In this interview, Louis Walsh talks about:

  • His love of showbands, starting from the bottom and clawing his way to success. 
  • His own wealth and his thoughts on rich lists
  • His love of art, particularly Irish artists
  • Never delving into drugs or drink.
  • How he and Sam once managed the same band
  • His family: “Everybody’s alive. Nobody’s in jail and nobody’s sick. And no one’s in politics”
  • How he came to manage Johnny Logan, who wanted to become the next Elvis
  • One of the worst things about being a manager is “You always have to listen to the artists, no matter what they’re saying to you”
  • How a night in Lillies Bordello led to the creation of Boyzone
  • How people still hand him CDs of featuring their loved ones singing hoping that Walsh can bring them to stardom
  • Westlife’s comeback and touring with them
  • His first meeting with Simon Cowell who brought Louis into the world of stardom. 
  • Being the longest lasting judge on the X-Factor
  • The one girl-band he ever managed, Girls Aloud, and why it didn’t work out
  • His friendship and working relationship with the son of former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds
  • Giving Van Morrisson a lift in his jeep when he saw him standing at a bus stop on Harcourt street
  • Having some “maintenance” done but no plastic surgery
  • When it came to business-people he admired
  • His feelings towards Boris Johnson and Donald Trump. 

Sam Smyth (SS): Hello, I’m Sam Smyth and welcome to my podcast with The Currency. Today I’m joined by Louis Walsh. Louis, this is a business interview and I’ll begin by quoting a line from the film Jerry Maguire: “It’s show business, not show friends.”

And you became richer and more famous than any of the artists you ever managed. This is a reversal of fortunes of sorts. You were supposed to be the anonymous manager that no one knows and now you’re better known than most of the artists you ever managed. Are you happy with that?

Louis Walsh (LW): I don’t mind, as long as I’m getting paid for it. I really don’t. But I didn’t get into the business for money as you know. Money was not my guide. But in the pop business a lot of the artists have a very short career. A lot of them have short memories as well. But they’ve short careers so you need always to have somebody else coming along. So, if it’s a boyband or a girlband they’ve a shelf-life of maybe four or five years. So, I always look for the next one. It’s like a bus, there’s always another one coming along.

SS: But when you started you learned your trade with the bands.

LW: I started at the bottom. I started at the bottom and I kind of clawed my way there. If you know what I mean. As you know from the showbands, because we were all involved in the showbands. That was a great learning curve for me, the showbands. Because I had to be good to survive, and they had to get to work, and they had to get the crowds in because if you didn’t get the crowds in they didn’t get paid. No matter what contract you had, or who you were playing for, if the people didn’t come in you didn’t get paid.

“And I used to ring Oliver Barry and Jim Hand and all these all these people. I know all their phone numbers off by heart to get the support, and that’s how I started.” 

SS: Well sure isn’t that the same in any business you’re in?

LW: No. You’ve contracts but contracts… 

SS:  If you run a magazine and you don’t sell copies you don’t get wages.

LW: But then you’re self-employed. But in the music business, if I’ve got a contract, just say with Westlife, and they go to Dubai for 500,000, they still get paid. Even if 50,000 people show up, or a 100,000. But in that time in Ireland, I know it probably hasn’t changed a lot of business, it was tough and you had to work to get the money. I started at the bottom. I started off booking out a relief band. A relief band was a band that went on before… it isn’t what it sounds like. But it went on before the real showband, all around the west of Ireland. And they used to get like 12 quid to support the real band and warm up the crowd before the audience came in. And I used to ring Oliver Barry and Jim Hand and all these all these people. I know all their phone numbers off by heart to get the support, and that’s how I started. 

And I was going to school, but I learnt an awful lot that way. Because it got me into the gig for free, we had a great night, you got 12 quid and you’re always working basically because there was gigs on every week.

SS:  And how much of that 12 quid did you get how and much did the band get? 

LW: Well we divided up between equally. I got the same as them. 

SS: There’s something vaguely communist about that. 

LW: Yeah, yeah. You know what somebody told me recently? I think it was Elton John’s ex-manager John Reid. I was at his 70th a few weeks ago. And he said the deal that Elvis had with Colonel Parker, you know the deal, it was 50 per cent. 50 per cent for Elvis and 50 per cent for the Colonel. It’s that amazing?

SS: And the Colonel was a swine because he destroyed a great talent.

LW: He did. And he never led him to Europe for some reason. Allegedly, he was a murderer and he…

SS:  He didn’t have a green card. He didn’t have residency in America. He didn’t have citizenship. And if the Colonel had left America, he couldn’t get back in I think. 

