VIP interview - Westlife, November 2007Published: November 2007
Typed up by: Lucy and mum
TOGETHER FOR NEARLY TEN YEARS: WESTLIFE
TALK ABOUT FANS, BABIES AND CHRISTMAS, AND REVEAL THEIR PLANS FOR THEIR FIRST EXTENDED BREAK
This year has been a landmark one for Shane, Kian, Nicky and Mark, the four lads from Westlife.
Gone are the suits and the annual cover albums, to be replaced by a cooler image and a brilliant pop album.
Back Home, unhappy with the prospect of churning out another concept album, Westlife went into their record company and the resulting collaboration is an album that the lads a justifiably proud of.
There's no denying that they have the Midas touch - after almost a decade in the business, they have sold over 36 million albums and hit the top UK charts 14 times. Despite the fact that their first single off the new album, Home, did not make it to number one, the album has and the boys are utterly gracious in their defeat to Leona Lewis.
Rumours are always rife about the demise of the band, but thankfully that's all they are - rumours. Yes, they are taking a break, but only so they can come back with more new material and produce the best pop album you've ever heard - phew!
The four guys are totally united as they look forward to the biggest gig of their lives, playing Croke Park on June 1st.
On a personal level 2007 was also momentous for Nicky Byrne, when he became a father to twins. Now nappies are just one more thing that he takes with him on tour. With the album just launched, life is manic for the boys with TV appearances, interview and switching on Oxford Street Christmas Lights.
And while we waited patiently for this exclusive photoshoot, we got a sense of the henomenon that is Westlife. Despite the hype, the boys are gracious and grounded, with each taking time to expressly thank their legions on adoring fans.
Well done lads, you are back to what you do best with a great pop album. Are you proud of it?
Mark: We're really delighted. Sometimes you have to go with your gut feeling and what is important for you, the band and the fans. Last year we did The Love Album, which was a lot more commercial, but this one was about making a really strong, high standard pop album for the fans. We enjoy the covers albums, but there's no way we could do it every year. We're very proud of this album and it's selling really well, which goes to show you don't have to be 100% commercial to have sucess.
Shane: It's definitely the one we're most proud of. It's full of new songs, not cover versions, and a step in the right direction for us. It's not changed our style of music, but it's new and fresh.
Why were you anxiuos to move away from doing cover albums?
Nicky: We've done concept albums and while they've worked, we felt we needed to sustain ourselves into the next era, that's how this album came about, it's about moving into the future.
Is it obvious that you have much more input now 9 albums down the line, that must be a good feeling?
Kian: Of course, but to be honest, we didn't do it for a very long time. Simon Cowell and Louis Walsh have brought us to where we are today and guided us through it all. We sat down with them during the summer and explained that we didn't want to do another cover album. We don't feel like we're making music that way. They understood and that's where this album came from. We've a very open and honest relationship.
Is this a coming of age for a boyband?
Mark: Pop acts can be brushed off, thinking it's all about marketing and clever management and although we've had that, there's no denying that you can't last for nine years without there being talent there. We've gained experience. I'm not saying that we are always right, far from it, but we have a seat at the table in the whole system, a say in what we do and if we didn't, I don't think we'd still be here.
Were you disappointed that Home didn't make it to number one?
Nicky: Of course, but we were beaten by a brilliant song. With hindsight, which is a great thing, we mightn't have released Home as the first single. But we've no regrets, the album is absolutely flying and that's the most important thing.
It's a bit of a media circus around you guys at the moment; do you ever get fed up with it?
Kian: The album is just out so it's a bit crazy, everything is just happening at the moment. It's a big buzz, but it's crazy in a good way.
Mark: Sometimes it's hard to manage our own lives against the whole manic promotion schedules. Over the years we've got used to it, but there are occasions that it becomes very difficult. There are times that you have to attend personal things that can't be ignored, but at the same time you have to be there for the fans. In the depths of the promotional stuff, it can be difficult to cater for both; you just have to try your best.
Shane and Nicky, now that you have kids, do you find it harder to balance family life and the fact that everybody wants a piece of you?
Shane: I think we are very good at separating our personal lives from Westlife. Yes, everyone wants a piece of us, but we want a piece of everybody! We want to be on the shows and in the magazines. It's our career and our livelyhood, so if people want a piece of us, we're there to be had. We're very normal lads with a big dream that has come true and we're working hard to keep it going.
Nicky: Without a doubt, once you have kids you look at everything completly differently. The order is now the boys, then Georgina and then me.
Nicky, how does being a pop star combine with being a new father?
It's hard at times, anyone with a new baby will tell you that. You don't get as much sleep as you used to, but the joy it brings totally outweighs anything. It's a mind boggling experience, difficult at times, but we didn't want nannies, we wanted them all to ourselves. While it was hard initially, we had our parents and our families around us; I think we've coped quite well.
Jay and Rocco arrived early; they must have given you an awful fright?
Thank God they were completely healty from day one, just underweight. All the check ups so far have been normal and we're absolutely blessed. They're 7 months old now, sitting up, smiling and giggling. If I've been out for the day, I come home and they smile at me, it would melt your heart. We're both as full on as parents as we can be, they are only small for so long, so we cherish every cuddle we get.
