Ok, so things couldn't be better for Lurgan guy Conleth, currently on stage in Belfast's Grand Opera House and his debut single is getting loads of radio airtime. We caught up for a quick natter to talk about music, 90's heros, and his love life...
Hi Conleth - Congrats on the success of your debut single 'River'! Are you pleased with the reception?
I am over the moon, thank you! I have to say, the feeling when I am sat with my mum and my song comes on the radio, or when I get my friends and family calling to say they're in the car or the hairdressers and it's on, is just euphoric! The song is not what people expected either, I did a very understated Christmas song and I was openly gay in the music video. Cool FM have put to on their playlist and BBC Radio Ulster had me in performing it live-lounge style. It's not that easy getting it on to radio, I am doing this without the backing of a record label, so I am very thankful to those two stations for celebrating local talent, especially Cool FM. I effectively opened my own label with iTunes and I was Executive Producer on the single and the music video, so everything you see and hear was my own vision. Being able to be so creative on this project has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. The fact that the response has been so positive is brilliant. It's a dream come true.
We hear Andy Bell from 90's pop band Erasure even tweeted about your music video! Tell us more about that…
Yes. That is true! Andy tweeted 'The fabulous Conleth Kane' and attached the youtube link to my video. I grew up listening to Erasure. I still listen to them and am a huge fan still to this day. I think that 'A Little Respect' is one of the best pop songs ever written. Andy came to see me in 'Rise Like A Phoenix' (a critically acclaimed play in London earlier this year by Irish writer Paul Emelion Daly that told the story of 5 friends who all contracted the HIV virus and how each of them coped with the diagnosis). I invited him along via twitter and he came, it was as simple as that. I have never been so nervous/excited in my life. I remember peering out of the curtain and I saw him take his seat. We met for a drink after and I was trying my hardest to play it cool. He is a really sweet man and the fact that one of my own music idols gave my first single the thumbs up is mind-blowing.
So you were in a play in London that based around the topic of HIV. Hows was that?
Yes. I was in Molly Wobbly in the Leicester Square Theatre in the West End of London this year and as the production was drawing to an end I got an audition for 'Rise Like A Phoenix' at the famous 'Above the Stag' Theatre. I read that it was a comedy based around 5 friends who contracted the HIV virus. The character I read for was an extremely complex character who had to go on the biggest rollercoaster of emotions out of everyone. I'm sort of known for playing comedy roles in musicals so I was surprised when I got the call an hour after auditioning to say I had the job. Playing this role was the biggest challenge of my career, I had to go to very dark places on stage every night. I had to play some scenes quite light and comedic then the next scene I'd have to have a breakdown and produce tears. I've never slept so well in my life as I did during that run. It was emotionally draining. The whole process was an education. I learned so much as an actor and as a gay man. I learned so much about the HIV virus and I spoke to different men in depth about how it has affected their lives. I was in Vauxhall on a night out and a group of guys approached me saying how much they loved the show, and that they'd never been to the theatre before and they'd all gone because they are HIV positive and they were intrigued. That is what theatre is all about. The play opened in New York this September. I was very honoured to be part of it's journey and ultimately stretch my abilities as an performer.
Earlier this year you appeared on the front of the 'Belfast Telegraph' as a 'coming out' headline story. You faced a bit of criticism for that. Why do you think that happened?
Yes, I remember that well. Firstly, I have been 'out' since 2001. Secondly, I had NO idea my story was going to be front page news, I was as shocked as anyone. I will never forget it. I was in Green Park in London getting a tea from 'Pret a Manger' and someone in Northern Ireland sent me a picture of the front of the 'Belfast Telegraph' and there was a huge picture of me with a headline saying 'Conleth Kane Exclusive: After years of bullying, Republic's 'Yes' Vote prompted me to tell everyone I'm Gay'. I almost spat my tea out. I had put up a Facebook status the day that the equal-marriage vote went through down south and it was shared by thousands of people and I ended up chatting to a journalist about the impact that Facebook status was having. To cut a long story short, I wrote a status saying that the young gay people of Northern Ireland will never stop facing bullying and discrimination if gay people are not considered as equal citizens. How on earth is anyone to grow up feeling equal in society if their government won't even let them get married. That's what the status was about, that's what I spoke to the journalist about. I did not 'come out', but there was nothing I could do - the story was printed. There was lots of people writing on the 'Belfast Telegraph' Facebook wall saying things like 'Conleth Kane coming out? Worst kept secret in Showbiz'. 'He's been out for years' etc etc. I didn't write the headline and I certainly didn't think it would be on the front page. However, I did receive a lot of Facebook messages from parents who have children who are experiencing bullying in schools because he or she is gay. I replied to every single parent and tried my best to offer help and solutions. That was always my aim and if I helped one kid and his or her parents deal with a situation they felt lost in before they read my story - then that's all that matters.
So how's the love life? Last time we spoke to you, you were single, is that still the case?
Yes. I am still single. I was dating someone during the year for a few months. He was very nice and we got on well but I decided it wasn't for me. To be honest I don't think it was for him either so I am glad one of us had the courage to surface that issue.
What is your type?
Well I am partial to a bear. Haha! I love tattoos. I also like someone who works out too, I like health-conscious men. I like someone around my own age or older. It's hard being a creative person, and finding that special someone as work schedules are constantly different and not everyone understands what it is I want from life. Work comes first with me. I look forward to meeting a guy who will make me think differently. He is out there somewhere. There's a lot of hot men in Belfast.
So what is next for you then?
Well I am currently appearing in 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs' at the Grand Opera House in Belfast until Jan 10th. This Christmas is about being around my family. I feel very lucky to be getting to spend so much time with them this Christmas. I don't want to sound like some old granda but I love nothing more than finishing the show, getting home, jumping into my onesie and sitting my the Christmas the with a cup of tea, cuddling my dog and chatting away to my mum. That's when I am at my happiest. I also get to eat out in my favourite restaurant 'Made in Belfast' quite a lot and read my favourite magazine GNI in hardcopy version! Whoop! I am straight back to London on Jan 12th. I recently got signed to 'Global Artists' (one of London's top TV/Theatre Agents) so I cannot wait to embrace my working future with them and charge on ahead with the exciting opportunities that 2016 may have in store for me! I am so lucky to have ticked off a lot of my 'to do' things in life. Life is for living.
Conleth's debut single 'River' is out now on iTunes.