LW: But if he gave someone a ticket for Elvis they’d surely let him in. That’s the way it would work here. If you give the politicians tickets, you get it anywhere.

SS: Or if you have enough money, as he did, you would get yourself a lawyer and you’d work it out. 

LW: Exactly. 


“I’m not worth €100 million. Let’s put it like that. I have enough money for everything.”

“I invest my money. My money’s invested in property and art and stuff.” 

SS: Anyway I’ll start with something now that’ll knock you off your feet. 

LW: Go on.

SS: The ‘rich lists,’ or the best earning list of the extremely wealthy, guesstimates your pile up between €20 million and €100 million.  Are they accurate?

LW:  I’m not worth €100 million. Let’s put it like that. I have enough money for everything. 

SS: Yeah but 20 now is for a start.. 

LW: Is that OK? Is that comfortable? 

SS: I would think so. 

LW: OK. 

SS: And would you settle at that? 

LW: I’d like a bit more. I’d be up a little bit. 

SS: You’d like a bit more but would they be accurate at 20?

LW:  I invest my money. My money’s invested in property and art and stuff. 

SS: That was one of the things I was going to say to you. Because rich lists are.. 

LW: They’re never accurate because I always look at the…

SS: Are they as accurate as the pop charts?

LW: Yeah. 

SS: Because they used to be fiddled.

LW: Well when I look at the rich lists, there’s people there and they’re worth so much more money than people say. And there’s other people there and they’re not worth half that money. So they’re not accurate. The only people that know are the bank managers. Not the bank managers in Ireland. The bank managers in all the places around the world where the money’s hidden.  

SS: Look at yourself. The last time I looked you had vintage Bentley cars. You have a fine property in South Beach Miami. In your art collection you’ve got Hockney, Damien Hirst… 

LW: They’re not originals, they’re prints. They’re still worth a lot of money. Yeah, I just do it as a hobby. And the thing is, you can look at them every day as opposed to looking at money in the bank. I just like them. 

SS: Do you collect any Irish artists?

LW: Yeah. Loads. le Brocquy, Teskey. Any of the good ones. 

SS: Tesco you said there? 

LW: No, Teskey. Donald Teskey. But Scully is the most famous Irish artist you know. I don’t think he’s very well known here. 

SS: He’s a guy in the North? 

LW: Aguy from the North. You should check him out. He’s a grumpy old fucker, but I think he’d be a great interview. I saw a fascinating documentary on BBC Two about him. But his painting sold for a million. Anyway, we’re going off. We’re diverting.

“I don’t have any manager. I pay myself. And it’s fun, I don’t take it as serious.”

SS: When you talk about that, you were saying there about investments. Now Louis when you were making a few quid, if I can remember correctly, I don’t think you drank.

LW: No, I don’t drink. 

SS: You certainly never bothered with drugs.

LW: No. I’ve no vices as such. But I enjoy my life. I’m lazy. I don’t go to the gym or anything. Honestly, I’m having a great life and I’m doing something I like. I never wanted to be on TV Sam. It was never even vaguely on my mind.

SS: It’s a nice little earner. It’s earning you more than your percentage as a manager.

LW: It is and it’s easier because I manage myself and I just show up. I don’t have any manager. I pay myself. And it’s fun, I don’t take it as serious. 

SS: When you started earning a few quid, I remember laughing at the time because people would say: “Louis’s quite a sensible fella. He invests money, he buys houses and converts them into flats like the guards do.” 

LW: Oh no, I never really did that. Look, I just like property. I just like nice houses and nice places. I’ve a place in London, I’ve a place in Miami, I’ve a place here and stuff.

SS: But you live in those, do you have any for investments. 

LW: No. Honestly no.

SS: How do you invest your money?

LW: I just put it into property or maybe.. I’ve some in the bank. I’ve some in art and stuff.

SS: Have you a broker? Have you got someone that you could trust to advise your money? 

LW: My brother. My brother is a taxman. He’s a tax consultant in Grant Thornton. So he knows the tricks of the trade. His name’s Frank Walsh in case he’s listening. Frank if you’re listening, call me.

SS: I must say, they also do my books. 

LW: And there’s nine in our family. I’m second oldest. 

SS: I remember that now. 

LW: You were in Kiltimagh all those years ago. Was it your friend James Morrissey brought you down? 

SS: Well no, I was down covering the Culchie Come Home festival.

LW: Don’t remind me.

SS: That’s where I first met you.

LW: I remember, you were like a big name, a big celebrity arriving in the town. But you were with James Morrissey there and weren’t you?

SS: He also worked for Spotlight magazine at the time. 

