Brian McFadden, Irish singer songwriter, TV presenter and former member of boy band Westlife, chats with Kevin Cooper about a Boyzone and Westlife double header tour, playing golf, leaving Westlife and touring the UK as Boyzlife with Keith Duffy.

Brian McFadden is an Irish singer songwriter and TV presenter who rose to fame in 1998 as a member of the Irish boyband Westlife. Following his departure from Westlife in 2004, McFadden released his debut solo album, Irish Son, which peaked within the top five on both the Danish and Irish Albums Charts, and produced his first two number one solo singles, Real To Me in four European countries and also Almost Here, a duet with his now ex-fiancée Delta Goodrem which gained a platinum accreditation in Australia.

Like Only A Woman Can, the lead single from his second album, Set In Stone, released in 2008, became his third number one single as a solo artist. In 2010, McFadden scored his fourth number one with the hit single Just Say So, which featured American singer Kevin Rudolf, and gained his second Australian platinum accreditation.

On 13 September 2012, McFadden announced the release of his fourth studio album, The Irish Connection, featuring covers of his favourite Irish songs as well as duets with Ronan Keating and Sinéad O’Connor.

In 2014 McFadden became the host of daytime ITV series Who’s Doing The Dishes? and in 2016 and 2017 he toured with good friend Keith Duffy from Boyzone, under the name Boyzlife.

Whilst taking a break from playing golf, he took some time to have a chat with Kevin Cooper and this is what he had to say.

Hi Brian how are you?

I’m good Kevin thanks how are you?

I’m very well thank you.

Good stuff.

Before we move on let me just thank you for taking the time to speak to me today.

(Laughter) not at all, It’s my pleasure. In fact I have to be totally honest with you and tell you that I have a few interviews to do today and I absolutely forgot; I completely forgot (laughter). I am literally on my way to the golf course to play golf with Willie Morgan the ex-Manchester United player. Someone has just called me to say that they have to cancel their interview and I suddenly remembered ‘oh my god, I’ve got five interviews to do this morning’ (laughter). I totally forgot and went and arranged a round of golf with Willie (laughter). What an idiot.

I was about to ask you just how is life treating you but it sounds as though everything is going well.

Life is good in fact life is great at the moment. Keith (Duffy) and I have been doing lots of Boyzlife shows and we are currently getting ourselves ready for the UK tour that is coming up in December. On top of all of that Keith is now back working with Boyzone playing some big shows and whenever he does a Boyzone show I then do a Brian McFadden solo show as a special guest supporting Boyzone. So as you can see we have got two shows going on at the moment which are keeping us very busy.

You have mentioned Keith and Boyzlife, who’s idea was it for the two of you to get together?

It was actually Keith’s idea. The original idea was for Keith to do the show by himself. He had this idea of doing a one-man autobiographical show where he talks about his career, his life and everything that he has gone through in the last forty years or so. Then he came along to see me performing my solo show and as he watched me singing he realised that the one thing that was missing was the performance side of the show. So we sat down together and thought why don’t we do it together. We could perform the songs from Westlife and Boyzone together with us telling the stories about our careers. We have both got very similar careers; both being in boybands, both of us grew up in Dublin, in fact we only lived five minutes from each other. I absolutely loved the idea and that is pretty much how the whole thing started. Me and Keith have been friends for a very long time; we are very big golfing buddies and we manage to play a lot of golf in our off time (laughter)

When Keith first put the idea to you, did you take much persuading to get on-board?

No (laughter). We were actually having a few pints of Guinness in my dressing room after one of my shows when he said it. We had a very long chat about it and I thought that it was a great idea. I text Keith the next day saying ‘I really love that idea that we spoke about last night’ and he text me back saying ‘I thought that you were drunk. I didn’t think that you would even remember what we talked about last night’ (laughter). The idea stuck in my mind no matter how much drink I’d had, I still thought that it was a great idea. After that everything happened really quickly. It all made sense to me for the two of us to do this together because most of the time that we are hanging out together we will either be having a few drinks or playing golf (laughter). I thought ‘wouldn’t it be great if we toured together so we could play the gig in the evening, golf in the morning and a few drinks after’ (laughter).

That sounds perfect to me.

(Laughter) let me tell you, it is perfect (laughter).

Last year you did a Boyzlife tour of the Hilton Hotel Group. How was that?