Full on, even down to ditry nappies?
Absolutely. I do think I'm that new type of man - the metrosexual. You do everything; you have the nappies in your man bag.
How has Georgina taken to motherhood?
She's absolutely the best. The other day I had to do the feeds on my own, it's solids and bottles, so I got it first hand and it was pretty mad. I understand what she does everyday.
The band are going to take a break - are you looking forward to spending more time with Georgina and the boys?
It's going to be amazing, a little bit scary because in the nine years we've never had that time off, but it's well overdue. It's about time to take 6 or 7 months away and come back with a brilliant new album. We need more time to find top quality songs to continue our careers at the top level.
What are the rest of you guys planning on doing with the time off?
Shane: I'm looking forward to spending a lot of time at home, well probably go on a couple of nice holidays to chill out and relax. I'll spend the rest of the time with my family and hopefully get to play some golf. I'm only playing 4 years, I play off 15, but I'm determined to get it down to 12.
Mark: I'll use it to satisfy my creative side. I love photography, so I'll do more of that. I'll also do some traveling. I love seeing other cultures and seeing how other people live. I spent the first 18 years of my life in Sligo and while it was great, it was all I knew. My eyes have been opened wide by all the traveling we've done.
Kian: I want to go traveling. Jodi is very busy in her career at the moment and I'd never say to her that she should take time off and come with me, but ideally I'd love for us to travel around the world for three months. I wouldn't do it in a fancy way, I'd like to hire a camper van and go down the East Coast of Australia, I want to see Bali and check out the Pacific Ocean. I want to go to remote places, I've seen a lot of the world, but I've only seen cities.
So Kian, will we bea hearing wedding bells, maybe on a beach in Bali?
Possibly in the near furute, but not yet! I know the type of person I am, it would kill me too think that I hadn't picked the best spot in the world to get married, rather than running off and doing it. You'd have to be spontaneous as anything; I'm not the same.
Shane, you are so used to being on stage and performing, will you be jumping up on the kitchen table and expecting Gillian and Nicole to be your adoring audience?
I think it'll be an utter shock to the system, but it's something that we need. We need to get away from Westlife, to miss it and appreciate it even more, to give us that buzz to get going again for the next decade and beyond. This is a lifetime for us; we want to keep going for as long as we can. We have great fans that have followed us for the last 10 years, so as long as we bring out great albums, hopefully they'll buy them and come to the concerts.
Would you ever think of going solo?
I never even think about it - it's not something I'd like to do. I love singing with the lads. You are never going to be bigger on your own if the band is huge.
Are you glad Take That have reformed so you are no longer the old men of pop?
Kian: I was only 26 and being called the grandad of pop before they reformed, so I'm certainly happy that they've got back together and the title is lost off us! It's great they've got back together, they've blown people out of the water with great results and you can't knock them in any shape or form.
Do you have any concerns that you won't be able to regain the momentum after the break? Nicky: It's definitely food for thought, we're going to have to work on it, but if we come back with a good song, the whole thing will snowball. I do believe we have the quality in us to find those songs, sing them at the best of our abilities and hopefully come back with something brilliant.
Will there be added pressure that it's a landmark album - number 10 - that you coming back with this?
Kian: No, people in the music industry might think that we are going to mess it up. They think that we are going to change and that our fans won't recognise us for what they know and love. That's not it at all, what we aim to do is make the best pop album you've ever heard.
It can be a difficult business. Does it help you Mark, that your partner Kevin McDaid was once in a boyband?
He's been in the exact same situation as me, he's dealt with all the politics, the friendhsips, the piss ups, the early mornings, and the record companies! When I go to work in the mornings, he knows where I'm going and understands.
To be in a band you often have to make personal sacrifices, do you regret any of them?
Mark: No, I wouldn't know what I know now and appreciate things if I didn't go through what I have. There are occasions that I feel silly for letting people pressure me into doing favours, like missing my dad's birthday party to sing at somebody's party. I made the mistake, but I'm stronger now. To some people we are a product like a can of beans, but we're human beans!
Beans that are going to play Croke Park! How does that feel?
Kian: It's the highlight of everything we've ever done. To go out on that stage in front of 80,000 people knowing that they've come to see us is a pretty phenomenal idea. It'll be the most important night of our lives; it's the pinnacle and the reason we've done everything we've done. I don't generally get nervous before going on stage, but I guarantee you that night I'll be nervous that night.
Shane: We'll be counting down the days to it; we're going to put on the best show of our lives. We're going to have a 10th birthday celebration that nobody will forget.
Nicky, as a former soccor player, you've played in stadiums before. Given a choice, what would you chose for the boys, soccer players or musicians?
Soccor players, to be honest, there's more fun getting stuck in a tackle and scoring a goal for your country!
Finally lads, what are your Christmas plans?
Mark: I'll be going home, I do every year without fail; it's brilliant because nobody takes any notice of us!
Kian: We'll divide the time between Sligo and England. We've no definite plans but we may go away for New Years.
Shane: Going home to Sligo, chilling out, eating and drinking and then running it off in January!
Nicky: It's always back home because I spend so much time away. I look forward to going home, chilling out and telling stories of the whole year with the family. Dinner will be in our hosue this year and Santa Claus has definitely come early!