LW: Oh through John Coughlan. Oh you all go back to Spotlight. Which was great. I wrote to Spotlight magazine to Larry Gogan when I was growing up. And Larry printed the letter and that was big then for me to have my name in Spotlight. 

SS: Can you remember what the letter was about?

LW: I just wrote to him about someone in a showband. It was probably The Freshmen showband because I was like in love with The Freshmen showband. I just thought they were the best thing ever. 

SS: And Billy Brown?

LW: Billy Brown, Derek Dean, I could tell you everybody. But when I heard them, and they were singing all these amazing harmonies, like the Beach Boys, Fifth Dimension Crosby, Stills & Nash. They were incredible. They were one of the best showbands I’ve ever seen in my life. The Freshmen. And, ironically, the other bands I loved they were all from the North as well.

I love Chips. They were an amazing vocal group. As you were involved with them. 

SS: I managed them.

LW: I know and then I did. They were amazing Sam. The vocals, the harmonies, and all that.

SS: The two girls singing, it had an ABBA sort of vibe.

LW: Yeah, but more Fifth Dimension. More American more quiet. In the end it was more Crosby, Stills & Nash stuff. And the other band I loved from the North were The Plattermen. With Rob Strong. They were brilliant.

SS:  Well now tell me, you were born in Kiltimagh, you’re the second oldest of nine, your mum was a social worker and our dad worked for the council.

LW: No. We had a small farm. My father was a taxi man but he also worked for McNicholas Bakery. He had nine children, he had to do everything. Anything that would pay go. And we had a great time growing up. Everybody’s alive. Nobody’s in jail and nobody’s sick. Isn’t that good? And no one’s in politics.

SS: And someone said to me, I have no wish to burgle your privacy…

LW: Go on. 

SS: Did you buy houses for your siblings?

LW: No. I didn’t buy them a house. They all bought their own houses. Nobody bought me any house. You have to earn it yourself and work for it. 

SS: Listen, I agree with you there. 

LW: I get on very well with my two sisters. Evelyn and Sarah. They live in Kiltimagh. And they love Rod Stewart and I get them tickets for gigs and things like that. That’s about it.

SS: I was gonna say Louis, that’s something I’ve noticed now. Funnily enough, I remember somebody saying something about Seamus Heaney. Maurice Cassidy, the great showbusiness guru said to me once: “Once these fellas become famous”, and he was talking about Seamus Heaney, “everybody that meets them is looking for something.” 

And I suspect most people you meet now are looking for tickets, they’re looking for you to do an interview. Are you much in demand to be doing things for people?

LW: Yeah. Only here in Ireland. People want selfies and then they’ll have a CD. I get an awful lot of C.Ds, still. “This is my daughter and she’s better than Celine Dion.” “This is this is my son and he’s much better than Ed Sheeran.” You always get that type of stuff. Everybody has someone in their family that plays, or sings, or does something, and they think by just giving me the CD something magic is going to happen. 

“We went to Eurovision and Johnny won. And then the managers came out of the woodwork.”

“There was a court case and it was very colourful. It was more about the court case and the songs then.” 

SS: Listen, Johnny Logan, in Eurovision in 1980.

LW: In The Hague.

SS: That’s a long time ago. 

LW: I know. And the whole story on that thing is, I was working in Tommy Hayden’s office in Baggot street there and I was making a living and loving the game. Getting into gigs free. And I went to see Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat which Noel Pearson was putting on in Gough’s in Kildare. And on the bus I got talking to this guy called Johnny Logan and he was in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and we got chatting and we became friends. He told me he had a band and he wants to be a singer. And then he said: “I’d like to meet you I’d like you to manage me.” 

So I took him on as manager, realising he did have another manager called Jim Hand. A very famous, and very well known, and a very colourful character. I wish he was alive today because he’d be great fun. I managed Johnny Logan for him and Tommy Hayden and we were just scraping a living, going around the country. Then he met Shay Healy, the songwriter, and shakily gave him this song called ‘What’s Another Year.’ And I didn’t think it was great. I really didn’t think it was a great song or anything. But he got Billy Whelan of Riverdance to arrange it and then it became a really good song.

And we won the national song contest and I thought: ‘well at least we’re gonna get gigs around the country.’ We get the festivals, the marquees and all that. It’ll get more money. But we went to Eurovision and he won. And then the managers came out of the woodwork. Everybody wanted a slice of everything. And there was a court case and it was very colorful. It was more about the court case and the songs then. 

And we ended up in the High Court. But What’s Another Was Year went to number one in maybe 30 countries. So I got out of Ireland and I got to Top of the Pops with Johnny Logan and we were in Germany, and in Poland, and we went to Turkey, went all over the place. And I realised there’s so much more than just booking out a band in Ireland. That’s what that did for me. 