That’s right we did and I have to say that it was great. We signed a deal with Hilton worldwide where we basically put our show on in all of their conference rooms, which was good. Some of the rooms were obviously very big for example in Birmingham there were eighteen hundred people there whereas the Dublin venue is very small so there were only about three hundred people in there. It was different but I think that it suited the kind of show that we were doing back then. We were sitting down, talking, and it was a completely different kind of show and it suited that atmosphere. However, I think that now we are doing it bigger and it is now a musical show it needs to be seen in theatres.

I understand that the show has now grown from its humble beginnings.

(Laughter) you could say that (laughter). On our very first tour we sat on the stage with big screens behind us showing videos of us both and we would tell stories of our lives and of our times in the bands together with all of the things that we went through. On the first tour we would only do eight or nine songs but then the fans started to approach us saying “I really wanted to hear this song” and obviously between Westlife, Boyzone and my solo career we have had over twenty number ones between us so we decided that we really had to put more songs into the show. So we found that the more shows that we did the more songs we were putting in. So with the forthcoming tour there are going to be a lot more songs this time; we are going to try to do as many of our own hits as we can.

The UK press, as you know, like to build up rivalries between bands. Were you and Keith friends when you were in your respective bands?

Let me tell you that there was never any rivalry between Westlife and Boyzone. We started our career as a support act to Boyzone; they gave us our big break. Then obviously when Westlife took off Boyzone then took their break, Ronan (Keating) went solo, Keith went onto act in Coronation Street and the rest of the boys went off to do their own thing so we were never in the market at the same time. Keith and I go way back, we are friends.

You are bringing the show to The Glee Club here in Nottingham on Tuesday 19th December, do you enjoy your time spent here in Nottingham?

Yes I do I really do and I am so looking forward to playing The Glee Club up there. I think that I have only played Nottingham once in the last few years. I was in the show, Jeff Wayne’s War Of The Worlds and I can remember playing at The Arena a few years ago now and I think that was the last time that I was in Nottingham.

You are forgetting 2013 when you opened for Ronan on his Fires tour here in Nottingham at the Royal Concert Hall.

Of course, Ronan did play Nottingham, I had forgotten about that. Don’t tell him will you (laughter). When we play The Glee Club I am hoping that Nottingham’s favourite son will come down to the show; Carl (Froch) loves the Boyzone and Westlife gigs (laughter).

Without giving too much away, what can we expect?

Well there will obviously be quite a lot of hit songs being sung because as I said, there is twenty one number one hits between the two of us. We will also be telling you a lot of things that happened backstage, on the road and stuff that you probably wouldn’t see in the music videos or in the magazines, such as the mischief that we get up to. We really do like to tell a few little stories (laughter).

In 2013 you released The Irish Connection, an album of your interpretations of some of the very best in Irish song writing. Was that an album that you felt that you had to make?

To be honest with you that album was first and foremost recorded for the Australian market. I had recorded two solo albums prior to The Irish Connection that were all original material and it was, as they say, of the moment because I would say that the people would not know most of the songs on that album. Obviously everyone in Ireland and most of the UK would know the songs because every one of the songs has an Irish connection. But having said that the album was not intended for release here in the UK; it was made especially for the Australian market. However, when I came back to the UK to tour with Ronan my UK label said that they would love to release the album over here because it was something different.

It was nice for me because it was a different experience. I only produced the album and didn’t write any of the songs because they were all covers. For me that was different because most of my other albums involved a long process because I would start by writing the songs, producing them, recording them which believe me is a very long process. However, with The Irish Connection I did the whole thing in just three weeks because it was just literally producing.

Were you happy with the fans reaction to the album?

Yes it was fine, the Australian fans seemed to like it simply because it was something different. It was just one of those things you know. It wasn’t one of those things that had me sitting back waiting to see what the fans thought of it. It was just something that I did at the time. What I have found is that over there in Australia they like to have a bit more frequency in their music. Here in the UK you can take two or three years between albums but over in Australia they constantly want new material.

Is there any new material on the horizon?

Yes there is. I took two years off from writing because when I was in Australia I was writing every day but that was for other artists so it soon became a nine to five job being in the studio. It was at that point that I intentionally took two years off from writing just so that I would feel excited about writing again. So to be perfectly honest with you I have literally just started writing once again and I am currently writing new material for a new solo album.

I was thinking that you and Keith could perhaps record an album of your interpretations of Boyzone and Westlife hits.

