Niall Breslin talks to Motley’s Ava Somers on music, modern love and Neoliberalism.


Niall Breslin is one of the best-known Irish pop-culture icons of our generation. His careers in football, rugby and music, led to finally his latest feat, the realm of mental health. His “Where Is My Mind” podcast was a huge part of life in lockdown for many people, myself included, which includes interviews with people from all walks of life, giving their views on mental health and their experiences out in the world. Niall, or “Bressie” as he is better known, shall shortly be undergoing his PhD in Irish Psychiatric Institutions. Shortly before he received his Mutatio Factorum Award in UCC, I got to speak to Bressie about all things music, mental health, and how the modern world affects our relationships.


I wanted to begin our interview with any advice he may have for young Irish musicians. He said that he felt it was important that musicians decide what it is that they are and stick to it; “It is important to understand that if you are a musician, you are a musician; not a content creator.” This certainly strikes a chord (no pun intended) with a lot of young musicians, on the constant treadmill of likes and comments and shares. While he praised TikTok, he said there was also an element of it which meant that record labels were asking that young musicians were essentially established content creators before they are even considered for a label. Instead, he implored the young musicians of Ireland to focus on their own craft. He implored to avoid the trap of creating what will sell, and instead stay true with their own voice, “So whatever rawness you have, whether you are a poet, songwriter, videographer, director: the thing that made you want to do it in the first place, hold onto that, hold onto that, and never lose sight of that because there will be people who utterly tell you anything else, like in music for example, you will be told you have to be a certain thing, to fit into a certain thing. Don’t do that. I did it once, and it was the worst thing I have ever done. I couldn’t sleep at night because of it so don’t do it.”


His second piece of music-related advice was that a young musician should attempt to get a good agent and agency – he said that this is vital if the musician wishes to push forward their career in music, they must have someone there to have their backs. 


As a young creator, this resonated a lot with me, as often we are pushed into what is trending today, or what is doing well statistically, what is in the news, what is in the charts. This is frustrating as it is very difficult to squash your ideas and personality into these “trendy” structures, but we are made to feel that we need this in order to be successful. 


Taking a look at Mr Breslin’s expertise and enthusiasm about the human psyche, I just had to ask him about his opinions on how social media and the modern world affects our relationships. As I personally believe that love takes many forms, and while we may act differently towards our significant others to our friends and our family, it is not because we love either any the less, it is simply because it is a different kind of love. Because of this, I made sure to ask him how the world we live in affected both romantic and platonic relationships.


Firstly, he referenced the work of a Professor named Ellis Ward, who speaks extensively about the Neo-Liberal Self, and how this Neoliberalism is now affecting the way we look at our relationships. 


“We are now becoming like a marketplace together: everything is transactional. What can I get out of you? What is in this for me in this relationship? And that is not what relationships are about. They are about connection. They are the beating heart of your emotional wellbeing. So, if your relationships are transactional, they are not relationships. They are just a marketplace. That is something I have seen. And men and women now looking for advice on how to be a man or how to be a woman on Tiktok or Twitter- understand what your values are. What do you stand for? Genuinely what do you stand for? What actually makes you tick? That is one thing I have noticed most in the past 20 years, people enter relationships with the hope that they will get something out of it, rather than the hope that they will connect with somebody. So that is what we have to look at. Dr Elis Ward calls the Neo-Liberal Self, and se wrote a book called The Self, and it is about how we are becoming marketplaces rather than being relationships and groups and societies and communities, we are becoming marketplaces and that is not where we want to be.”


Niall spoke about how this brand of Neoliberalism is leading to huge socioeconomic disparities in Ireland; people simply do not care for one another in the way in which we need to carry on as a community. Bressie spoke of how he has seen these disparities first-hand in the past year, when he has been working with people who may not be as privileged as most in Ireland. However, Bressie had an inspirational message for our Motley readers who may not be on the ‘Right Side’ of the socioeconomic gap:


“And it can be a superpower, and just because people believe that because you are from a certain background that you don’t have the capacity because that is utter nonsense. It is called equity, you know? Equity is the idea that everybody should be given the same opportunities. Not everybody is going to be good at what they do, but they all deserve a shot. I often think that the people I work with in music, and all the mad things that I do, maybe it was the way I was raised, but it is the last thing that I think of.” 


I really enjoyed my encounter with Niall, as he is so unbelievably knowledgeable on so many different topics. If I were to discuss in depth everything we spoke about, I think we would need a whole other issue dedicated especially to it! I found it particularly interesting when we were speaking about how social media has made us all entrepreneurs, where we are constantly performing #RandomActsOfKindness and making sure that the world knows how great we are, and how this is causing us to not see people and relationships as exactly that; but instead, we see them as opportunities. 


People are people, not opportunities. Relationships are relationships, not for exploitation. So next time you feel the need to post your relationship status, update your profile picture, or envy other peoples’ online relationship with other people please take some time to consider this: Your relationship is yours, you do not need to post pictures online, change your relationship status, or tag your significant other to prove this to the outside world. That is Neoliberalism. Your relationship should not be about the car they drive, the clothes they wear, the course they are studying, the job they have; your relationship should be about finding a connection. We are the new generation; we have the power to stop this self-serving way of living. 


And in some last words from Bressie: “That should motivate you in your work, you need to understand that you have the power to be the agents of change.” 


Bressie received his Mutatio Factorem Award in UCC on November 21st, 2022.

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