And he didn’t have a long career but it was a great career. He was great fun to work with. But he told me one day, I said: “What you want to be next?” He looked at me with a straight face and he said: “Man I want to be the next Elvis.” He was serious. It was dead dead serious. 

SS: And were you serious listening to him? 

LW: I had to listen. You always have to listen to the artists, no matter what they’re saying to you. That’s one of the worst things about being a manager, you have to listen and you have to feed their ego and you have to tell them all they’re great. Even if they’re not. But more about that later. But that was Johnny Logan. And then he won again.

SS: Is that good manners or good business? 

LW: It’s both. It’s both. If you want to stay with them, you have to keep them happy. Sometimes managers that’s what they have to do, they have to listen. You’re a salesman between them and the public. You’re dealing with them, and the record company and the agent, and the publicist and all these people. When you’re dealing with egos… And not a lot of loyalty. Not a lot of loyalty. Somebody once said to me, about the music business, it was a guy called John Giddings, he’s a big agent, he said to me: “If you want loyalty, you buy a dog.” And you know what, it’s so true. It’s so true in our business. 

SS: Do you own a dog? 

LW: No, because I’m away a lot.

SS: I remember you when showbands… 

“So we had the auditions. We had 150 people. That’s all we had. That’s not a lot of people for an audition nowadays. Normally, you have 1000, no matter where you go.”

LW: Showbands are great…

SS: But then you did something, which I suppose is a bit like starting up a company, you started bands and you began Boyzone. 

LW: I did Boyzone because I saw Take That in The Point at the time. And it was an amazing show. It wasn’t that different from the showbands that I watched because they still were putting on a show. They had dancers, they had costumes, they had great songs that they wrote. They also did covers as well. A lot of the big Take That songs were covers, people don’t remember that. You know Relight My Fire. Could It Be Magic. How Deep Is Your Love. They’re all cover songs. But then Gary started writing songs and they were a great show. They were a great great show. They are five great guys. 

I remember I was there with different people. I know a girl called Fiona Looney and Catherine Rodgers and Lise Hand. I think we all went to Lillies Bordello afterwards, and I said: “I’d love to do a band like that.” I said: “I know I could do it, I could find them.” But I didn’t have the nerve to do it. But you know what the girls did, they wrote the following.. Oh Katie Hannon, she was involved as well. They wrote about it the following day in the papers. And I think Fiona Looney put in my phone number, which was fantastic. But I was scared. My phone started ringing. My phone started ringing and I couldn’t really back out of it. I was scared but I couldn’t back out. I remember Stephen Gately ringing me all the time saying: “What size do you have to be? What do I have to do to be in this?”

So we had the auditions. We had 150 people. That’s all we had. That’s not a lot of people for an audition nowadays. Normally, you have 1000, no matter where you go. And of 150 people, I remember picking Ronan Keating and Stephen Gately as the front men in my mind. And we put the other three around them. That’s basically what happened. 

“I needed 10,000 quid to record a single. I went into John one night in The Pod. He got it for me. It was cash.”

SS: And then it worked. 

LW: It did, it wasn’t as easy as everybody thinks. I had to keep them going myself. I didn’t have anybody, and no money, and no record company. So I had to put my own money in and  had to kind of keep them working and get them gigging. A guy called Paul Keogh was in Polygram at the time, and only for him I probably wouldn’t have been. But he saw something as well. And he spent some of the Polygram money on them and it worked. I couldn’t have done it without him. Being really honest with you.

SS: But after that you went on with Westlife. 

LW: Because I did Boyzone and I made all the contacts in England they got on Smash Hits, they got on Radio 1, they got on all the TV shows. And you could break the UK then with all the teen magazines, and with the radio stations and different things. 

SS: And Boyzone have 18 top hits? 

LW: And I think I picked every single one of them. Because I picked most of the songs for them. Which managers generally don’t do. 

“And he was a very eccentric, camp English man and said: “Darling, we will work together sometime. Give me your card.” So I called him a few weeks later and he said: “We will work together. Find me something.”

SS: The early Beegees numbers. 

LW: ‘Words, yeha ’we picked that one. I know them all. We started with the Osmond ‘Love Me For A Reason’ and stuff. Because I had all the old music at home because I love music. People would be surprised to know that. Real music as well as pop music. It was a great learning curve and it was great fun. They broke the UK, they worked all around Europe and it was fun. 

SS: And what about Girls Aloud? 

LW: That was later Sam, don’t remind me. 