We could most definitely do that. Perhaps we could do a live version of that because I think that it would be funnier (laughter).

You left Westlife in March 2004. With hindsight was it the right time to leave the band?

Looking back now it is hard to tell what was right and what was wrong but I have to say that at the time it felt completely right. I was ready to step back and take a rest. I had been in the band for six solid years and I know that six years doesn’t sound like a long time, but when you are working three hundred and sixty days a year and you are literally only getting a couple of days off at Christmas to see your family, you are literally working from six o’clock in the morning until one o’clock in the morning getting very little sleep, then those six years began to feel like twelve years. At that moment in time for me it felt right. Who knows, if I had stayed longer then maybe things would have been different but how things were in my head and how things in the band were happening, then it felt right for me to step away.

I interviewed Shane (Filan) last week and I mentioned that 2018 was Westlife’s twentieth anniversary and he told me in no uncertain terms he will be doing nothing whatsoever to celebrate it.

Well to be honest with you I know that I personally won’t be doing anything to celebrate it, there have been no discussions. I haven’t even heard if they will be doing anything to celebrate it. You have to remember that there are two Westlife’s, the one that I was in and then the Westlife after me. They are two different bands. After I left the boys reinvented themselves and they started a new band with the four of them. To be honest with you I would say that the most likely thing is that if they do get around to doing something then it will most probably just be the four of them, the Westlife that came after me. They really are two different bands. The boys reinvented themselves, and so much time has passed now to do anything different.

Because 2018 is also Boyzone’s twenty-fifth anniversary I mentioned to him a Westlife and Boyzone double header tour but I got the feeling that he wasn’t very impressed with that idea (laughter).

(Hysterical laughter) I think that nine people on the one stage is most probably too many (laughter). It’s hard enough keeping mine and Keith’s egos in check without having eight more (laughter).

Which gives you the most pleasure, presenting or singing?

That has to be singing, it always does and I hope that it always will. The reason why I started presenting is that it was something different to keep me occupied. I had been doing so much writing that I just wanted to get out of the studio and do something different. I have to be honest with you and tell you that I got a buzz out of presenting Who’s Doing The Dishes? because it was fun and something different. However, whenever it comes down to the crunch, music will always be my number one. I will try almost anything to keep myself interested. At the moment I am playing golf fulltime like a professional but music will always be my number one.

What would you say has been the highlight of your career so far?

That would have to be Westlife, absolutely. The beginning of Westlife and me getting into the band has to be the highlight so far. It was such a massive thing. It was really strange because most people start off in the music business and they don’t know just how it is going to go but there was such a buzz around Westlife when we first started, even before the first single came out, you could see that something big was going to happen. We had that feeling every day at the beginning. It just felt like a dream; it didn’t feel real. At times you felt that you were going to wake up and find out that it wasn’t real (laughter). That’s the bit that I would have to go back to, the very beginning of Westlife, simply because it was so special.

What was the first record that you bought?

(Laughter) that was I Should Be So Lucky by Kylie Minogue; swiftly moving on (laughter).

Who did you first see playing live in concert?

That was Nirvana at The Point in Dublin.

What was the last song or piece of music that made you cry?

Funnily enough that was yesterday. Keith and I were on the BBC yesterday with Gabby Roslin and Nell Bryden was there to perform a live acoustic set in the studio. I was sitting next to Nell and to be that close to someone who you can almost hear their breath when they are singing, I was that close, and it was just the most magical thing ever. She has the most incredible and angelic voice. To hear someone singing without a microphone who is sitting only a couple of feet away from you, it was quite moving. It actually took me away somewhere because it was that beautiful. So in answer to your question it was yesterday, Nell Bryden did that for me.

Where do you see Boyzlife going?

At this moment in time I can only see it going to The Glee Club up there in Nottingham in December (laughter).

Did you enjoy your time spent in Australia?

Yes I did, I loved Australia. I spent seven years over there in Australia and it was absolutely wonderful. However, I have to say that I missed the weather. When you get up on a September morning and you can’t see out of the window for the rain, then I do miss Australia quite a bit. But there is no place like home. When I was over there I really did miss home; I missed the football, I missed sausages, I missed EastEnders, I missed all of that so if England could have Australia’s weather, it would be the greatest country on the planet to live in.

On that note Brian thanks once again for taking the time to speak to me today and I will see you here in Nottingham in December.

Thanks Kevin it’s been great. You take care and I will see you in Nottingham. Bye for now.