unreal.

Has any of the on-screen tension carried on backstage? When you see us having arguments on live TV it’s because we are comfortable with each other, not because we don’t like each other. If I didn’t like someone I would probably hold back and not be snotty to them. Kian and I come from very different places musically so our opinions are going to differ, but I go for a drink every Sunday night with Kian and everyone else and we totally get each other and have become friends.

Can you tell us anything about the single you have in mind for your finalist? It’s a big risk! I think a couple of the other teams are a bit safe and going for something everyone knows because they will get it on the radio. I don’t care about that. If my artist doesn’t win at least they will have done something they wanted to do and that suited them.

What’s next after The Voice? I am going to spend some time with, hopefully, my winning act – well, I’m actually going to spend some time with them, whether they win or lose. I’ve started writing the second album and I am looking forward to getting back to that.

Kian Egan
Mr Westlifer reckons being a coach has come quite naturally!

High point: Working with contestants and seeing them really pull a song off.

Low point: The negativity between Brian and me at the start, but that soon changed.

Have you enjoyed the coaching experience? I have really enjoyed it – it’s been very different to anything I’ve ever done before. But I have to say I have just been myself with the contestants and been as honest as I possibly could.

How did you find working with the other coaches? Brian and I didn’t really know each other at the beginning and I think he had a preconceived notion that I was just some random dude in a boyband but once he saw there was more to me than that he warmed to me, and I love working with him now. Sharon and Bressie are both lovely people and I have really enjoyed getting to know them.

Which performance stands out for you the most? I have to say Connor (who is on Bressie’s team) when he came out and sang MGMT’s Kids; that was absolutely insane. Then back in the battle shows, two of my girls did Don’t Let the Sun Go Down, and that was an amazing moment.

Did anyone go home who you thought should be in the final?
Well, I always thought that Liam Geddes was going to win the whole thing. He is an outstanding vocalist, but it didn’t happen for him and it was quite a bit of a shock for me.

Are you happy with how the public have voted? I think there was only one week when the public got it wrong – that was when Liam and Graham where in the bottom two. But apart from that we [the coaches] have pretty much picked the bottom two every week.

What’s next for you? The Westlife tour starts in May, we are rehearsing at the moment. After that, I am looking at some other TV gigs – not music-related, and I’m looking forward to spending time with my son and Jodi. It’s been tough leaving them and I find it’s much harder to get out the door and I am late a lot more!

Suzanne Byrne