Then, I met Simon Cowell and that’s what changed my whole life. Because he wouldn’t take my calls when I was trying to get a record deal for Boyzone. He was too busy and too big. He didn’t know me. Nobody knew me. But I met him at Kenny Live in RTÉ. He had two boys called Robson and Jerome. They couldn’t sing at all but they sold loads of music and Simon went with them on the road and he was working. And I said: “You never took my call.” I called him some something else. And he was a very eccentric, camp English man and said: “Darling, we will work together sometime. Give me your card.” So I called him a few weeks later and he said: “We will work together. Find me something.”

So he came over to Dublin and he met this band called Westside. It was in the Westbury Hotel and he told: “They’re not good. they look terrible.” And they did look terrible and they sounded terrible. He told me to change four of them and he would come back and talk to me. But one of the people he wanted me to change was Shane, who was the singer in the band. So I wasn’t going to change him because I knew he had ‘it.’ Whatever ‘it’ was. He could sing and he could sing in tune. Which is a hard thing for most of these pop stars today. So we changed his hair. We gave Shane blonde hair and he looked like a different guy. The, we had auditions up in The Pod with John Reynolds, who was a very good friend of mine who’s not around anymore and badly missed. He was the maverick. 

SS: And a nephew of the former Taoiseach.

LW: Yeah but don’t hold that against him. John was a great character and had the showbiz bug as well. 

SS: He was a partner of yours..

LW: John was a friend of mine in Boyzone. I needed 10,000 quid to record a single. I went into John one night in The Pod. He got it for me. It was cash. I can say that now because he’s not around. He gave me the 10 grand in cash, I gave him half of the action in Boyzone, and we never had a cross word ever. He was a brilliant brilliant guy. 

After meeting Cowell. Then he came back. Then we had auditions in The Pod and I picked Brian McFadden and Nicky Byrne. Nicky Byrne was going out with Bertie’s daughter. Married to her now. That was Westlife. Simon and I worked together and we’ve worked together since. He’s the guy that put me on TV.

SS: He did. Now just to stick with that, there was Girls Aloud. There was Jedward. It did. 

LW: They were all later. They all came as a result of different shows. Girls Aloud came about because I was offered another TV show in England. I didn’t want to be on TV ever. I was scared. Honestly. 

“They tolerated me. But I wasn’t great with them if I’m honest with you. Because they’d had these meetings about the hair, and their makeup, and their styling.”

SS: Were you not getting good money? 

LW: That’s why I did it. That’s the only reason I did it. I got an awful lot of money. I mean they offered me like 250 grand for a series which was a lot of money then. It’s not a lot of money now to do TV in England. But then it was. And I didn’t realise everyone was going to know me. I was on TV with Peter Waterman and Geri Halliwell and we did a show called Popstars: The Rivals and a girl-band came out of it and a boy-band and then they went into competition for the number one and I got the girls.

I didn’t really want them because I knew they were going to be trouble. But they got the number one, we bet P Waterman. He’s never really been nice to me ever since, by the way, ever. And that was Girls Aloud. And I was stuck with five girls who didn’t  really like each other. 

SS: Was it that they didn’t like each other but didn’t  like you? 

LW: They tolerated me. But I wasn’t great with them if I’m honest with you. Because they’d had these meetings about the hair, and their makeup, and their styling. It was always about how they looked. They never talked about how they sounded and who was going to sing on the records. I’d put a girl into that group called Nadine Coyle because she was in the Irish Popstars, remember Six. And she told a lie about her age and passport. So she was in a really bad way after. So I rang her and said: “Please go for this show.” Because I knew she could sing. And because I favoured her a lot and she was the best singer in the group, the other girls, like Cheryl, they just didn’t like me very much.

SS: Anytime I’ve ever mentioned that Cheryl called, you have either pretended to be sick or you’ve turned up your nose. 

LW: I mean, she was a nice girl, she wasn’t the best singer. 

SS: She’s a very pretty girl. 

LW: Very pretty. Made herself very pretty. There was help. She was the ambitious one of the group whereas Nadine was the singer in the group. And she sang the lead vocal on all the tracks. But Cheryl was pretty and then she married the famous footballer, Ashley Cole. She became the face of Girls Aloud even though she wasn’t the voice. Nadine was the voice. Listen they didn’t like me too much. It didn’t really work. I made a few bob and I moved on basically. 

SS: But then there was Jedward. And as someone said to me, there was Jedward but there was never any novelty, or animal acts, or circus acts after that because at that stage it looked as if you’re going to start doing novelty acts.

LW: Well they were a novelty act, but they didn’t think they were a novelty act. And I didn’t know them, even though I was on X Factor UK. I remember we looked at this long queue and said: “Who are those two at the end.” And they said that they’re from Ireland. I said: “I don’t know them.” 

“Jedward had an amazing career. They made an awful lot of money Sam. We’re talking millions.”

SS: Well they were posh boys from South Dublin. 

LW: They were from Lucan and Lucan’s not posh is it?

SS:  No it’s not.  

LW: But they were different. But the nice thing about them was, they were so naive. They did not realise that they were singing out of tune or they were slightly novelty, or joke act, or as we call them now, personality acts. But they had an amazing career. They made an awful lot of money Sam. We’re talking millions.

SS: Well their mother managed them I think. And sadly passed on I think.

LW: Yeah. She’s gone. Let’s just leave it at that.

SS: Of course you at that stage were on X Factor.

LW: I was on X Factor with Simon. That was like the biggest show in the UK. That was doing 14 and 15 million at the start you know.

SS: Yeah but to fast forward that, you were in and out of that show like a Premier League footballer.

LW: I know. He hired different people. On these shows you’re popular for like three or four seasons. I’ve been there for like 15. He keeps rehiring me which is great. And I’m there at the moment. We’re doing a celebrity one as we speak and it’s brilliant fun. We have Vinnie Jones you know Vinnie Jones. Yeah he’s on it and we have, what’s the name, Martin Bashir? You know Martin Bashir?

SS: He interviewed Princess Diana. 

LW: Yeah and Michael Jackson and lots of people. And he’s a brilliant interviewer but not a note. Why is he on the show? He hasn’t got a note. I’m trying to get rid of him. 

SS: He’s famous I suppose. 

LW: But cannot sing. He’s novelty. 

SS: He’s also well down the road he should have spotted that a few years back I would have thought.

LW: Yeah but he’s probably getting good money for this. He is a gentleman, and he’s very entertaining, and wears lovely clothes. But, just not a note. I hope he goes this week.

“You have to look good. Simon is very vain. Sharon is very, vain and I had to look good besides them. So I just got a little bit of maintenance. That was it.”

SS: Tell me during that time, one of the things that struck me was when people get involved in TV, there’s a lot of narcissism involved and so on. Now the one thing that struck me was, in my day say, Louis looking across the table at you, you’re looking well. There’s plastic surgery involved in all of that isn’t there? 

LW:  Not plastic surgery. Maintenance it’s called. That’s what Sharon Osborne calls it. She’s on her fourth facelift by the way as we speak. I’m meeting her this week by the way. But she looks amazing. She’s a good advert. But I was on TV and she said to me: “You’re looking a bit tired. You should get your eyes done.” So she gave me the name and number of a guy in LA. The clinic is called The Lasky. She said: “Go and get your eyes done.” And I did and it made me look 10 years younger. You know I’m 66. I don’t feel it. But that’s all I had done. I never had anything else done. No botox, nothing else. 

SS: But does that come with the package like if you’re  a major person on TV?

LW: if you’re on TV, and this thing called high definition. You see everything. You have to look good. Like Simon is very vain, Sharon is very vain and I had to look good besides them. So I just got a little bit of maintenance. That was it. And that’s just the way the game is as you’re getting on because it’s not a game for old people really. Television, you know. And I was probably the oldest person there. But listen, it’s good. I’m still working it. Not feeling it.  

SS: There were many good friendships along the way. Somebody with whom I was very friendly, and I know you were, I would think probably our most successful local artist was Joe Dolan.

“Tom Jones went to Vegas and went all around the world. Joe Dolan should have gone.”

LW: Oh Joe was a great, he was a great great singer. He was a great singer and never really got the credit for his voice. Because he was like a showband singer. But being a showband singer means you sing live all night, every night. It’s a tough thing. He could have been much much bigger if he’d gone away more because he did well in France, and Europe, and Russia, and strange places.

SS: Going back to the business thing though Louis, Joe Dolan probably could not have made the same money in the UK, or indeed in Europe, as he did in Ireland because showbands were very very well-paid.

LW: They were very well-paid and it was all cash. You know that. They made a lot of money. But he was like Ireland’s Tom Jones you know. But Tom Jones went to Vegas and went all around the world. Joe should have gone. He should have gone away more as should The Freshman and all the great artists here.

SS: Would they have broken abroad do you think? 

LW: Absolutely. They had the talent. They just needed the record company and the guidance. 

SS: The Drifters I’ll never forget. Joe Dolan and the Drifters went to Russia, one time. At a time when the ruble was not a convertible currency. And they all came back to Dublin wearing sable coats and fur coats. 

LW: I’d say they got the coats free. Because Dolan certainly didn’t buy them for him you know. 

“Paul McGuinness always impressed me because there would be no U2 without Paul McGuinness. He never gets the credit for selling them and believing in them.”

SS: But if you can’t take the currency out of the country you have to get something. What have they got of value in Russia?

LW: I’m sure there’s a way around it. I’m sure they would have found other ways around. But Joe was a star. He was a great great artist. And you know what, even when you still hear his music today it still stands up. They’re still good records. They still stand out. 

SS: He was a lovely singer. Now tell me, you’re in the music business, entertainment business. Along the way, given that you have been fairly financially successful yourself, you brush shoulders with Irish business. Did many Irish business-people impress you at all?

LW: Paul McGuinness always impressed me because there would be no U2 without Paul McGuinness. He never gets the credit for selling them and believing in them. I remember being in the The Baggot Inn in with U2 and there was like maybe 30 people. He just worked and worked. He got a great deal with Island. He made that group. He doesn’t get the credit. Now it’s Bono and The Edge, but without Paul McGuinness there would be no U2. He was always very impressive to me as a hands on manager that believed in the talent and just sold it. In the music business he was great. I mean Enya is an amazingly big person in our business. And yet she can walk down the street here. Nobody knows her. But in Japan she was like the biggest selling artist of all time. We have great talent here. Snow Patrol. Van Morrison, an amazing, grumpy old fucker. But brilliant music, you know, amazing. And he will go down in history has been one of the best ever and a Nordie. 

SS: Did he ever ask you to manage him?

LW: No but I gave him a lift once in my jeep. I gave him and Michelle Rocca a lift in my jeep when I saw them at a bus stop in Harcourt Street. Don’t ask me. But I gave them a lift but he’s an outstanding talent you know. As is Shane MacGowan, Christy Moore. We’ve got an awful lot of great people here and great music and we don’t sell it enough.

“I suppose politicians are showmen as well. They’re in showbusiness. And you have that plonker in America.”

Louis Walsh for the Sam Smyth pod cast for the Currency.

SS: On the other side of the street though, on the people and corporate business and finance. Do you ever follow much of those guys?

LW: I don’t really no. I mean I just see them in the business papers you know. Michael O’Leary and those people.

SS: I once saw you at a dinner in Tony O’Reilly’s place.

LW: Oh yeah. Why was I there? I was there every year. I don’t know why.

SS: Because you’re famous I presume. 

LW: I was probably well known but I was down in Castlemartin, wasn’t it?

SS: Yeah in Kildare 

LW: Yeah. I saw the lovely Monet hanging on the wall. It was like incredible. Just hanging there nobody even looking at it. He was the great entrepreneur and the great maverick.

SS: Any of the newer businesspeople? 

LW: I suppose you have to admire Michael O’Leary. You know he’s done incredibly well.

SS: He also bases himself here and pays his tax here.

LW: He does yeah. Unlike other people. In Malta. But that’s enough about that. You know who I admire greatly and he’s one of my neighbours. Not because he’s one of my neighbours, but Paddy McKillen Jr. He has like 40 places at the moment, I think. He’s 18,000 people employed and he’s opening a place every week. 

SS: Do you eat in any of his places?

LW: Yes always. Angelina’s ,around the corner, the Devlin, there’s so many places. You have to eat in one of his places every day because he’s got so many places. But he’s a great, very low-key, feet on the ground entrepreneur.

SS: Do you see his father at all? 

LW: I’ve seen him that’s all. I’ve only seen him. Is he a Nordie as well? 

SS: He is yeah yeah. 

LW: There’s a team here of Nordies isn’t there.

SS: And a lot of Mayo people if you go around the world.

LW:  I suppose, yeah. 

SS: Tell me, politics in general, did you ever get interested at all?

LW: No. Because I think they’re all con-men. Honestly. I watched that P Flynn last night with Gay Byrne. I mean come on. The arrogance of the man.

“I mean come on. Him and Boris, I mean the worst haircuts in the world. And they’re very similar people you know.”

SS: Well all I can say is, he’s not a Nordie. 

LW: I know, he’s from Mayo. But the arrogance of the whole thing. Oh my God.  I don’t really like most politicians. I think politics is for politicians. 

SS: Except, John.

LW: John Reynolds. Lovely guy great guy.

SS: His family were intertwined in politics.

LW: Albert was a very nice man. He was a very very nice man. I saw his wife Kathleen recently in the Intercontinental. She’s fine. And of course Bertie. I suppose politicians are showmen as well. They’re in showbusiness. And you have that plonker in America. I mean come on. Him and Boris, I mean the worst haircuts in the world. And they’re very similar people you know. 

SS: Who? Boris and…

LW: Boris Johnson and Trump. 

SS: Boris would be a more sophisticated item I think than Trump. 

LW: Not the way he walks and dresses and the whole thing. He’s very yobbish. I think he’s still a bit of a snob as well Sam. 

SS: Tell me, Gay Byrne…

LW: Oh I love Gay Byrne. Honestly. I loved him.

SS: Did he help you at all Louis, personally?

LW: Yes. Well I mean obviously I had that Boyzone clip on. 

SS: It is a moment… 

LW: Its genius because… 

“I watched Claire Byrne last night. She’s got it all. She should get out of here and make some real money because she’s brilliant and she looks great. I could see her on Fox News in America. I really could. She’s brilliant.”

SS: Were they trying too hard? 

LW: They weren’t even trying at all. And they were just picked the day before and he had a girl, a researcher called Bridget Ruane, and she called me and she said: “Any chance of getting them on?” I said: “Yeah of course.” The Late Late Show, of course. We put them on and I think it’s a great reminder to everybody out there that anything is possible. It was fun. It’s still a laugh. I’m sure they hate it but I don’t care. 

Gay was great. Gay was amazing, he was able to talk to anybody and he held the nation every Friday night. Everybody watched that show no matter if he was talking to a politician, or a porn star, or a pop star, or an actress, he held you. He was a great communicator. And then he was on the radio every day. And there was nobody like him and there never will be. I think he was world class. He could have gone to America. He could have been like Johnny Carson or Terry Wogan  

SS: He got an offer at one time I don’t think he followed it up. 

LW: He should have gone. I watched Claire Byrne last night. She’s got it all. She should get out of here and make some real money because she’s brilliant and she looks great. I could see her on Fox News in America. I really could. She’s brilliant.

SS: I don’t think she might see herself on Fox News.  

LW: If you saw the money that Megan makes over there.

SS: Oh listen it’s huge money but there’s no such thing as a free lunch, I suppose. Anyway we’re coming to the end. Tell me, can you imagine any circumstances now where you would retire?

LW: Well I’m not as busy as I used to be. I still go to Miami a lot and I enjoy my life. I’m working with Westlife. That’s doing incredibly well. They sold out two Croke Parks, they’re doing Cork. They sold out Wembley Stadium this week for next summer. So I’m enjoying that. They’re easy to work with.

SS: Westlife, are they doing what we call a pension tour at the moment?

LW: They’re making good money and they’re not doing many gigs because they want every gig to be an occasion and stuff. So they’re investing in themselves. They’re businessmen. And they’ve seen what other bands have done. So you know, they’ve got a great record deal with Virgin. They’re touring wherever they make all the money. They do really well in Asia, like they sell stadiums in Asia, all over Asia. That’s their biggest territory  

SS: Well there’s no money left in records. Like record sales are not…

LW: You make records now to promote yourself. The money’s in the live. The money’s in the merchandising, and the money’s in endorsements. The business was never better. I mean if you look at the Three Arena just gigs on there every single week. Look at all the festivals we have during the summer. Altogether Now, Electric Picnic. They’re all sold out. This is an amazing country for live music. All genres of music. I think it’s one of the best countries in the world. You can go and see anybody here now. Cher was here the other night. Christina Aguilera was here last night. It’s like a normal thing to have the biggest artists in the world here now.

SS: And you go to these gigs? 

LW: I go to some of them. 

“I like the new Currency. I’m going to start downloading it.”

SS: Who was the last one you saw?

LW: I went to see Cher in Miami and I loved her. But I still, I would go to see the old country artists as well because I love the old country artists. I used to love Glen Campbell. I used to go and see him every year but he’s not around anymore. A lot of my heroes are dead. The music heroes.

SS: Listen I don’t want to end on that note but we have to end sometime I suppose. Louis, that is your life so far. 

LW: Yes so far. Yeah I mean I’m enjoying it. I’m having a great life and I do what I like. And I work at something and I’m lucky. I know I’m very very lucky. I do know that Sam.

SS: Well listen thank you very much for joining me on my podcast. 

LW: And I hope this new, what’s the name of it? 

SS: The Currency. 

LW: I like the new Currency. I’m going to start downloading it. 

SS: Well it’s better than BitCoin.

LW: And how often do you do it, every day or every week? 

SS: Every 10 days. 

LW: OK great. 

SS: So listen, I look forward to putting this out.

LW: OK and I hope people like it. I told the truth anyway. 

SS: Okay Louis, thanks very much.

 LW: Thanks Sam. Bye Bye.

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